Wednesday, June 9, 2010

On Queries

Sunday, as I gritted my teeth and relaunched my cleaned up blog (did you notice all my flowers and my new sappy bio/description? heehee), I first sat down and rummaged around other blogs, notably those on the left sidebar, for inspiration.

Blogging is TOTALLY different from writing a novel and it is more than just a 'online journal'. This because you have to write tidy, short, and interesting blog posts and resist the urge to type in something that is way so personal or sensitive that your ten-year-old-self would kill your brother if he stole said-journal and read it aloud to everyone (in my case, I had four siblings who did stuff like that).

That is why I like to sit down and read other blogs to get an idea of what other people are saying. Learning experience, etc...

Other blogs I read for other reasons - such as gathering ideas of what is going on in the industry, plus I'm always learning how to write and do other things - like querying. That is why I suggest EVERYONE read Query Shark. You simply must.

But I digress.

On Sunday, I came across one entry on Query Shark that had me nodding in relief. Go ahead and click the link and read.

Apparently, QS read a query for a mg novel about a babysitter who is playing sleuth on her charge's parents, as she discovered they are in trouble. QS loved it. Some of her readers didn't. They wanted more plot and they were confused about the details in the query.

QS set them straight and I felt that the "don't be tempted to tell the entire story in the query" gist was important enough to snag and bookmark here. Other places where I've helped out with queries or just been an invisible reader, I've seen some 'helpful' comments suggesting that the author bulk up a short query and turn it into a small synopsis. As always, this is bad advice, and the link above is proof. :)
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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

If I may be bold...

Or in other words... does anyone else have problems about letting a novel develop the way it wants, even if it takes some surprising turns that may make your friends uncomfortable?

Keep in mind that in real life I tend to be fairly... conservative. I'm not militant about a lot of my religious and moral beliefs, but they are there nevertheless. My backbone.

That doesn't translate or show up in what I write. *laughs nervously*

Wip#1 - Protagonist has an abstinence ring that pretty much messed up her life. I'm fairly sure that she is going to get together with the guy character. This could change as I write the novel, but yeah... currently, it is still there.

Wip#2 - Protagonist seems to be confused about her sexual identity. I've been noticing this a LOT as I'm writing the novel... especially as she is more attentive and concerned about her friend who is very out of the closet. I'm pretty sure the protagonist is straight, but um... all the same, I'm raising my eyebrows and wondering about her. She might be bi. :O

Neither of these wips are going to be too graphic with any content, because I want them to still fit in with the upper teen audience. But it may definitely introduce concepts that will not be very popular with some people out there.

The impulse is to start all over again and make the 'implied' as oblique as possible so I don't have to put embarrassing warnings up for critters. But then that would change the flavor of the books. It would be like this lemon chicken dinner I made the other day - what would happen if I removed the lemons from the meal.

I guess I'll start scripting those warnings now. :(

Science will apparently Win

I debated about posting this bit as it edges too close to sensitive 'do not tread' turf (religion). I decided to go on ahead, because it does touch on what I DWELL on as somebody who writes about aliens and far away universes.

In an interview read here, Stephen Hawking expressed the following:


"What could define God [is thinking of God] as the embodiment of the laws of nature. However, this is not what most people would think of that God," Hawking told Sawyer. "They made a human-like being with whom one can have a personal relationship. When you look at the vast size of the universe and how insignificant an accidental human life is in it, that seems most impossible."

When Sawyer asked if there was a way to reconcile religion and science, Hawking said, "There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, [and] science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win because it works."


The first bit - I actually do agree with in part. I think that people try to humanize God too much, and they have through the back centuries. Take the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians - and others. They believed in gods, but imagined them in human form and exhibiting themselves in quite a human way. I feel we know God as he has deliberately made himself known to us... but it would be impossible to understand him and the rest of the story completely until we meet him face to face. Which, I hope we all do.

As to the second, I would say Hawking isn't completely correct though he is in the right neighborhood. Our ability to observe and reason is limited to what we can study via our five senses. Just because we can't see something, smell it, touch it... study it... that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Human beings instinctively feel that there must be something greater beyond us - and we have always been that way. Some peoples (native Americans) created gods from outer space - something, I'm sure Stephen Hawking would be interested in. Other peoples created a complex afterlife with various gods who all had nothing better to do than judge and control human beings on our planet. Other people saw their ancestors attain new abilities upon reaching the afterlife, turning around and becoming gods who could aid or injure humans on earth. Others believed in one God.

One thing they all have in common is they felt that there was a lot more out there that could not be viewed or reached, but they knew it was there.

So yes...

Religion is based on a natural instinct or calling, as well as culture and authority. Science is based on observation and reason.

They don't completely overlap and are frequently at odds... but that doesn't mean you have to adhere to either or instead of both. It is possible to be a scientist who also believes in a Greater Power beyond. And there is no shame in acknowledging limits to our human abilities. Stephen Hawking more than anyone else ought to realize that. :)

What does this have to do with writing?

Not much, except it reminded me anew the complication in being a Christian and writing proper science fiction or fantasy novels. It's miserably hard - and not just because readers immediately feel uncomfortable and criticize you for creating alien characters who worship a "Christian God". It's just that suddenly you start wondering if it is entirely proper creating a godlike race (and I have plenty of those) and placing them in a world where there is also an all powerful God. It's possible, but I guess I have it ingrained in my head that no being stands on equal footing with God. So I would be consciously trying to keep my characters from being too powerful... or acting too godly. Which would ruin my plots.

Random Question for the Day

If we are a post racial society, why does the census bureau still need to know what color your skin is?

:)
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Monday, June 7, 2010

CLASSIC POST

You can see the link to Editorial Anonymous on the left side somewhere, and odds are you already have the blog on your reading list, but!

I read the latest post with a huge grin on my face and immediately made plans to follow this guy's blog.

The gist would be the following -

I have to say the impetus for this book actually came when I misread a banner ad. I was in the middle of my morning web-crawl when I saw an ad for some manga or webcomic or something called My Dork Embrace. And I thought, That's great. I bet it's a story about the kind of awkward guy who's never supposed to become a vampire. And a minute later my brain wouldn't let go of it because the art and tenor of the ad didn't really jive with the assumption I'd made, so I scrolled back to have another look at it. And I discovered it's really just My Dark Embrace. I'd misread it. But then I got excited because that meant I could write My Dork Embrace myself, and it would be a good framework to work out some thoughts I'd been having about high school.


The author had the opinion that the THRILL about vampires was an obsession at creating a character who is permanently stuck at the peak of life. So he wanted to write a vampire novel with a vamp character who was not the epitome of good looks, attractiveness, and strength.

Why didn't I think of writing that book first? !

ABOUT BLOGGING IN GENERAL

I gave this a thought since I started up on facebook and have gotten nervous about who I friend on there under my 'writing name' for fear of them coming back to my writing or dog training blogs and seeing something I don't want them to see.

For example, on my dog training blog, I may have complained about *coughs* wasting my money on a training session. I, um, have love/hate relationships with dog training instructors.

It hit me today that this is something I need to work towards, especially since I want to be a FAMOUS WRITER (really I do) sometime in the future. I need to post carefully, and not write anything I don't want coworkers or instructors to see.

Doesn't mean I won't be honest, but I have to be tactful and careful.

Tactless Confession -

This is probably just me, but I really hate it when people refer to their characters as the hero, heroine, and antagonist. It just makes me assume that they haven't fleshed the characters out and made them complex enough.

Oddly, I don't have the same reaction when I see people refer to their characters as Protagonist, Love Interest, and Baddie.

Maybe I'm just judging people based on what I do and don't do...
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Sunday, June 6, 2010

Hates Posting "I'm still alive" entries, but...

Yes, I'm still alive and as you can see - ready for summer flowers, warm breezes, and lots and lots of sunlight. I need to get back into blogging and sorting out a schedule and topic schpeels.

May was an interesting month.

I did not do much writing, thanks to a busy schedule of doing other mysterious things which escape the memory at the moment. Ditto reading.

I did start writing a new WIP based on a conversation I was having with one of my sisters. This had to do with my impatience and bemusement about how people behave online (and I'm including myself in this group) as opposed to how they behave in person. It really is very easy to be dishonest and exagerative without even intending to be. Simply because you want to seem more interesting and exciting that that DULL person who had a 7-5 job in an office and spends most of the time shuffling papers and operating office machinery. :)

I did create a sorta-real facebook page. It's under my 'fake name' and I'm trying very hard to keep my real life seperate and the tone neutral on fb. I guess more than Twitter where it is very easy to get lost in the shuffle, you feel that much more vulnerable and nervous about coworkers and bosses checking up on what you're saying. Or maybe it's just all of the warnings I've heard on the news concerning that reality. One thing I do like about Facebook as opposed to Twitter = I can post random comments galore and I don't get porn-spammed to death. Yay.

That said, I will still use my Twitter page, at least in checking up what's going on in the industry and following friends. :)

I will have to post pictures of my garden - only I'm waiting for a drier/dryer (read, less mosquito ridden) day to go out back into the garden. My rose garden looks simply heavenly. They are all blooming, including one bush that had gone to root and switched from a hybrid to a more old fashioned wild rose. Only downside would be my irises which objected to being dug up and replanted - though I thought I was doing them a favor in rebuilding their turf so they weren't sitting directly in what was essentially a clay pot. <- I have to build up all my gardens so they have better drainage. The dirt is a very thick and sticky clay. It is good for the septic field beneath, but horrible for gardening on.

Plans for the month of June (late, but what the hey):

Read 5 books, including:

Spirit Bound (Richelle Mead)
The Reckoning (Kelley Armstrong)
Little Vampire Women (I don't remember the author's name)
Insatiable (Meg Cabot)
Reread of all my Diana Wynne Jones Books*
Random other 2 books I eyeballed gluttonously at Target <- I don't remember the titles atm.
Shiver (Maggie Stiefvater)... maybe.
Twilight New Moon.

Yes, more than five but I'm just dwelling on a disappointing visit to Target where I begged a surprised passing shopper to help drag me out of the book aisle emptyhanded. Miserable tight budget... :[

*Per something I read on fb, a letter posted by Maggie Stiefvater, Diana Wynne Jones stopped treatment for her lung cancer. Even though I felt the quality of the last two or three books was not the same quality as her earlier books... um, this will be an obvious loss to the Children/YA book world. I find it very hard to imagine a JK Rowling coming of age without somebody like DWJ paving the way for female fantasy writers. DWJ, more than anyone else, showed how it is possible to take a traditional fantasy plot and give it a twist beyond our world.

Speaking for myself here, I never would have cared very much about scifi concepts if I hadn't read Archer's Goon, Homeword Bounders, Dogsbody, and Hexwood. And even her Crestomanci books helped bridge the gap between fantasy and scifi for readers who might have otherwise been stiffish at the concept of wizards from far away worlds in other dimensions.

God bless her for everything she's done for fantasy writers and readers, and I hope she does not suffer but goes peacefully from this place to the next one.
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Monday, May 3, 2010

Life Transfer

Just thought I'd share something funny that happened over here...

I got a call from my adorable mom who was in a state of hushed panic. At our old house there is a cabinet in our living room with three or four urns with ashes from past dogs. She went over to tap the light on in the cabinet (it's one of those you tap it in the right spot to get the interior display light to go on or off).

So the light went on and displayed some weedy things apparently growing out of the one urn containing the ashes from Danny (the dog we lost two years ago).

Mom freaked out, because she was convinced that Danny's bone bits were sprouting weedy flowers. She didn't want to go near the cabinet and see exactly WHAT was growing out of the bones, and begged one of us to go in there and check it out.

As it turns out, my niece placed the weeds in there for Danny because she had been thinking about him after her parents tortured her by letting her watch Hachiko (sp?).

FWIW - that movie is evil. I can't even READ about it without crying all over myself.



The above is my old Danny. Had we not lost him two years ago to cancer, he would have turned fifteen last month. I seriously doubt that he would come back as weedy flowers. He was sugar and spice and everything nice. :)

Random Hurrah - Thank God for "System Restore". I believe my computer had a virus of some kind earlier today. I immediately shut the computer down, started in safe mode, and did a system restore. So far so good.
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Sunday, May 2, 2010

Don't do that to Fido, Etc...

Dear Horror/Thriller Movie Makers and Horror/Thriller Book Writers,

*flicks TV off, after accidentally watching a young dog yelping as he is swallowed by a slithery thing that came out of the ground*

There are spots around the country where dogs and cats are eaten alive by wild animals. Fact of life. It isn't entertaining.

Showing something like that for the shock value just makes people hate your movie.

That is all.

ON THAT SAME DOWN NOTE:

I just lost one of my birds.... :[

I hate when this happens, because it isn't worth spending the $$$$ to have an autopsy done on a $10 critter, but you always wonder if the bird died of something else besides old age. I always wonder if there is something I'm not doing right, or if I should switch to a different kind of birdseed.

And I'm not sure how old he was. He was at least 2 when I bought him 5 (?) years ago. At the time, I bought him to keep a rescued parakeet company. That rescued parakeet died last year, so I replaced HIM with a young guy. So I had the two boys singing at each other all the time and it was adorable.

Except now I only have one and he's going nuts singing and calling at the love birds in the next cage. And I feel sorry for him.

So, I will be picking up a new friend for him today.

The only birds I refuse to replace would be my finches. Only because the bunch I have right now are all pretty old. Between 6 and 9 years old, I'd estimate. I like finches, but I'd like to get down to only two (budgies and lovvies) flight cages at some point.

It's so weird how fast the years go by. And I don't feel any older though things age and die around me. Now I know what vampires feel like. :[
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Saturday, May 1, 2010

How I Spent My May Day

Just sharing....

Me. I'm not drunk. This picture happened when I woke up this morning and someone snuck up and took a picture of me and the dog because they thought it was HILARIOUS. Ahem. As you can tell, when I crash late on a Friday night, I skip makeup and earrings removal, the hair is knotted in a very unflattering ponytail, and it is way too early in the morning for me and I didn't have my coffee yet.

Sticky Weeds - which apparently can be steeped in hot water as a tea, particularly if you are having certain infection or fever problems. Who would want to though? They stick to everything. Like Velcro

Weeds trying to take over the lawn...

Mound of weeds after a hard morning's work...

Trilium!

The holly bush in full bloom - and it's rattling up against that bedroom window, but I don't have the heart to chop it back until all the flowers are gone.

APPLE BLOSSOMS!!! Yellow Delicious if you want to be specific. Planted those two years ago and they are finally taking off.

The lilacs started to bloom. This is an off year though (must chop bushes back)...

Some random tulips having their last hurrah before they fall apart... and give way to summer.

Technically, this falls under the weed category, but I don't have heart to pull these up. Wild Violets.

Part of the rose garden, where I have a narrow path that should actually have two sideways trellises to keep roses contained when they start filling out when warmer weather comes around (we've had frost/freezing every night for past 2-3 weeks, so they are a bit stunted and behind right now). Must build trellises... Oh! And straight ahead you can see the Irises are starting to come out of the ground.

Some lilies here, and some other things. I don't know just yet whether they are flowers or weeds. Keeps staring at them.

If you look past statue at all of those vine weeds hanging down, that's what I have to clear out next (le sigh). I have to go rock climbing to get at them though.

I'm not sure if the color shows up well here (doubt it) but these are pretty blue flowers that I remember buying and planting last year. Only I don't remember what they are. *must invest in popsicle stick labeling method re/this summer's planting. Oh, there are weeds mixed in, but their time is limited.

More lilacs on the right, but white/yellowish flowers on left are on the buckeye tree I planted a couple years ago. This is the first year it's flowered. I didn't even KNOW they have sweet smelling flowers that look vaguely like lilacs. Huh.

Jacks posing for camera...

More posing from the boy...

Such a poser! *hugs him*

Dog and Cat (Lu-Lu)checking out a bee. Must rescue them...

The Lu, pretending to be wild.

That is all. :)
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Friday, April 30, 2010

Aliens Evolved Too... Right?

www.space.com, Would ET really invade earth?

Steven Hawking came out recently with a flaky statement about how aliens DO exist, but we shouldn't contact them because they could come and destroy earth ala Independence Day. I'm wondering if anyone else out there feels a little embarrassed about fellow scifi enthusiasts trying to insert fiction into science.

As 'earthians' we shouldn't be so egotistical.

Think about how we are going about searching for aliens in our own solar system. We are assuming that life would not exist on a planet that has no water.

Yes, human beings (water bags) NEED water to survive. But why should we assume that a different type of creature would share this need? Especially if we believe in evolution.

Recall that evolutionists believe that humans evolved from microbes into living, moving, breathing critters who evolved upwards into human beings. That is, they evolved into creatures who could survive and thrive on planet earth.

I don't necessarily believe that the beginnings of life were like that, but I don't mind if other people do. I just expect them to be consistent.

If there was another planet out there with microbes or whatever. What would stop those microbes from evolving upwards into intelligent creatures who could survive on whatever planet they existed on?

Yes, I do believe that life is possible beyond planet earth, and I wouldn't be so arrogant to assume that we are the only intelligent creatures that exist in the universe.

But I tend to feel that we are looking at 'contact' the wrong way.

There are different forms of life beneath the ocean, for example. Maybe they aren't human-like, but they are intelligent in their own way, even if it isn't intelligence or rationality that is unique to humans.

Wouldn't it be a bit stupid to beam radio signals, lights, music, colors, probes and signs written in various languages proclaiming 'We come in Peace!' for those creatures beneath the ocean to see?

To a blue whale, human beings might be interesting little invaders who may be worth checking out... but it would be pretty silly flashing a 'We come in Peace' sign to a blue whale and expecting it to understand and feel better about us being around.

And why would a blue whale want to invade land? An inhospitable place it was not created or evolved to live on?

If anyone would invade a planet and take over things... it would be us humans. Because that is our pattern of behavior throughout our history. We traveled out around our planet and took over the land from the native species, and we either devoured or brutally cleared out those native species to eliminate them from competition for the resources in that area.

And hey - I don't have a problem with that. If our ancestors weren't adventuring conquerors, we would all still be living in one tight little place and dying out because there wasn't enough resources and space for all of us.

But I swear that scientists are looking out into the universe and instead of exploring and scientifically observing what is actually out there, they are searching for contemporaries. When they look for aliens, they just expect a mirror image of us.
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Allowing Changes...

I think the biggest step to becoming a better writer is opening yourself up to change.

This is/was the biggest thing I've encountered as an 'observer' of other writers, in that you might offer them what you feel is good advice that might help them fix a novel that is about there, but needs a little more help. And these writers might be initially resistant to change. Because it scares them, or because they just don't see what you see... not yet.

For example, there is a novelist out there who had a PERFECT project. I read her query and synopsis and feel that she just needs to start applying to all of the agents out there to snag one and get in business.

The problem is that the writing itself is a little fuzzy. I'm not sure if it is as strong as it needs to be. I'm comparing it (somewhat) with the writing from another friend, who is most definitely right there. In fact, this other friend has an agent for one project and has that agent's interest with the two other projects she's writing and editing.

Another friend too is one of those amazing wonderkins who writes things that have the right sound on the first draft, even if the plot workings are a little rough.

Back to that writer whom I'm trying to help... I think she's almost there, but she needs to tighten up on the writing and flesh out her characters. They aren't as strong as they should be.

That leads me to my biggest revelation or point, in that it is very easy to find fault with other people's writing. It's easy to recognize all of the things they need to change in order to improve their writing skills. But there needs to be a moment where you realize that that so-called perfect project you weaved together is not as good as it could be, because you need to change something. <- And that is the point where your edits and revisions start to have merit.

This past week I decided to add another plot thread to my BSW project. This involved going back to the beginning and working all of the threads in. Several things happened as I did this.

I realized that people were right. The beginning of the story was not necessarily as strong as it could have been. In fact, it was verging on sitting on that narrow strip of land between cliched and boring.

So I made changes to the first chapter.

Chapter 2 came next, and I realized that I REALLY DIDN'T LIKE the interaction between Wesley and her classmates, including the one character who is going to be a main character right alongside her.

The one plot point I started with when I first wrote the nano novel was this "He is unwilling to step up and take on the job he was born with, and she is terrified by the unseen world that's beginning to reveal itself to her."

I played on the unwilling thing when I first wrote Chapter 2, and urk! He came across like somebody who was just being crabby and obnoxious because somebody (er, like me, the author) told him he had to be. It was too forced.

The other thing, and I had this discussion with my sister while we went hiking recently... I was trying too hard to show chemistry between the two characters. It wasn't there (partly because he was such a whiny snot I wanted to reach into the story and smack him upside the head).

She and I laughed about how unattractive and annoying all teenage guys are - seriously. Even the slick, clean, and zitless ones. <- A good example would be Elizabeth Mitchell's son from V. Oh. My. Gosh. That kid ANNOYS ME! He doesn't deserve Lisa, who is becoming a much more interesting character now she's becoming humanized.

I moaned and groaned about how much more interesting it would be if I got to write about a guy who was in his twenties. Except then that would be pretty gross - because the plot demands that the protagonist be in high school still.

And then it hit me.

Why should I push it?

It isn't so important that the guy character have this perfect CHEMISTRY thing with the protagonist. It is important that he be an individual character who has his own agenda going on.

If you think about what everyone complains about Mary Sues and Gary Stus - it's because of the implausibility of them going to a new school and suddenly having all of the other students instantly crushing on them.

Ugh, right?

So. I focused on developing Nic last night in a stronger character. I cut 2000 words (Wesley and Nic encountering each other in the woods by the school and chit-chatting about non essentials while Nic whined and crabbed and glared at the WORLD!!!!) and I replaced them with 3000 words (Wesley exploring the woods by the school and tripping over Nic, talking a little bit during which he implies that people at the school know about her tragic story and she questions him about his 'Voldemort-stick'. The implication is he is a slitherer-outerer who isn't telling her everything but she guesses that he is possibly a little weird and is bullied by all the other guys at the school because of it. He noticeably acted nervous when they walk past a group of the other guys, including one who Wesley is crushing on).

I know exactly what's going on with the guy now - especially since I'm now thinking of him as a main character and not just a neutral soul-less love interest (think about those guys who randomly appear on shows like Bones. You know Temperance won't wind up with them, because they are definitely not as fully developed as Sealey is).

The other thing I did with Chapter 2 was scrap this scene with Tamara (the youngest sister) acting unearthly and warning Wesley about the bogeyman. I liked this... when I wrote it, but I realized last night that it gave the wrong impression and was (according to Simon Cowell) indulgent. It was also cliched. So I scrapped that scene and wrote in a new scene with Tamara doing her homework at the kitchen table and Wesley having a teeny tiny vision about something she couldn't possibly have known about. I also set up a revised scene in the next chapter with Tasha (oldest sister) going to a doctor's appointment. :)

Chapter 3 came next, and so far I scrapped the first half of the chapter (conversation between Tasha and Wesley about nothing really, but showing sulky antagonism from Wesley about Tasha trying to turn the school into some kind of rave club to hook up with guys). I SCRAPPED THAT. Instead, I used the scene to show the frazzled relationship between the two sisters... and set up the scene in the next chapter.

That's how far I got before I started to give in to how tired I was at 12:30AM. I'll keep writing tonight... and hopefully catch up to the current chapter so I can keep going and finish this draft.

Through all of this, I guess my point is that a month ago I would not have considered making such drastic changes to the project. Seriously, I wouldn't have. I'm not patting myself on the back here and saying "What a good writer I am", because I know there will come a point sooner or later where I'll be looking at the three chapters I revised per above and scrapping them while I rewrite them for the better.

I think there are different kinds of writers out there...

There are the kinds who can write something perfect the first time round. These are those noxious people who only write one draft which they only need to edit.

Then there are writers like me, who write something HORRIBLE the first time round, and must redraft a cazillion times before the plot/characters turn into something that works.

Hopefully, I'll get the results the other kind of writer does... even if it takes me a bit longer.

The main thing though is I recognize that what makes me a better writer is acknowledging that I have to make changes, and knowing it isn't going to kill me. :)
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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Random Fit of Weirdness...

Bear with me for a moment here, but this strange post occurred to me while I was doing research for a newsletter thingy I'm doing for work. <- I'm on a local Michigana type kick now and slipping in random "Did you know" bits in newsletters this year.

"The State Fossil is the Mastodon (since 2002)
Mastodons disappeared from North America about 10,000 years ago and were estimated to be about 10 feet tall at the shoulder. One of the most complete mastodon skeletons ever found was discovered near Owosso, Michigan and is displayed at the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History. The longest and most intact trail of mastodon footprints (30 prints) ever uncovered was located near Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Mastodons were elephant like animals and sturdily built browsers of open spruce forests. They are often lumped in with mammoths, because of their shaggy coat and long tusks, but there were subtle differences. Their tusks were as long as the mammoths', but straighter. They were shorter and built more square than the mammoths who were more slimly built and had an upwards slope from back to front. They also had flatter heads than the mammoth.

The mastodon’s teeth could get five inches in diameter and two and half inches thick. The simple and low crowned teeth showed the animal had a tendency to eat softer vegetation such as twigs and leaves. Meaning, they ate off of trees. Their teeth are very distinctive, as they are coated with enamel and have 6-8 cone-shaped cusps and are similar to that of a pig’s molars.

The mammoth’s teeth are typical for a grazer, an herbivore. Their teeth could get up to eight inches long and twelve inches wide. The tall plates of the tooth act as grinding stones and the mammoths would probably chew grass the same way a cow would. Mammoth teeth grew similar to the process of a conveyor belt. Once a set of teeth was being completely worn down, a new set would be ready to grow in its place. This process would take place six times in a mammoth’s lifetime."


So here is my thing... I never really thought about the similarities between boars and elephants, because um -> different species and very few similarities. Duh. :P

But looking at some of the idealized pictures of the mastodons (which looked boarlike to me, well, plus the trunk) and reading about how they grazed in wooded/swampy areas with piglike molars, that just reminded me of this Monster Quest (yes, you may call me a geek for watching shows like that) that I saw where they were hunting for huge wild boars that supposedly are running around in Texas and thereabouts.

I guess it is one of those things trickling at the back of my head and has always been there since I was a kidlet and visiting the big museum in Lansing, Michigan. I loved looking at the befurred statue representations of these massive beasts, and I always wished they still were around. Wouldn't it be cool if somehow or other critters like Mammoths and Mastodons survived somehow? And why couldn't they have? Even though we are technologically advanced, we still have blind spots when it comes to exploring various spots even in our own backyards.

That Monster Quest show left it open as to whether monster boars really do exist.

Now I'm thinking it would be nifty to somehow work Mastodons into a story. As survivors.

Nudges BSW prospectively....

I guess I should explain here (so people aren't totally confused about how a mastodon could fit in with a paranormal/fantasy novel) -

BSW draws on the native American ideas/themes of animal guides + Eric Daniken type aliens.

*notices people look even more confused*

We all know the Genesis story and the history of the human race according to the Bible, right?

Imagine if we are just getting the human side of the story.

So God has been around for ages and has created other races, including one race which shares our world with us. This race is identical to all the other creatures here on earth, except their souls look a little bit different... :)

And that's about all I'm willing to put on a public website right now. But it wouldn't be too far fetched to say that one of these animal guides comes in the shape of a mastodon. :)

Maybe that will happen in a sequel or related story though....
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Invasion of Privacy...

... here we come.

From the sounds of it, my home state is cooking up yet another reason for cops to be gawking into your cars and giving a ticket for something you are doing in there.

And I have no idea how they can prove you were texting prior to pulling you over. Apparently they will be pulling you over under the suspicion of texting? Like if you are driving with one hand on the steering wheel while looking down at your lap or at the seat next to you while driving past that intrusive cop and his binoculars. <- I'm almost tempted to test that out. >;-)

No. I don't text while driving.

I guess I could understand if this was instead a "Driving while distracted" and had verbage in there to ensure people would not be stopped unless they were driving erratically and causing problems for other drivers.

Singling out texters as the Instruments of Destruction only makes me think about those texters I usually see while out and about. They impede traffic. They drive 20 miles below the limit or sit through green lights. It does happen they ram into somebody in front of them during unexpected slowdowns, but that could happen if they were distracted by something else in their car.

When I was a kiddo, there was a case in our area of a college student who was looking down at her purse (I'm not sure if she was digging through it too or just looking at the purse), when she rammed into a child who was waiting for a school bus. She was convicted with involuntary manslaughter. <- This was back before texting and even before the majority of regular people had cell phones.

Cops cause the biggest distraction of all when they park on the side of the road with their lights flashing. A lot of fender benders happen because of people looking over their shoulder to see what's going on instead of straight forward.

Piffle.
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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Walking Through Storms...

... is probably safer than standing under a tree with your feet in a puddle during storms.

In theory.

What kind of storms do writers have to walk through?

False alarms and complications, like:

1. Exhaustion. Yes, K-12 and college students are extremely busy with school hours, homework load, sports, clubs, after school job, and social life. But adulthood has the same amount of constant running around and workload, plus your body doesn't have the same kind of 'up and go' thing going on. You can't stay up writing until 3AM and wake up at 5AM. You'll die.

2. Boredom . The novel you are writing just isn't holding your attention. It could be because you have been writing on it too much and it's actually starting to make you queasy!

3. Dread. You know it isn't going to be publishable in it's present state and you are overwhelmed by how much work needs to be done to make it work. A cazillionth revision. DIES.

4. Pain. You really don't want to finish the novel, because then you know it will have to go 'public' and you just don't want all that criticism. Seriously - sometimes it can feel just like numchucks smacking the soul.

5. Loss. You don't have it anymore. It could be you wrote a LOT of stuff up to five or six years ago and received some fierce criticism that really hurt your confidence. Or maybe you've forgotten how or are too exhausted every night to daydream.

6. Detachment. You talk to other writers but don't FEEL like they do. It isn't a poetic emotional thing for you. You sometimes look at it the same way your mom looks at her knitting. It's something she does. There might be a purpose in the end, but she knits because it's what she does in the evening and she likes to keep her hands busy. You start to feel out of the loop. Like you SHOULD feel all poetic about writing in order to write well.

7. Confusion. This happens when you received so much advice from people who told you to change your writing style or whatever. You want to take their advice to become better. Maybe so you can evolve into that type of writer who waxes poetic about why she writes. But each time you try X writing style, you find it doesn't fit. For example, I don't feel comfortable starting with ACTION.

****

These are the different facets of writer-burnout that I have experienced personally (see? total soul baring here), maybe not right now at this exact second, but in the past.

I assume everyone else has dark days like that too... I guess I wanted to air this subject so they know it's completely normal and shouldn't cause them to shut their laptops down forever.

It's very easy to get caught up in the moment and feel DOWN DOWN DOWN on yourself and the whole writing thing. If you dwell.

So don't dwell.

Write.

And on a more uplifting positive note -

I revised a chapter yesterday (working in the priest/administrator side plot I semi-mentioned yesterday). I also chopped 2000 words off this chapter. :O

Yes, I was in a state of shock too. But I did it.

I saved a backcopy of the chapter before the massive cut, but I don't think I'll need it.

By cutting those 2000 words and adding that side story, I think I steered the novel back onto a clean green path. If it accomplished anything, I'm sitting here looking forward to writing tonight.

Even if I'm too tired to daydream at night. :[
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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Lovely Explanations...

*bounces up and down*

I just got a response on a story. It was a reject [boo], but I sorta expected that. I don't know if I mentioned this in a previous post, but I felt that this story was not as filled out as it should have been.

The person who rejected the story was great, in that he explained why the story didn't work for him - even though he liked the idea.

The main thing he pointed out (and something I already felt after I came to my senses) was this:

Work more on bringing a character the reader can identify with into the story.

I intentionally focused on making the story plot driven instead of my usual character driven. <- And I hopelessly flubbed at it. :P

I'll pick the story back up over summer vacation I think. Maybe give it a slightly different spin, but from a strong character view.

Another thing I'm bouncing up and down about -

I 'snagged' a story from a religious type online magazine my mom got me hooked on. This story is about a priest who claims that the veil between our world and the spiritual world is growing thinner now that we are in the end times, and that is why so many more people are reporting weird stuff about possessions and hauntings.

I'm not sure about the end times (gaaa! I've just barely begun to live!), but when I read this guy's story, I knew it was something I could use.

It reminded me yet again - all characters must have their own personal motives and personalities. They can't just be conveniently going along for the ride just because they like the main character.

The only character in BSW I had problems with was this priest character who is somewhat conspiratorial and hush-hush about what he knows. Same thing with the administrator who is always ready to back him up.

I think I know what their deal is right now. :)

I'll share more later if this works...
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Friday, April 23, 2010

Belated Earthling Greetings!

What does earth day mean to you?

Yesterday, I kinda realized that there are people out there who are ambivalent about the day. Or they are downright rejecting of it - for political reasons.

Here's my thought:

KEEP POLITICS OUT OF IT!!!!! <- And you will see the good in a day that is all about doing your part in taking care of the world and environment around you. Living out in the wooded, watery, spread out, hilly, quiet, flowery areas where everyone is living off of long winding dirty roads within walking distance to horse/cow farms, but far far away from everything else... I see both sides of the equation.

I need my car. I would DEFINITELY not be able to ride my bike to work. And I don't really like biking. <- It messes up my hair and I accidentally swallow bugs sometimes.

But I love beauty.

My mom grew up in Chicago and she goes on and on about how beautiful the city is. Admittedly, when I go to visit relatives over there I kinda blank out in awe over all of the huge buildings. Where I live there is a height ordinance which means all of the buildings are somewhat squat by comparison.

But is Chicago beautiful? *shrugs* I guess it is an acquired taste and I'm not into it.

Beautiful is wide open spaces, blue skies, shady cool woods.... things like that. <- And I want to preserve all of that beauty for the next generation.

That means there is something VERY positive about planting a tree or two in your yard to replace an old ones that might have fallen down during the winter (I had a few that dropped). Trees provide shade and value to your house (provided they aren't too close to the house).

Once upon a time, my parents were driving around looking for a house after my dad's job moved 20 miles south. They were first looking for a house that was big enough for a family of eight. After that they had little picky things. When they got to our old house, they weren't entirely sure they wanted to buy, because the house had been sort of built by a madman who cut corners. It also had an in ground pool in the backyard - something my mom didn't want with three kids under eight. But! They viewed the house on a rainy day, and were able to walk out into the back woods without getting wet. The previous owners had terraced the back yard and there was some other nice landscaping done elsewhere throughout the yard. That was quite enough for my mom so she planted her feet and said, "THIS IS IT".

That means there is something VERY positive about planting a garden and landscaping your yard so it is a slice of paradise. Come July and summer vacation, you will be sitting back and enjoying the fruits of your labor. If you have mature gardens (as in flower and rose gardens), those will add value to your house.

That means there is something VERY VERY VERY positive about groups getting together and preserving land for future parks and whatever else. Out where I live, an old guy always worried about what would happen to his estate after he died. He farmed most of the land, but there were plenty of acres that he left be for nature. He arranged it in his will that the land would become a natural reserve and a place for people to enjoy. There are now gardens, butterfly walks, and bird sanctuaries on the property amidst all of the woods and hiking trails. <- WE NEED MORE PLACES LIKE THIS.

Definitely, I'm one of those people who wants to stop urban sprawl. The city lights, noise, smog, traffic.... does not have to be everywhere. There are people who want it to be pitch dark at night except for the light of the stars or the glow of the moonlight reflected off grass or snow.

Definitely, I'm one of those weirdos who feel that people need to be careful about how they impact the environment around them. For example, we are too hasty to destroy weeds and replace them with a golf course yard. The problem is that if you sit back in a naturalized yard (like mine), you will notice that bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds spend some time in your garden... but they also feed on the flowers of weeds. If you spray chemicals on those weeds... imagine what that is doing to the critters who feed on them. Even dandelions are a food group for animals and 'good' bugs like bees.

Oh!

On a different note - earth day means I really wish people would stop dropping garbage everywhere like they are all ten year old boys dropping wrappers around the house or stuffing potato chips into the couch. Garbage doesn't just disappear and there isn't always somebody around to pick it up. Most back counties do not have street cleaners (or whatever they're called) who go around and pick up after visitors. Most back counties rely on volunteers. And those volunteers go unthanked pretty much - if they aren't actually mocked by some people.

Anyhoo!

Earth day shouldn't be all about sitting in the dark and eating off of paper plates or whatever else. I mean, that's OK if that's what you're into, but there are other things you could do to make your world (as in your neighborhood and home) a more pleasant place. Or you could always don your hiking shoes and go forth and enjoy the bounties of nature at your local park. ;)

I spent my earth day at work. Then when I got home I stopped to grab a thick pair of gloves from the garage and my little claw tool, and I went out back into my garden. I let weeds grow in their place, but I draw the line at letting them take over my flower gardens. Seriously. The NERVE.

Heheh. I'll be out there again today.
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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

On my mind...

- Note to anyone in the world who might have seen the previous post on religion and politics and social issues. There is another thing I should probably add to the list of "I must not be tempted to start talking about or all hell will break loose". That would be veal and the reasons why I think it should never be eaten.



Isn't that a cutey bear? Sweetie munchkins like that deserve at least two years of a good life before they are sent to the chopper. I'm just saying. I'm not a PETA gal, but there are certain things which can definitely make me steam. Treatment of animals is a huge thing.

And on that note I guess I should add I really wish that a friendly blogger I like would remove shock pictures from the side of her blog. Unlike me, she wants to end all slaughter and she keeps posting sick pictures and vids on the side.

It makes me sick to think about everything that still has to be done to ensure that somebody eating turkey dinner or cooking hot dogs for the fam has no 'what happened to this poor animal before they died' guilt. And good food should be guilt-free. Except, of course how it concerns your waistband. Which grr. Is quite another problem.

- CHECK THIS LINK OUT for query tips from Ginger Clark re/a query she received and a novel/newauthor she snagged. That definitely sounds like a book I might pick up at the library, if not at the store. It definitely does make sense for kids to get marriage counseling in school. I mean, when they are fourteen or fifteen, they are given baby dolls to carry around. Which still seems weird and uncomfortable when I see a teenager walking around with a big doll. I'm just saying. :O

One other thought - am I the only one who read Ginger's comments and suddenly wondered if YA is what they want to do? Only because when I was a teen, I did not talk like a teen. I mentioned to a friend or elsewhere that I didn't actually use 'contractions' so much until I started up with a writing group and somebody complained about the stiffness of the writing because I refused to use contractions.

I guess I'm just going to suck in my breath and hope that my 'writing voice' passes muster and gains the 'trust' of teenage readers.

- Thoughts on bullying - Stacia Kane did a post on a bullying, inspired by this facebook group and the tragedy of kids basically getting bullied to death and/or to the extent that they have mental or emotional issues for the rest of their life. Personally speaking, I never was bullied in school. Or if I was, I was blissfully unaware. Not saying I was anti-social, but I had a set group of friends and outside school hobbies that kept me preoccupied. If somebody didn't like me or talked behind/infront of my back, I pretty much didn't notice. <- Yes, I guess that means I was spacey. :)

My thought though when I read Stacia's post is that people out there would immediately equate a harsh crit on a story (something petty like that) with what happened to Phoebe Price. This bothered me a little bit, because I think there is absolutely no comparision. People might feel bad when they receive criticism instead of the expected praise, but it just means they can take their writing and go somewhere else and forever gripe about that ONE HORRIBLE CRITTER. There isn't the same kind of personal attack that a girl might receive every day in person, or even on one of those local facebook group thingies (where everyone at the school is on the same social network) and somebody posts something embarrassing and horrible for everyone to see.

For a lot of kids attending elementary, middle, or high school... there is a sense that they are trapped there and can't escape.

Although I never went through anything like that, I know how it feels when you have to go somewhere where you know you will be emotionally or verbally abused. But as an adult it is very easy to play avoidance games and go to places like that as little as possible. Or you do the whole 'donning my shell' when you go that place, and shake free of the shell when you can go home and don't have to go back for another three or four weeks (which is about how long I can get away with not going to this certain place).

When you are a hormonal/vulnerable teenager and stuck between the pressure to live up to the expectations of your parents and even your own desires for your 'school life' and the constant fears you will have to deal with more verbal, emotional, physical abuse day after day... it's not surprising that so many kids are having psychological problems and need to be (legally) medicated just to get through their young adult years.

So anyway, while I support people standing up and protecting their children and other people's kids from abuse, I don't think we should assume a 'victim mentality' when it concerns getting honest criticism.

- Spellcheck causes a bigger woe than ever <- Penguin Australia had a minor quality issue with a cookbook it published and sent forth into the book world.

The publishing company was forced to pulp and reprint 7000 copies of Pasta Bible last week after a recipe called for "salt and freshly ground black people" – instead of pepper – to be added to the spelt tagliatelle with sardines and prosciutto.


Yet another reason why I recently jumped on a soap box and issued forth a statement that we have to make sure our kids know how to spell and write without the aid of electronic devices.

Somebody whined and complained about how difficult it is to proof read cookbooks (I haven't the slightest idea why that would be more difficult than proof reading a 50,000+ novel, but m'kay).

That's about all that's on my mind today.

Besides writing in my car over lunch. <- Something I meant to do yesterday, but lost track of time here at work and missed lunch. Urgh.

OH MY LEAPING LIZARDLY GOSH!

The linked story asks the question about what you would put up with from your neighbors...

Robert Hodges counts nine clothes lines draped with women's undergarments hanging in his front yard. The Port Orange, Fla., man says his lawn also features two sand dunes, two rusting but working bicycles, wood panels from a dismantled deck and a toilet "for emergency use." His one-story, three-bedroom home, he said, is covered in bright orange, yellow and red paint that "attracts signals from my planet."

Hodges goes by the name "Prince Mongo" and claims to be a native of Zambovia, a planet, he says, that is nine light years from Earth.


There is a wild character for you. What if he's right?!!

:)
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Monday, April 19, 2010

The Dangers of Loose Lips in Social Situations

This post is inspired by Tina Lynn's ((post)) on whether or not it is a good idea to talk about religion and politics on a social networking site - mainly your blogs, but includes any social networking medium you might be using to get your name out there.

First - I totally agree with her. I babbled something about this several months ago, about how much it bugs me when people use their blogs or whatever to either preach or bash, or otherwise aggressively preach their religious beliefs or their stances on social issues, or politics.

Most of us have been trained to hold our peace when it comes to our deeply felt beliefs and positions. And I'm OK with that. I can see how talking about religion can make people feel uncomfortable - even when there isn't an argument going on.

A friend of mine comes from a different religion that may sometimes be opposed to mine. Actually very opposed to mine. But this isn't a barrier between us and a lot of the time we can work through it and find a common ground. I wouldn't say anything that has any chance of hurting her. More than anything, I know she is a good person and truly believes she is doing the right thing. The way I see it, there are plenty of people out there like my friend who don't really want to be bugged or stressed out by know-it-alls.

And politics? Forget about it. I come from a community where people don't really like being 'owned' by any political party. I hate it how politics is like the new college football game. Everyone has their team that they bleed for and they go all stalker about their STARS. But if they knew any of those STARS in real life, they'd hate them.

Political and social issues....

*puts up a cross to steer away the rabid red-eyed vampires that exist out there*

More than anything I really hate when blogs and websites and tweet feeds suddenly turn into protests and campaigns about X or Y, or whatever else is going on out there. They make me feel like we are all back in high school and everyone has to wear the 'in' style of clothes, or die.

Aside from joking here or there (like saying I'm campaigning for the Tolkien trilogy to get banned from school libraries to keep little kids from trying to be the next Tolkien), I'm not going to really get involved with any of that stuff. It's way too subjective and can turn into fiercely divisive fang-flashing.

Anyway - I think the point of this rambly post was just:

1. I'm a (Catholic) churchy type and I usually vote.

2. I might casually say something about something I'm doing (like a post I did a while back about the weird Lenten fast I do, which is different from what everyone else does). I'm not really going to get any more annoying than somebody talking about training for a marathon. Or going shopping and noticing something funny at the store.

- Case in point, at my church, they just put six new ginormous lighted fans in, because our priest gets uncomfortable when it hits 70 degrees or something. So this past Sunday, I kept getting distracted during the sermon and staring upwards at all of those gleaming fans going whoosh-whoosh-whoosh. I wondered what would happen if the top of the church took flight. Because of all of the ginormous fans going at hyper speed. And then I almost wanted to write something like that. Even though it obviously wouldn't fit into any of my current wips. :P

3. Asking for prayers or posting religious type links - nuh-uh. I think people might feel a little uncomfortable when they go on a website they think is about writing and instead get treated to something about the efficacy of prayer or me talking about a huge religious experience I just had (not that I've had any, but it would be REALLY weird to put that out there for strangers to read).

4. I won't be sprinkling Latin phrases throughout my posts <- This doesn't really apply, but I wanted to throw it out there anyway. It REALLY BUGS ME when people greet each other with a Latin phrase or say stuff in Latin. They wouldn't do it in real life. They just do it online because they think it makes them look smart/holy. It's just putting on airs.

5. I will never put on airs. :P
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Monday Returning Random

*looks sheepish*

I technically didn't forget about the blog. Just been extremely busy!

And also - the times I told myself, "You MUST do a post or die!" - I just died. And calmly went off and did other things. Even better! Those things had nothing to do with browsing the Internet or watching TV (although, I'm admittedly addicted to Lost, Ghost Hunters, Destination Truth, and Bones-reruns-which-I-don't-recall-seeing). :)

A little bit was spent pounding buttons on my PS2 controller, however! That was purely for research (I'm gathering ideas for fearful things), and I stalwartly only did so on the last two weekends. The rest of the time, I wrote.

Or worked in the garden.

Or lounged on my cabana in the middle of the garden and stared up at the brilliant blue sky overhead and listened to all the songbirds passing through on their northerly spring migration.

Here is the list -

BSW - I planned on doing 2 chapters this month. So far, with twelve days left, I am working on the fourth chapter for the month and I've gracefully gone over the 50,000 mark for the novel. <- I don't know whether I should celebrate or cry about the 50,000 words, as I consider how much novel is left. I'm haunted by scissors in my dreams - which apparently means that my unconscious self is into symbolism. Otherwise, I would be dreaming about two buttons on my keyboard. Those buttons (delete and backspace) don't feel my pounding fingertips too much.

Yes, I glanced down and absently wondered where the delete button was on the current keyboard. Have been using this keyboard for the past eleven years and only just discovered that the delete button is on the far right instead of the far left. Huh.

Books - I notched ten books for the month. And! I might make that thirteen if I read the three books I impulsively snagged on a recent visit to the grocery store (of all places!). Either that, or I might finish reading the one I'm on right now and save the other two for next month's ten books.

Randomness galore -

I just wanted to share the following recipe, just because it was so darn good!

Friday is my mac and cheese day - only, I had no mac and cheese left except for the old kind where the cheese sauce comes in a powder and you have to stir milk in and - yucky. I don't know why I bought ten boxes of those even if they are extremely cheap.

So I made do with what I had -


Ingredients:

'About a half cup of mostacholi pasta (that was all that was left in the box for me)
'About a half cup of egg noodles
'A handful of wheat spaghetti broken in threes
'Roughly two or three tablespoons of butter (use a stick, cut into little squares)
'Roughly a couple heaping tablespoons of mayonnaise
'As much rough chopped (think chunks) mozzarella cheese as you want on a serving
'A whole can of diced tomatoes (mine were basil/garlic flavored)
'1/4 cup of shredded cheese, doesn't matter what kind (I only had cheddar)
'Two or three slices of white onion, diced as small as possible.

- Toss pasta, noodles, and spaghetti into a large sauce pot (you could use a big pasta pot if you wanted, but it's not really necessary and the pasta etc will soften faster in the smaller pot). Set on high until it starts boiling then turn down to medium heat.

- While the pasta etc boils, get everything else lined up and ready. I put a drainer in the sink, tossed the can of diced tomatoes in and made sure they drained well. Then I tossed the chopped butter, shredded cheese, and onions in and stirred them around in the diced tomatoes.

- As soon as the pasta etc is soft (takes about ten minutes or so), remove from heat, grit your teeth, and dump into the drainer. The boiling hot water will melt the butter, and warm/soften up the cheese, tomatoes, and onions in passing.

- Quickly scoop everything back into the pot and put back on the heat. You are just mixing in all of the ingredients, warming them up, and melting all of the cheese. I shook in a little garlic salt here, but just for taste.

- As soon as everything else was blended, that's when I stirred a couple scoops of mayonnaise in. It was a choice between ranch dressing and mayonnaise. The mayonnaise won.

- I scooped a serving on a plate and tossed the rest into a plastic container for lunch on Saturday. I tossed a few big cubes of mozzarella cheese on top and put the plate into the microwave until the cheese was partially melted. I like my mozzarella schplotted. :)

Seriously.... it could be my taste buds are out of whack, but this tasted like lasagna to me. Minus the meat and this-will-make-me-fat guilt. :)


More posts coming up later this week.
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Friday, April 9, 2010

Randomness Ahead


Ugh. I have one of those odd facial migraines which probably has a lot to do with the weather.

I have a theory that somewhere up north near where Santa Claus lives, there is a great big mountain. The foot of this mountain is fairly normal, but the higher up you get to the top, you start to see all of the little weather factories making a banging, booming, dribbling, howling ruckus, with the little wispy weather minions rushing back and forth and between, making weather and reporting to those that live at the top. Then you see the place way at the top with inexplicably safe bursts of lightning and sideways twisters bursting out of the walls like clockwork while rain pours incessantly down from the eaves. If you look closely at any of the windows, you might see snow, hail, or even a wintry mix blowing around through the glass. When you see the striking men and women wandering about the premises mumbling about storm systems, hurricanes, and nor'easters, you realize that this is the place where the weather gods live.

In ordinary circumstances, these weather gods do their job and keep everything in order. Once in a while, a change of generations happens and that is when all hell breaks loose. The radical hooligan weather gods right out of college (so to speak) are energetic and adventurous, and excited about changing everything immediately because they want to see something happen NOW while they are still young and perky. Let's say warmer temperatures in the cold zones of the world, because there are animals and people who would actually DO MUCH BETTER and flourish in those forbidden areas of the earth.

So these newbies change the weather. They dropped lots and lots of storms down onto the earth and set them running amok. And I'm sure they did a lot of other mysterious things not just to earth but to the universes beyond the planet, lining everything up in an impetuous swoosh of youthful energy.

This caused the weather to change... and only then did the young hooligans realize that there are always consequences. They were so set on the far off goal of a paradise in the north, they didn't realize what would happen to planet earth in the meantime. Then too, even after the chaos of weather turning upside down all over the world, some of the young weather gods still don't care, because dude - that paradise is so worth it.

The older weather gods freaked out and took over things from the young weather gods and are now trying to make things NORMAL again. Only, they may have forgotten what is normal. So they are taking wild guesses.

Meanwhile, in the real world - this means that people are getting 80 degree temperatures on one spring day and then the next day they are experiencing snow and 32 degree temperatures. And sometimes in the same day it might be 70 degrees in the morning and 30 degrees by the afternoon.

All which causes migraines.

Sinus ones.

Which may not be the same thing, but they certainly feel the same. *looks grumpy*

*** Just in case it isn't clear, um, I kid about the weather gods. <- I'm not that crazy! :)

OTHERWISE -

I'm well ahead of my reading goals for this month - YAY!

A visit to the grocery store inevitably led to me picking up three new books - partly because they were only $5 each (thanks to my shoppers card). These would be the vampire books by Mari Mancusi (Boys who Bite, etc). I'm halfway through the first book and I love it. OK. Some of the humor is a little corny (like why would a vampire be worried about getting AIDS again? Is that more deadly than being stabbed in the stomach?) - but so far I'm enjoying it muchly.

My goal was ten books read in April - I've read seven so far. :)

Writing goal - I'm meeting that too. 15,000 words typed so far and have 3 chapters (currently finishing up the third).

So - yay for April so far.

On the downside...

My golden has issues thanks to the two measly thunderstorms we had last week. Any little noise startles him and sends him shaking, panting, and trembling all morning. UGH.

THUNDER:
=========
This is a signal that the world is coming to an end. Humans remain amazingly calm during thunderstorms, so it is necessary to warn them of the danger by trembling uncontrollably, panting, rolling your eyes wildly, and following at their heels.
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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Give Me a Reason

While browsing the news this evening (dragging my feet before I open the Word file and start writing), I came across the following story -

iris implant turns guy's black eye blue, abcnews.com

Basically, this guy had a head injury when he was younger, which caused bleeding into his brain and destroyed the iris of his one eye. They were able to save the eye, but when he came out of surgery his eye had turned completely black. He had one blue eye and one black eye.

Although scifi and fantasy books would make this out to be totally cool or sexy, this guy has to wear sunglasses all of the time - even on cloudy days. Because -

"In natural daylight the size of the pupil might be two millimeters," said Dr. Kevin Miller, an ophthalmologist at UCLA's Jules Stein Eye Institute. "He has essentially no iris, so his functional pupil size is 12 millimeters or 12.5 millimeters, so light just comes pouring into the eye."

In other words - all of that light really HURTS and could further damage his eye.

This condition is caused by injuries, such as in this guy's case. It is also a congenital issue, and X amount of babies are born with an absent or partial iris.

The guy got an (artificial) iris implant which from the sounds of it is mainly cosmetic. The iris won't be able to react like a normal iris, so he will still have to wear sunglasses.

But his eyes are the same color and the one won't do that weird red reflecto thing when he poses for pictures.

Ahem.

Why am I going into all of that?

Well, the light sensitivity inevitably made me think about Twilight and the lame reason for why vampires do not go out on sunny days.

Bella: mumbles something about diamonds, says his skin is beautiful.

Edward: "Beautiful?! THIS IS THE SKIN OF A KILLER!"




No. No. No.

I'm not exactly a Twilight hater. I read the book. Didn't hate it (though I did hate the first half of the book), but that (My skin sparkles when I go out in sunlight and people GAWK!) simply is not a good enough reason.

If you want me to love what you write, then please give me a solid up reason for everything.

Like, with vampires - they are generally portrayed with those creepy black eyes that turn red sometimes. And they prefer the dark shadowy places.

Well, maybe you could work in a natural type of condition to explain WHY they are like this. Especially if you are writing a sort of vampire story where the vampirism is genetic. The vampirism could simply be what people call the descendants of certain families. They don't have to be DEAD people. They could simply be magicians or such - people who have more abilities than the average person. And they, like Elizabeth Bathory try to use blood to gain energy, rejuvination, or powers - or whatever. And of course, they don't necessarily have to kill their victims. And they don't have to be animal like and fangy. Maybe they just need a little sip (because blood smells disgusting and is bound to destroy your innards if you make a habit of drinking a lot of it, and honestly I couldn't imagine making my characters reliant on the stuff for fuel every day, because they'd be dead in less than a year, or they'll wish they were dead) to take over the world and overpower all opposition. :)

I guess what I'm saying is give me a reason and aim to make it somewhat believable - especially if you are writing urban fantasy or paranormal.

When you read odd stories like the one above, you have to assume there is something in there that you could use - maybe not right now, but perhaps later?
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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Does your significant other copy you?

This isn't about you and S.O. getting together and writing a combined-talents FUN novel just for FUN and act all SHOCKED when it actually is FUN for the REST of the WORLD when you PUBLISH and you make MILLIONS!!!

[the caps are a side effect of being up all night with the dog who has a neurosis about thunderstorms and sat shaking and trembling on my head while I tried to get my very necessary beauty sleep]

If I weren't one of those writers who always flunked at those English class projects where you have to write a group composition (boring, annoying, you could write faster on your own and soandso is trying to do just that while electing herself the supreme leader of the group comp because she's dissing all of your ideas and enacting all of hers and you'd probably do the same thing if you were half as pushy), I'd probably see the FUN in all of that and talk the S.O. into joining me in writing a truly ludicrous Clue fan fiction novel (or something).



Ahem.

That's not what I'm talking about. I know a few people who do group projects and they seem to be well-adjusted people who thoroughly enjoy the writing process together as opposed to creeping into a secluded corner of existence to write solo.

What I'm talking about is something I noticed here and there... I know at least two lady writers whose hubbies are getting into the writer act too. As in, the female writers started their act first, joined writing clubs, and then suddenly their hubbies are right there too with their own writing projects and talking about publishing even though they are possibly 10-20 years behind their wives who have been working steadily at the craft all along. Or worse, they are thinking about publishing picture books, because they assume nothing can be easier, etc...

So... does your S.O. do this too? Is it something you encouraged them to do because it gives you an instant writing buddy and it could be a bonding thing too (like couples who go horseback riding together <- another thing that weirds me out sometimes, I must admit). Or did they just start doing it all of a sudden because you inspired them and/or they caught the writing bug?

Personally speaking... I'd be bothered if my S.O. started writing all of a sudden. It's weird too, because all of my siblings write or otherwise tell stories (drawing, telling, or writing) and I absolutely loved all of that. I think maybe the difference was that we all started writing at the same point because we had that need to create (it must be the artist genes from my one father's uncle's cousin who was into painting and photography). I knew it wasn't my brothers and sisters playing copycat. We competed with each other, but that's a natural whatever thing in big families. :)

I guess my thing is I don't want my bf to be competing with me. And that's what it would start to feel like if he joined up with my writing group and started enlisting crits from my betas and so forth. It would really bug me.

*blushmarks*

I know that is probably a really selfish take, especially when you consider how much we depend on these people who offer support and raw feedback (the waking up at 2AM and babbling about SECRET NOVEL STUFF THAT I DONT WANT ANYONE ELSE TO KNOW ABOUT). If the person I'm babbling about MYWRITINGLIFE to 24/7 infinity suddenly gets the writing vibe, I'd have to return the favor and be supportive right back.

But... I really hope that never happens.
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Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Difficulty in Switching Gears and Permitted Revelations

Meaning - the last two or three projects I worked on over the past five years have been in first person. Before I started the BSW revision, I waffled between first and third person and finally decided the novel would be stronger in third. And then I discovered how much out of practice I've fallen.

I really felt rusty and stiff... and it really caught me by surprise. I write a very close third person, so there isn't a HUGE difference between 1st and 3rd - or there shouldn't be. But still I found myself wanting to SCREAM as every paragraph started with the protagonist's name and I struggled to fix the narration so it wasn't so painfully choppy.

It didn't help matters that all of the books I've been reading lately are all in first person.

Only plain old stubborness kept me from switching over to first person - and I'm glad I stuck with it. The writing is finally smoothing out - this four or five months after I started the revisions. *looks sour at the waste of time*

REVELATIONS -

This concerns a short story I wrote two weeks ago. This would be a scifi type short that I REALLY LIKED and wanted to place somewhere. We'll just call it TNMO5A3

I put it up for crit twice, each time pulling it back as I made changes.

Today I saved a copy on my computer and permanently pulled the story from the critting queue. Why?

Because I realized that what I had was not a story. It was the synopsis of one.

I told the reader what happened in as little words as possible (just the facts ma'am). At first this seemed sufficient, until I went browsing a couple magazines and read some other stories which are out there. Dude. TNMO5A3 wasn't anywhere near being finished. I have to sit down and write the story for real, using that 'story' as a glorifed outline - which is what it really was.

Other news -

I wrote 11,000 over the Easter holiday. On Good Friday I stayed up until 4AM writing. The novel has taken an edgier feel than I originally planned. It's a little bit freaky. I kinda told myself to forget about the intended audience right now (even the agents who are the first intended audience). It's important to finish the novel and see it through all of the twists and turns it wants to take.

I'm currently reading -

Marked by PC Cast

*looks embarrassed* Yes, I know everyone else has read these books already. But I haven't <- Because I wasn't sure if I'd like them and I haven't had an opportunity to borrow them until now.

So far I whizzed through five chapters. Fast and interesting reading. The blood lust thing is a turnoff (because I don't really like the smell of blood, etc). I do like the spin on vampirism being sort of like a disease or condition that randomly pops up and scientists are trying to figure out why so they can stop it.

Zoey's stepfather creeps me out, and I'm getting cultist mental images about him. I'm guessing that was the author's intention. It was a barb aimed at FLDS maybe?

Random thought -

If you want to write something that is DIFFERENT from what everyone else is writing. You have to first read widely and so forth, so you know what everyone is writing.

ETA 4/5/10

(currently waiting another day for a brand new adaptor to arrive for my big laptop. Until then I'm stuck with the mini, which just isn't the same. *looks sad* The screen and keyboard feel so cramped in comparision)

Just sharing a paragraph from "Marked" which absolutely cracks me up -

Stevie Ray grinned and blushed. "I want to be a country music star. I mean, Kenny Chesney, Faith Hill, and Shania Twain are all vamps - and that's just three of them. Heck, Garth Brooks grew up right here in Oklahoma and you know he's the biggest vamp of them all. So I don't see why I can't be one too."


I'm thinking about buying this book when I'm done for that paragraph alone. The mental images!

This line too:

Well I guess being the next Nicole Kidman wouldn't be bad (not that I plan on marrying and then divorcing a manic short guy).


*IS READING BOOK WITH WIDE SMILE ON FACE*

All right... the smile drooped into a disapproving wrinkle when I saw the guy's name. Erik NIGHT? Really?

Judging by her inability to think around this guy... were I in her position I'd go all Edward, stew furiously, and then pay a visit to the admins to beg for a switch. Because being in a class with him reciting and speaking the lines DIRECTLY TO ME would be just too intolerable! :)

"Uh, by the way, I like what you changed your name to. Night is a cool last name," I said, trying to hold up my end of the conversation and say something insightful."


Hmph. I sense the authors trying to make excuses for naming the main vamp-guy character something so horribly cliche.

(side note, I'm wondering if I should be alarmed at the explosive sounds my washer is making. It sounds like a train. And I'm not the only one raising my head and twitching. Neurotic dog is edging closer to his hiding spot in closet)

12:30 AM - Finished reading "Marked". Definitely do want to read the next one now. Great read. :)
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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Thoughts about "The Lovely Bones"

"My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973."

So begins the story of Susie Salmon, who is adjusting to her new home in heaven, a place that is not at all what she expected, even as she is watching life on earth continue without her -- her friends trading rumors about her disappearance, her killer trying to cover his tracks, her grief-stricken family unraveling. Out of unspeakable tragedy and loss, THE LOVELY BONES succeeds, miraculously, in building a tale filled with hope, humor, suspense, even joy. - taken from Amazon.com


The part in bold was the hook that caught my attention again as I browsed the book and magazine area at the local not-Walmart superstore. I was supposed to buy a replacement t-shirt (long story, but I didn't want to wear the shirt I wore to work that morning and couldn't just duck home to change). Instead of buying the t-shirt, I bought "The Lovely Bones", reasoning that I should have bought the book the last time I read.

The book is... powerful. I started reading after getting home from work yesterday evening, and I didn't put it down until 2AM, when I finished reading every last word. Although I already knew how the book ended - the sinkhole filled in without being emptied of its secrets - I couldn't stop myself from hoping as I turned the pages that somehow they'd find her remains.

The bad guy Alice drew... the disturbing thing is he was not overdone or over the top. You could easily imagine messed up people like that slipping through the cracks and living a normal life next door, despite all of the horrible things they have done all their life. And in fact, I immediately thought about predators in real life - such as the one over in California. People just saw him as the guy next door, son, and boyfriend until he got caught.

Where I found the book comforting and hopeful... it was Alice's perception of heaven, how those that die are healed and comforted. How it was a place where people met their lost loved ones again and lived on in a place where the slightest wish came true. The part where her dog finally died of old age and joined her in heaven... I cried.

Darn. I'm getting watery-eyed thinking about the scene right now.

Holiday lived a long pampered life and finally drifted off in sleep. Susie was worried he wouldn't recognize her as the little girl he slept with every night, but there he was walking into her heaven, sniffing, looking for her. When he saw her, his tail immediately started to wag. He almost knocked her over as he greeted her. It was a very small scene in a book of many scenes, but it made my day as a dog person who hopes to see all her boys in the afterlife.

The other thing I considered while struggling to sleep at least a couple hours last night after I shut the book -> The writing was absolutely brilliant.

If you took part in the First 25 Words contest over at Miss Snark's First Victim, then you need only take the example of books like this one for a solid hook. The part in bold up above is the first 20 words of the book.

It's funny, I've always thought that starting a book with an introduction line such as "My name is" is a bad thing. I'm not sure if it is considered a cliche or if it is just weak writing, but I've read in more than one place that it is a no-no.

But those first two lines hooked me twice.

Proof that there are always exceptions to every rule. :)

ETA - I wasn't going to mention this, but I can't resist the temptation. If you read that first 20 words of "The Lovely Bones" again, you might notice that there were three conspicuous 'was' occurrences; two in the same line no less!

*looks mischievous*

APRIL GOALS

1. Read at least ten new books
2. Write/Improve at least two new chapters in wip
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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Locked in a Room for a Million Years

Let me preface this with a short explanation:

I have three sisters, but one has always been my mentor-of-all-that-is-bookish. I started writing first, but she started reading long before I did (she was the pretty little girl with long golden locks, blue eyes, and purple-rimmed glasses which she hated but was forced to wear in school where she got punched in the face because she was already reading high-school books at age eight and that annoyed other kids apparently), so it all evens out.

When my mom stopped reading to me, Amy was always there to help me learn to read faster, so 'reading by myself' wasn't just turning pages and picking out all the three letter words.

Then Amy and I started a friendly competition over who would read all the books in the house first, which turned into all of the books at the library. She was five years older than I and had that headstart, so of course she won. grumblegrumble.

When we grew up a little bit, we took the friendly competition to the next level when we started writing. Who could finish writing more books faster, etc... <- I always won, because Amylalala kept getting stuck in a room.

She was writing a Tolkienesque questing fantasy (just to spite me) and got to this chapter where the characters were in a bedroom, confronting a baggage eating frog in the closet. She began that scene twenty years ago, and has since moved on and written other things, but has never been able to get her characters out of that room. Doesn't stop her from trying - and rewriting the book up to that point over and over.

This morning, I thought about my sister's poor characters staring an enormous frog down for twenty years... and I cringed. Some days I feel like I'm falling into that exact same hole! <- As in, for the past three weeks (or so), I have not proceeded past a certain scene in BSW. Aack!

On the plus side: While rewriting the scene over and over, I've discovered interesting things about the characters and the plot. It is a different novel than it was before I got to this scene... I hope a stronger novel.

On the negative side: I'm afraid of turning into my sister and never finishing this book. Unlike Amy, who is a bit more stubborn and patient (yes, somehow those two attributes go together) than I am, and willing to stare at the same scene for ten years... I'm more likely to let this book slide through my fingers while I turn to something else. Or worse, I might RUIN it in a frantic attempt to get it back to rights and moving forward.

When we were children, we had a huge wooden spool thing in our yard (it came from a construction site, and was one of those things which got tossed). My parents recognized it was a better toy than any of those expensive dollhouses or playcenters from Toys R' US and wheeled it home and into our backyard. I accidentally dropped one of my dolls (Jenny! I remember you!) inside the spool and couldn't get her out. Her head was too big to pull back through the small hole.

Amy was happy with slowly working the doll and squeezing the head down bit by bit as she could get at it. I wasn't. Being a horrible five year old, I reached in, grabbed my doll by her feet and gave her a mighty yank. Her head tore open like a nightmare. :O

That should help explain my mindset right now....

In that, when I pick up my novel and type out the scene bit by bit and hope that I like it tomorrow so I can move on... I feel like I need to give the scene a lot more thought before I hammer it out and move on.

This is what I have:

NS drives W home, where she witnesses a friendly and familiar greeting between him and her sister. Turns out that his family and hers were close, but she doesn't remember anything of him or his mom from that time. Though T clearly does. T shrugs off W's questions and then announces she's preggers.

That above part is set in stone and I'm really happy with how it plays out. The part that follows the announcement is where I start to feel a little lost and confuzzled.

W retreats to her room to change out of her uniform and sort her mind out about T's announcement. She finds her old art journal and then hears a THUMP in her closet.

I feel like I'm on the right track, but I don't have everything lined up right, or I'm rushing it, or I'm not seeing the scene properly yet.

If we look at this scene like it is a computer game, the character has just found three important pieces or clues....

1. The charm from her Grandmother Kazegian
2. The art journal - the last gift from her father before he disappeared
3. The THING in her closet

There is also a fourth piece or clue -

4. The lump of coal that LRF, her best friend from BS, gave her for luck.

I know I have it all here and I have to use them. But I want to be careful so I don't ruin the novel - tear the doll's head, so to speak.

But that doesn't stop me from getting anxious and feeling like time's a wastin'.

My character is stuck in her room, staring at her bedroom closet door.

The only thing I'm missing is the baggage eating frog inside the closet. :O
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