Friday, February 26, 2010

Music, Inspiration, and Heritage

Music from following vid is playing on my ipod and somehow inspiring me to write tonight. As mentioned before, I usually need low key music (if any) to get me going. Not tonight, apparently. :)



Procession of the Sardars comes from the Caucasian Sketches by a Russian composer Ippolitov-Ivanov. I think inspired by Georgian folk music, etc...

A Sardar = Persian Commander

I'm guessing the Sardar thing has to do with the fact that Georgia was part of the Persian empire at one point. <- Same thing with Armenia.

There was this "Armenian Radio Hour" radio program that was on every Sunday morning as I rode home from church with my family. Even though my dad (half Armenian) did not want to have anything to do with that heritage while growing up (embarrassing to be different + back then Armenians were seen as communist sympathizers because of their close relations with Russia), he got over that rebellion. He turned this radio station on because he wanted us to know and identify with the music and language. He and my mom even started to learn the language right up to the point when the radio guy was explaining the different 'coughing' sounds. There is a soft sound you make, like you are politely and quietly coughing in church. Then there is a loud moist sounding cough that you make in private and don't need to be polite. <- My parents gave up at that point. :)

Anyway, the reason why I mention this radio program is it would begin and end with that familiar piece. So I always assumed it was done by an Armenian composer and was about Armenia. <- I'm not sure whether or not Georgia counts as 'close enough'. I've heard differing accounts of how friendly or tentative relations are between the two countries.

The Armenian stuff does come to play in what I'm writing. Even though I usually write about characters with black hair, large dark eyes, and olive skin, this is the first novel-project that the characters are openly part-Armenian. In a way, my main character is somewhat based on my dad, though she looks exactly like my youngest sister (Liz is very short, has long black hair, warm/dark olive skin, and beautiful almond-shaped reddish-brown eyes). I'm having fun - even though I'll probably tone some of it down before I hand it over for critters to see.




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Friday Meme

Yet another Friday I'm opting to do the quick and easy meme route.

*smiles mischievously*

I borrowed this week's meme from morningcoffee.blogspot.com



Yourself: TGIF

Your hair: Blackish-Reddish

Your Mother: Angel

Your Father: Happy Birthday!

Your Favorite Item: Diamond Earrings

Your dream last night: Slept-like-dead

Your Favorite Drink: Diet Pepsi

Your Dream Car: Ford Escape Hybrid

Your Dream Home: Cobblestone cottage in the woods with a bright red door

The Room You Are In: Work

Your fear: Heights

Where you Want to be in Ten Years: Rachel Ray's show, touting book

Who you hung out with last night: Mom

What You're Not: Tall

Muffins: Meh.

One of Your Wish List Items: New Kelley Armstrong YA book

Time: Hour before lunch

The Last Thing You Did: Emailed Friend

What You Are Wearing: Jeans+flowery thermal shirt under red vest

Your favorite weather: Fall

Your Favorite Book: Pride & Prejudice

Last thing you ate: Bagel

Your Life: Happy

Your mood: Slightly tired

Your Best Friends: Sweethearts

What are you thinking about right now: Sleep + Me = happy

Your car: Snow Beast

What are you doing at the moment: Entering Data

Your summer: Coming

Relationship status: Dating

What is on your tv: Olympics

What is the weather like: Snow Squalls

When is the last time you laughed: Just now

OH AND RANDOM FRIDAY THING - -

CHECK OUT MEG CABOT'S UPDATED BLOG <- I haven't looked in a while, so it could be that it's been all new and shiny for a while. But still! I'm all admiration. So nift.
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Thursday, February 25, 2010

It's Been Done Before...



Grim Confession Time:

Last month, I saw a tweet from fabulous agent Colleen Lindsey w/regards to a trend she's seeing with growing frequency in the YA/Fantasy/Urban/Paranormal genres. That would be all of the authors killing the parents of the main character off.

I've noticed the SAME thing as Colleen, and furthermore (and this is the part that disturbs me the most), I keep seeing books which begin with a morose character who is afraid of cars because she survived a car wreck which killed her parents.

Um.

Guess how BS Wesley (one of my current WIPS) started off....

Yes. *sighs grimly*

Mom was crumpled like a piece of paper and Dad was beheaded. Wesley wasn't in the crash, but her youngest sister was, unfortunately. The kiddo is permanently damaged because her dad's head bounced into the backseat and landed at her feet.

I didn't quite figure out how one parent was beheaded and the other merely crumpled while both sat in the front seat of their Chevy Cavalier, but I was going to work out those details later. <- That was before I starting coming across all these books (including Evermore and Oh My Goth) where one or more parents was offed in this fashion.

I went through the five stages of denial at first (including - "I noticed, but it's not like anyone else will!" and "They HAVE to die! Or else the story won't work!" ).

Then I tried to fix the problem... subtly:

I toned down the car accident. I moved it back five years to allow for some healing. I took the kid out of the car. I put the parents in a crashing train instead. I took them out of the car and had them killed in a hit and run accident in a parking lot.

And with each revision attempt, I kept coming back to the same thought, "It's still too similar." The parents died in a traumatic accident and are deeply mourned at the beginning of the novel.

So I brainstormed.

Both parents had to be gone, because it's important for the three girls to fend for themselves at the old family house, etc. And it had to be traumatic for the youngest to be the way she was, and also for the oldest to drastically change mentally and emotionally. And it had to be horrific enough for the entire community to know all about it after following all of the news reports.

It was too similar to other books out there because both parents were killed and there was a vehicle involved. <- I noted this, but initially didn't know how to fix. I had to mentally get to that point where I was OPEN to changing the plot completely, even writing in new plot threads. Prior to that point, I just wanted a quick fix right there at the beginning. I wasn't willing to write in anything that required a full revision of the book.

The answer came to me while watching CNN Headline News. I didn't have to kill both parents and it didn't have to be an accident. No, Dad didn't murder Mom and he isn't in jail, but [spoilers carefully deleted and preserved].

This meant a brand new plot thread to reveal throughout the book, and not surprising, the main plot and characters changed completely with this addition of this new thread. <- And yes, this is a good thing. Both the plot and characters became deeper and feel more solid than before.

Last night, I finished up revisions for Ch1 and Ch2 and could have cried over when I recognized a quality that had not been there before. No, that doesn't mean I'm going to say, "YAH, publish me now. I quality writer!" <- Heh. Edits are neverending.

Back when I was still struggling with keeping my 'car crash' thread, I didn't have a lot of confidence about those two chapters. I knew that anybody reading them would likely lose interest as the 'cliche-device alert' warning lights came on. Maybe CH3 and CH4 were stronger and more unique, but I couldn't assume that a reader would choose to read that far, if they've already been turned off by the 'same old'.

The fact that I did something completely different, that I know for a fact isn't in any of the books I've read lately... that's what I mean by a recognizable quality. Maybe I still need to revise a touch more (and finish the book), but there is a chance that this one will make it.

Final Word and Bossy Advice for the Day:

If you read over your working copy and have this feeling that you read this story before (and not just because you wrote it), you shouldn't cross your fingers and hope your readers are idiots. If you noticed it, you can betcha other people will. <- And you can't always rely on critters, because most people are going to be too nice to point out something that essentially means the entire novel in its current form is trash.

Keep reshaping the plot and characters until you are satisfied. <- And I mean REALLY satisfied, not just you telling yourself you are.
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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

BOOKMARK: Ancient Mosaic Map

The below pic is something I wanted to keep on hand. It is known as the "Madaba Mosaic Map", and according to Wiki it is part of a floor mosaic in an early Byzantine church, depicting Jerusalem during the early (6th) centuries. The pic below is the center of the larger map showing the Holy Land.

The mosaic clearly shows a number of significant structures in the Old City of Jerusalem: the Damascus Gate, the Lions' Gate, the Golden Gate, the Zion Gate, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the New Church of the Theotokos, the Tower of David and the Cardo Maximus. The recognisable depiction of the urban topography makes the mosaic a key source on Byzantine Jerusalem. - Wiki


Link with each location/building labeled.

I have a feeling I could use this somewhere.



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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

BOOKMARK: Languages

Just sticking this link in here -

Liana Brooks, Creating Alien Languages

Liana THUMBED something that I'm a bit sensitive about as a fantasy (as in the kind with aliens from distant galaxies) writer.

One of my projects (GLADIITOR) in particular needs a little help in this area. And that is something I've been meaning to look into as soon as I've managed to clear out a little extra time.

When you create a strange new civilization, it isn't enough to make them look a little different and give them strange new abilities. You also have to figure out the clothing details, their food, their religious habits, their idea of fun and games, and yes - their languages.

Liana brought up Tolkien - and we all know the strange old guy spent 12 years writing his series, including setting aside a little extra time to write a language for his elves. Yes, this came easy for him because he was a linguist. But that doesn't mean that language-challenged (according to Obama, that's most Americans) writers have no hope of doing the same thing.

Currently I have Spanish, French, Armenian, Japanese, and Polish dictionaries I can flip through and find words that look close to what I want. I can also go online and find word lists for any language I want.

Grammar isn't so important as finding words that are close to the type of culture I'm aiming for.

If you use a gaelic type word, then people are going to have a Merlin/Guinevere/Wort mental images in their head complete with wailing bagpipes as you have your characters interact.

If you use a norse type word, then people are going to be thinking Vikings and the mighty bearded gods of the north. :]

Next step is just playing around with the word so it is less noticable as X language. You don't want your language-knowledgable reader to be sitting there and thinking that X character just greeted Y character by saying something like "Toilet Footstool Sing."

If you are very detailed orientated (as Tolkien obviously was), you can also write up little grammar rules. Like how words change when addressed to a woman vs a man, or how words change when spoken by a child vs by an adult. You could even go into the possessive, plural, singular - and so forth rules... if you wanted. <- Keep in mind that too much linguistic gymnastics could lose your reader.

Then the other thing -

I'm not going to be using too many 'foreign' words in my novels. But I will need a spattering of words, especially if some characters are to be believably foreign (as in alien). I just want to make sure the words have the same sound to them. Like I don't want to mix Spanish and Polish words for the same race/planet.

Good ideas -

1. Keep a list of every word you use, complete with a 'definition'

2. Don't worry about foreign words in first draft, you can always do a search/replace later if you want.

3. Write names/words in CAPS if you plan to go back later and change them.

4. Research foreign civilizations, particularly the unusual ones. <- Everyone uses the Irish/Norse influences in their work. Because Tolkien did. Same thing with Japan/China (Joss Whedon). But there is no rule you can't research other new civiliations and their mythologies and traditions for inspiration.
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Get a Life


This post is based on a poll I saw recently which asked writers if they were willing to give up their day job in order to write more. The majority of writers said 'yes', only a fraction said they wanted to keep their job for the sake of stability and the dependable paycheck. That poll went right along with all of the tweets and comments and posts I've seen from writers all over the web, wishing they could stay home 24/7 to write.

While I give a nod to those writers and say 'Yep, I feel that way too!', the point is that we need to start looking at our day jobs a little differently.


This includes all of you who are a stay at home moms (otherwise known as 24/7 babysitter, cook, taxi driver, shopper, cleaner, fixer of all booboos for offspring), teachers (yes, you people who work 7-3 every day, are necessarily over-the-top nice to someone else's offspring even if they are bwats who make you obsess to unhealthy extremes about corporal punishment) and then come home and grade papers and set up work for next day all afternoon and evening), IT professionals (work 7-5 every day, work remotely at home fixing or creating programs, while you also remain on call the rest of the day and night in case you have to go in to work to fix something), etc...

Getting up early in the morning is not a happy prospective - especially when you mentally count up all of the mornings you have to do this until you reach retirement age (YEARS!). <- This retirement expectation part doesn't include SAHM's, because of course they never retire. They just move up into a posher management position with fringe benefits (spoil grandkids and blissfully send them home) after graduation.

While we moan and groan about our jobs and our plebeian existence, it is important to consider how much experience we get every day. We interact with different people and get to view all the facets of life - which we then get to knowledgeably plague our characters with.

If you have a day job away from home, you get to hang out with adults during the day and learn new ways to build characters. Yes. This includes those evil coworkers who make you think of those horror movies where a person digs fingernails into floor and loses them in a bloody cuticle massacre while a monster drags them away by their feet.

If you are home with your kids, then you know more than anyone else what kids are into and what they read. Well, either that or you get very good at escapist fantasies in galaxies and dimensions farfaraway while you change diapers and listen to the endless cackle of Spongebob from the TV.

The other thing is that although most of us dayworkers only get 1-5 hours of writing time in the evening, we learn to value that time and make the most of it. <- I say this as somebody who rarely finds any writing time while on vacation, even if I'm just sludging around at home.

So!

Don't feel bad about your working life.

Don't quit your day job.

A regular paycheck is good and experience and exposure to humanity is a bonus.

Remember, if you went totally hermit and actually spent all your time writing and zero time interacting with other human beings - there is still no guarantee that you would spin out a masterpiece.

Make do with the time you have - especially when you are away from the writing. Learn to look at life a little differently.

On that note, yesterday while stuck driving very slowly through a snowstorm in the early dark of morning, I entertained myself by playing what if games. My favorite of the morning was contemplating giant smokey black wraiths weaving through traffic in search of SOMEBODY. Other mornings, I imagine dinosaurs or even Big Foot running out into traffic. <- Yes, someday I will write a novel which has a Raptors running out from the nearby metropark and crossing the highway. Not now, but someday.
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Friday, February 19, 2010

Friday Meme

Thought I'd shake things up today with a meme just for fun. :)

I found a quicky one that works for me right here.

1) My favourite quotation about writing is ... Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. ~Anton Chekhov

2) The first thing I had published was ... "The Mudling King" - a short story about the fall of the angels. At least I know it was accepted and I got a token payment. I don't know if it was used in the magazine though. o_O

3) I can only write ... Stories with female protagonists. Last time I had a guy protagonist, an editor turned down the story and very kindly pointed out that my mc sounded like a girl. #blushes

4) I write best at this time of day ... Night time - providing I can keep my eyes open. The sad truth is the writing/imaginative side of my brain is only wide awake and perky when my body isn't. It's so unfair.

5) I've tried several times to write ... historical fiction. And one day I'm going to succeed and have something I can show other people without shrinking into a tiny ball of embarrassment. My biggest problem is the realistic aspect and finding a way to support my plot schemes without turning off history buffs.

6) I'm in the middle of writing ... a paranormal fantasy novel that DOES NOT have vampires in it. Admittedly it is a struggle to keep my horrible guy characters from sprouting fangs and skulking around at night. They do skulk around at night, however I absolutely will allow them to flash inordinately long canines.

7) I write blogs because ... I like expressing myself and giving online friends and other people a glimpse of me, my life, my writing struggles, and just... I like to show people that I'm nice and easy to work with.

8) My lowest moments when writing come when ... I want to write but I'm too tired to think. Those are the times when I think about everything I have to write or fix and feel like a shallow writer who just isn't going to make it.

9) My best moments when writing come when ... Duh. When I'm writing. When the words are just pouring out of me and I know they are heartfelt and have that smooth liquid feel when I read over them again. When I write something that sounds right.

10) The one thing that's most helped my writing has been ... Acknowledging where my weaknesses are. I heard something in the Olympics yesterday from one of the announcers. It was something like 'You have to acknowledge your weaknesses in order to improve and succeed'.

Random Thoughts...

Do you ever pick up a book to read and feel DIVIDED about whether you like it or not? I'm feeling that way with a book I picked up to read again - oh my goth by Gena Showalter.

So I read the first chapter where the main character, Jade, is having a bad day. It starts off with the trig teacher singling her out and making abusive comments about her in front of the class. He kicks her out of class with a note begging the principal to expell her. Meanwhile she is totally goth in school, which invariably reminded me of the my immortal fanfiction project (the one based on Harry Potter/Hogwarts + Vampires), particularly the videos. <- And yes, that is a bad thing. :O

Yet, there I am reaching for the book and prepared to head off to a comfy couch somewhere to finish reading. As much as I have a tiny 'hmmph' voice going on in my head, it isn't enough to make me throw the book at walls. And I vaguely think I like Jade's character in a way. *is confused and wanders off to read*
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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

BOOKMARK: YA GENRE BOOM

See following post for fabulous tips on YA Genre from three great agents (including Richelle Mead's agent (!) -

Alan Rinzler, YA is Red Hot

I'm bookmarking this as a nudge to stick to my guns and finish writing the two main YA novels I have right now (Marbles and BSW). I only wish I were done with them NOW so I could be querying.

If you are in querying stage - take notice!

Good luck!
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Rationalizing Plagiarism?

So I read the following article -

Salon, Plagiarism the Next Generation

In which a 17 year old author of a book published in Germany tries to excuse the fact that she ripped off another published book, including lifting entire pages.

She says: "I myself don't feel it is stealing, because I put all the material into a completely different and unique context and from the outset consistently promoted the fact that none of that is actually by me."

As somebody who would never dream of consciously copying another author's work, I was appalled at the idea that this author had, that it was an art form and should be an accepted style of writing.

Yes, I know that this generation has the example of Seth Grahame-Smith and his highly successful Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I expect that the young author looked at what Seth did to P&P and decided she could do it too. I'm not sure if the book she ripped off is in the public domain or not, but regardless, she went about it the wrong way. From the sounds of it, she did not fess up until she got caught.

She was trying to pass it all off as her own invention.

*exhales*

This is part of the reason why authors are so protective of their work and hesitant to submit to critique groups. And it's also why they even are nervous about posting plots, ideas, snippets online for the world to see.

It isn't always about them being too shy and defensive of their brain-offspring.

It's because there are other authors out there who would do stuff like this.

No - there is nothing wrong with getting plot ideas from other people's work, providing you do something completely original with them and make them your own.

-> Points at all the literal offspring of Tolkien who borrowed ideas from him and thankfully did something else (and better) with them.

But it is another thing if you read somebody's story or idea somewhere and write the exact same novel.

Besides it's lazy.

Don't do it.
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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Music...

Just sharing an odd experience I had today when I stopped over at the post office to pick up the mail for my work. Our box is a large square drawer, close to the floor. I just knelt down in front of it like usual and was using the key, when I started to hear music. Haunting music. Or an undefined song that you would hear coming from a cheap music box.

I pressed my ear to one of the post office boxes to the right of ours (which probably looked freaky to the overhead cameras) and confirmed that the music was coming from the box.

When I opened our drawer, I gave the inner sorting area an eyeball - just curious if somebody was messing around with the mail and coincidentally turned a music box on just as I knelt in front of my box. But nah. There wasn't anyone back there.

Meanwhile the music mournfully continued to play.

I have no doubt it is still playing, unless of course it stopped when I left the post office.

This link Dress 'Em this Way goes to The Rejectionist website (which is also listed on my lovely left column placed there with schemey html codes that I forgot to write or print down somewhere where I could do it again without starting from scratch), and their hilarious post on guy fashion on the runways.

Um. I know the Rejectionist was being funny, but I'm very tempted to DO this to one of my main characters. Not one of the side characters. The main character.

*laughs mischievously*

What about you?

Would you DARE do this to one of your characters?
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Happy Paczki Day!

If you are a resident of the state of Michigan, that generally traslates into a huge Polish festival the day before Lent begins. Listening to the radio this morning, the bars in Hamtramck, MI opened at 7AM and some businesses actually took the day off so people could all the more enjoy the excesses of the day. Lots and lots of polish sausage and paczki.

Or if you grew up in my house, it means paczki (jelly filled glazed donuts) for breakfast and then coming home in the evening to enjoy a full Polish dinner, followed by something like nalesniki (crepes or rolled creme or fruit filled pancakes) and cakes for desert.

From the way I look at it - it is the Polish version of St. Patrick's Day - except you wear red instead of green. And listen and dance to polkas instead of limericks and ballads.

About the Lenten Fast ->

Back before the Catholic church switched to the kiddy fast (give up favorite things for lent, abstain from meat on Fridays), adults age 21 and older were expected to adhere to the Lenten fast. This means they are only permitted three meals a day. Two of the meals had to be very small and meatless. Together could not equal a main meal. The main meal on the other hand could contain meat.

The way I understand that - a main meal is calculated as more than one item or serving. It doesn't necessarily mean you could cheat and have a feast for supper every night, and two regular supper sized meals during the day.

A sample day would be something like:

Breakfast - Bowl of cereal or scrambled eggs.
Lunch - Meatless sandwich (grilled cheese or fish sandwich).
Supper - Regular meal (main dish, side dishes, salad). Followed by desert, if you wish.

Kids under the age of 21 merely were expected to follow the 'meat once a day' part of the fast, except for Fridays (kids 7 and older were expected to abstain from all meat on Fridays). They could still eat as much as they want throughout the day.

<- That, btw, was the moderate fast. Back in the early days of the church, fasting would be a lot more strenuous and food-deprived.

On the day before Ash Wednesday (the official start of Lent), people would have festivals to clear out the pantry and 'fatten up' before the 40 days of denial began.

St. Patrick's Day lands right in the middle of Lent and many (at least here in the US) regard the day as mid-lenten break. There was a special dispensation given for just that day, so people could put aside the fast and feast as much as they wanted.

Anyway!

I'm posting this, because instead of writing topics, my mind is on the fast ahead and I'm already planning out my battle plan. <- I'm an old-fashioned type of Catholic, so we adhere to all of the old fasts and rules of abstinence. I've done the fast for several years now, but it doesn't get any easier.

The funny or stupid thing is I don't normally eat three meals a day. I generally have something light for lunch (bagel and coffee for example) and then just supper in the evening. So 1.5 meals?

But it is human nature to suddenly WANT something the instant it is forbidden. In other words, the selections in the vending machine suddenly start to look yummy throughout the day.

The other problem is 'accidents'.

Accidently eating something - even swallowing gum! - in the middle of that would count as one of your three meals.

If you are enjoying paczki today... or if you are enjoying the other ethnic varieties of Fat Tuesday. Have fun!

I'll get back to thinking about writing tomorrow. :]
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Monday, February 15, 2010

Premonition

This thought ocurred to me this morning as I perused the morning news on the web. I'm sure everyone has heard something of the Luge accident in the Olympics. Just a quick brush-up, the young athlete from Georgia (country, not state) crashed during his training run before the official start of the Olympics. He lost control and his body went flying through the air and hit a metal post along the rink (or whatever they call it). He died soon after.

His friend (grew up in the same town) and teammate was devastated. He did not complete his training runs and pulled out of the competition.

The Olympic people there in Vancouver seem to hold the opinion that the guy's inexperience caused the unfortunate accident, but they shortened the rink and built a wall to prevent something like that from occurring again this year.

The athletes themselves have been saying the rink there in Vancouver is pretty fast, and I read today that the kid who died was terrified of the rink. This was something he confided to his father.

Why am I mulling over these details?

It goes together with something that my mom has said time and again w/regards to a person's death. She believes that when people are about to die, they generally KNOW. They get a certain feeling. A premonition.

More to that effect, I think there is such a thing as sixth sense. It is that voice that whispers in your ear from time to time, sometimes preventing death, sometimes preventing chaos and trouble - should you heed it.

And it doesn't always concern life and death situations.

An example I have was the little voice in my head that convinced me not to write a check on Sunday, assuming my paycheck on Monday would cover the check without any trouble. I didn't write the check, which was a good thing since when I went to the el banco Monday morning I discovered it was closed for Presidents Day. Ugh. I would have overdrafted, darnit. Thank the maker I listened to the voice.

How does this concern writing?

If the characters are human and put in a dangerous position, odds are that certain thoughts are going to flicker through their head. If they are sharp, those whispers would be enough to keep them on their guard through the event.

Or else...

They are very human and don't always listen to those whispers - perhaps because caution had misled them in the past.

I can see this coming in handy with the WIP I'm working on right now (BSW). In this WIP I'm fighting to keep the main character from assuming outright supernatural abilities. She is superhuman, but was 'blinded' as a child - and must rely on a very determined spirit guide to find her purpose in life, despite her handicaps.

Besides the spirit guide, for the most part she is going to see certain clues along the way, and must learn to rely on her instincts. Her instincts (premonitions) will tell her who to trust, who to fear, and which paths to follow.

The other thing - if you have characters who feel chaos or death approaching, don't feel that it is too George-Lucas-cliche to make them 'have a bad feeling'. The thing about people in real life is they receive multiple signs or feelings before disaster strikes.
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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Ideal Valentine's Day

I mentioned on Twitter that I do NOT want pajamas, chocolate, flowers, or questionable expectations from bf for Valentine's Day.

Seriously.

The ideal V-day for me would be like the one I enjoyed today -

Handholding in church and breakfast afterwards with a special somebody.

Then of course there is the celebration part with family which includes yummy homemade strawberry cake.

.

And don't forget plenty of time in between with me slouching on furniture, computer in lap, and Olympics on TV. Even though, dear NBC - I wish you could show something more interesting than Luge. Like watching paint dry.

About the people out there who are talking about St. Valentine committing suicide if he knew what his 'name-day' has turned into - Um, guys. It isn't all about rampant fornication.

It can also be pretty sweet.

And yes, this is an ideal day to get engaged on - something that happened to the youngest sister.

Never mind that the family has raised eyebrows about the girl's choice in men (he's a schmudd). And never mind the entire family is hoping this is a passing phase that the girl is going through, and that she'll sort her thinking out long before any wedding.

Hints to guys out there. If you have a sweetie dropping hints, it could be she wants a little commitment in the form of a diamond ring from you.

Unless of course she is like most of my female characters and commitment-phobic. Then, of course, she might be trying to figure out how to tell you how much she ENJOYS spending time with you, but she just wants to be very-close friends for forever. But don't you DARE be friends with any other girls.

*grins wickedly*

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Love, love love....

First of all, before I get started with this post, let me explain I grew up a pseudo-tomboy.

This means I was always a girly-girl, but one of those awkward teenagers who hated to be TEASED TO DEATH by older siblings if I did anything girly - like reading romance novels, watching romance movies, writing romances...!

If you remember that scene from Ben Hurr where Judah and Messala are having a happy reminiscent gabfest. They shouted, "Up Mars! Down Eros!" <- That was the attitude I took through my teens, even when guys started to look interesting and one finally convinced me to go out with him. Along the way I grew more confident in my skin and stopped caring what other people thought.

So it isn't that ironic that my female characters all seem to have that same awkward beginning. Because I know what it feels like to hide your emotions if they are too embarrassing. =)

When they meet The Guy for the first time, they generally turn into Saturn with defensive (I know it is just dust held in place by the planet's gravity, but I like to pretend they are like a shield) rings all the way around. This means they become like Elizabeth from Pride and Prejudice, and don't recognize the fact that the guy has been flirting with them for half the book. Or they become like Belle from Beauty and the Beast, and keep refusing the guy's advances because the relationship would be TOO COMPLICATED to deal with.

My guy characters - sometimes are the same way. Or they are as clueless as Darcy from Pride and Prejudice and have no idea how much trouble they are getting into as they begin to harbor feelings for the untouchable female character. By the time they realize that the female character is going turn into Julia Roberts and do a Runaway Bride routine, they have already gone 300 miles down a one way road.

Marbles is a good example of this. The female character has already experienced a failed relationship with her boyfriend and is anti-men as a result. When the guy character first makes his appearance, there is an immediate and obvious physical attraction between the two of them. It is something he acknowledges right away and is willing to act on, but not exactly with any permanent intentions. She KNOWS that is the case, which probably makes him just as bad as her failed boyfriend, but ten times worse. So she goes into defensive mode and fights to keep her 'weakness' from growing. The guy sees right through her and thinks she's hilariously naive and prudish while she fights 'nature'. It is all a game until he actually starts to care for her and realizes that making her love him isn't enough to win her over. Which freaks him out. :P

Or sometimes I have guys who feel that immediate attraction and know exactly where it will lead, and willfully commit to either winning over the female character, or simply learning to live without her.

Gladiitor is probably a good example. The main guy character first sees the female character at a vulnerable moment and falls for her. But she is not interested in him that way, or anyone - partly, because she is that self-absorbed and ambitious. Every time he thinks he's gotten through to her and drew a like response from her, he sees her shrug the moment off as something that made her feel too vulnerable and uncomfortable, painful even.

A while ago, I read a complaint from another person about romances, and why they don't read them. It had to do with the characters angsting after each other the entire novel. The consensus was that the couple should jump into bed and get it over with. And here I was going - AAACK!!!

In real life, the sweetest and most natural romances are the ideal ones. There are exceptions, but the general rule is if you are fighting all the time and not communicating while dating, it will get worse when you are married.

But when I'm reading a book... um. I actually prefer lots of conflict, even after or while the characters battle the hormones. Think about why so many of us are obsessed with reading Pride and Prejudice, or watching the A&E version. There isn't ANY kissing in the book. The most that the characters touch one another is during the dances, and even there it is little more than holding hands for a few minutes.

I'm sure the craze isn't all about Colin Firth jumping in the lake and walking up to his house all sogged.

Well, even if it WERE about CF, you must admit that P&P would be a completely different novel altogether if it went this way:

Bingley points Elizabeth out to Darcy, suggests that Darcy dance with her. Darcy takes a look and immediately trots over to ask Elizabeth to dance with him. During the dance he avidly compliments her and expresses his admiration. During the next dance, they duck out onto a balcony (or closet) for a snogging session. Ten minutes later, he introduces himself to Mr. Bennett and asks for Elizabeth's hand. Elizabeth stands next to him blushing and mentally counting all of the trinkets she'll buy as Mrs. Darcy, mistress of Pemberley.

*laughs*

Fine. I'm not denying I've seen books like that.

If there is anyone out there, what's your opinion?

If you are writing a romance - what is your favorite part to write? Do you prefer to have the realization/consumation (could be also first kiss if you're writing a 'sweet romance') early in the book, or would you rather spend the entire book building up the tension?
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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Writing and Music

I had this thought when I clicked on Julie Dao's blog Silver Lining earlier today before I moved on to my own work. Julie has the most lovely and tasteful music playing on her site.

When discussions at the various writing forums turn to music, and people ask what kind of music I listen to while I write - I usually say none. But it's more complicated than that.

I know there are some pieces of music or instrumental pieces which drive me in the direction of my computer and make me want to write. I think they make me feel content and comfortable, and maybe even take me back to my elementary years when I was still taking music lessons (before I gave them up so I could have riding lessons). That was also the time I began writing, and sometimes the two worlds converged. I wrote music as well as stories. They were not Mozart level creations, but they worked for me. I remember spending hours sitting at the piano listening for the notes that sounded well together and marking them. When I was really feeling the music, I'd sit there with tears streaming down my face.

Music is plugged into my emotional core. So is writing. That's how listening to music can affect or impact my urges to write.

When I went to see LOTR with my friends, I was agonizing over my itching fingers. The music spoke to my soul (to be dramatic) and filled my head with words that needed letting out.

That doesn't mean it works the same just by plugging in a little LOTR music on any old day. It seems that the music which 'speaks to my soul' brings about more than one effect. If it doesn't drive me to write, it relaxes me and puts me in a far-off mood so I don't really see the computer or feel like working.

Various piano pieces and soundtrack themes (like the Last of the Mohicans) affect me the same way - they either draw that artistic nerve out of hiding. Or they take my brain to join that artistic nerve in that dream world where it lives.

But again, if I were to nail it down -

The types of music which I believe feed the soul are those that draw a positive and reflective response from you.

I LOVE things like Lady Gaga's 'Bad Romance', but I could NEVER write to it. It is music I prefer to jog or drive with.

For writing, I prefer instrumentals - preferably classical, contemporary, and folk. Some vocals are alright, but I can be fairly finicky. :)
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Friday, February 12, 2010

Your First Sentence

This will be a quick and sweet post, as I'm seated in front of the TV and avidly looking forward to the beginning of the Olympics. I love-love-love to watch the opening ceremonies and the parade of nations.

The other thing is Canada and America share a similar heritage, at least when you think of the First Nations. I'm looking forward to seeing how much of this heritage is shown in the ceremonies.

Moving on, this is a thought that struck me when I was glancing over material at one of my critting groups.

I understand the difficulty in 'starting off' your first chapter. When you are forbidden to begin with a character waking up in bed or meditating on life in general while staring dramatically out a window or gazing at his/her reflection in the mirror... it leaves you scrambling for alternatives.

But you probably don't want to begin your story with your character making declarations like, "She sighed, pondering her ultimate boredom with her boring life." In fact, you probably don't want to have the word 'boredom' in the first paragraph at all. Furthermore, you do not want to spend the first half page expanding on why your character is bored. Because you will bore your reader.

The main things to keep in mind when you are writing your first chapter:

1. Don't worry about getting the first line perfect at first. That is something easily fixed before presenting the chapter to your beta readers to shred. Or you can ask your beta readers to brainstorm with you on the best way to begin the chapter if lounging in bed and reflecting on life is the best you can come up with. <- Yes, I know this contradicts what I said above, but I didn't want people to spend months writing one line over and over.

2. When revising and fixing everything, you can sit back and figure out what would make an 'exciting' or interesting beginning. A really wonderful agent who offered a helpful crit on a novel she rejected said she did not want to see any background information in the first chapter at all. She told me to look at my synopsis and begin closer to the exciting stuff I mentioned there.

3. Don't forget to do your research - the most successful writers out there know how to begin a novel. Something I picked up from the books I like - you don't necessarily have to start in the middle of action with THINGS HAPPENING. But you want your main character to be doing something and on the verge of encountering the THING THAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN TO THEM.

So like with my 'Marbles' WIP, I have the main character reacting to her longtime boyfriend dumping her. The first scene reveals her character while she and her boyfriend have it out. He's pressuring her to move in with him or else. She's trying to hold out for more while still hanging on to him. The THING THAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN TO HER occurs next when she stumbles into the house, rejected and dumped, and receives the second shock from her parents.

At no point do I tell the reader that the character and her life is boring. Nor did I stall before beginning the story. As I learned from that fabulous agent, background in the beginning is stalling and stalling is bad.

OK - Olympics is on.

*stares fixedly at TV*

I wouldn't want to live there, but I'd like to visit Vancouver.

So lovely....
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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Finding Your Voice Method

This is something I've been thinking about for a while, and suspected that it could help other people in a way. I'm not sure.

Since I first began writing, I initially wrote for myself and my sister (my only reader in the world back then). This meant I had the freedom to write EXACTLY what I wanted, and I knew what to write to bring about a desired reaction from my sister.

That is how I've approached writing for years, and it worked for me.

But when I started writing the newsletter for work, I realized that in order to make the newsletter a success, I had to figure out how to write things for a wider audience.

Basically, I had to figure out how to switch over from writing a 'my-opinion-of-the-world letter to the editor' to writing an interesting news story.

I had to learn how to be impartial and present information the right way. The best story is one that is 90% information, 9% guidance, and only 1% personal opinion.

So, you gather information that you find interesting. Guidance is how you put the information together so that your reader will reach the same opinion that you have. Personal opinion is extremely limited and professional.

Prior to reaching that conclusion, my inclination was to write something that was 10% information and 90% personal opinion. A bit like what I do here on the blog. And while I write this, I recognize that the best bloggers out there are those who do not do this. They are the ones who learned the above technique long before I figured it out.

So how does this work for stories and novels?

I think it translates... roughly. Or at least is related with looser percentages.

You have a full plot in mind and scribble down all your ideas. Then as you write the novel... you have to figure out how to present that story so it appeals to the greater audience of people.

That isn't the whole answer, of course. <- Hence the reason why I've been stalling about this topic for a while. You can't sit down and think about a novel as a VERY LONG impartial news article. The best writers (or the ones I love best) are those whose books 'sound' like them. Their personality and humor are present in every single word. A writer's voice is the result when a writer learns to harness his/her personality and emotions and deftly use them to engage the reader.

A novel can't be just a ham-session by a personable writer. Nor should it be a soap box from which an emotional person preaches and emotes loudly. On the opposite side, a novel shouldn't be all information presented without any emotion or influence by an author.

There has to be a balance.
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18 Signs of Good Luck

The following list is something I wanted to keep it on hand in case I ever needed ideas for a plot thread. ->

18 Omens of Good Fortune ->

When Bats Nest In Your Home
This is one of the most powerful indications that the family is about to become seriously wealthy. The Chinese regard bats as symbols of abundant wealth. The circular pattern of five bats is a very popular design feature found on furniture, paintings and ceramics. The Chinese believe that bats nest only in auspicious places – they have highly developed sensory parts that are able to “smell” out places with auspicious chi. The next time bats come and nest in the eaves of your home, rejoice because this heralds good fortune.


When Someone Gives You Money On A Lucky Day
It is the surest sign that you will enjoy a significant increase in money luck. A lucky day is usually a new moon or full moon day. Or it can be a day of your animal sign. Check the Feng Shui Almanac for these lucky days. Make sure you keep the cash given to you on that day, as it is described as “good luck money”. Money can be given to you in many ways. It could be someone repaying a debt owed to you, or someone giving you an unexpected tip for some favour performed. This is the belief behind the tradition of giving lucky money on the fifteen days of the lunar New Year. These fifteen days of the year’s first moon are looked on as “days of miracles”, so money received on these days is always regarded as lucky money.

When Bird Droppings Land On Your Head
Many people believe this to be a major sign of wealth coming from heaven. Hence, although, it is really yucky and a major inconvenience, when something like this happens to you, take comfort in the fact that this is described as good luck being just around the corner! In fact, most things associated with birds tend to spell good fortune, such as when birds fly to your home and start making nests in and around your house. While bats bring abundance, birds bring good news and opportunities. The next time a flock of ravens, pigeons or magpies come to your home, feed them with bird seeds. Birds are also said to be powerful protectors and guardians. Even crows are said to be messengers of the Gods. So welcome birds with open arms.


Finding Your Initials On A Spiders Web
Is said to be an indication you will have good luck forever. All your plans will develop to fruition and whatever obstacles may be blocking your projects will be dissolved. Like the spider, you will attract food and money without even trying! This actually happens more commonly than you realize.


Meeting Up With A Snake
Is another sign of good fortune. Whether in your garden, inside the home, or out trekking, if you meet up with a snake, it means something or someone important is coming into your life. Never ever try to harm or kill a snake when confronted with one. The more poisonous the snake, the better is the good fortune. The king cobra is described as a snake of extreme good fortune. Whatever you do, never kill a snake as they are also associated with some spiritual presence. They usually slither away themselves when they sense human presence.


When Your Hands Tingle
It is a sure sign that money is either coming to you or leaving you! The general consensus is that when it is your left hand that tingles, money is coming to you – the 4-digit kind or winning a lottery. When it is the right hand, it means money is leaving you. The same interpretation is also placed on hands that suddenly start to itch. If your left palm starts to itch, mercilessly rejoice. It means you are about to come into a windfall!

When You See A Shooting Star
And immediately make a wish, whatever you wish for will manifest within the next thirty days. If you are sick, you will get well; if your luck has been bad, it will take a turn for the better; and if you have just had a quarrel, you will make up. If you have lost something, you will regain it e.g. if you have just broken up with your boyfriend, you will make up with him or find a new boyfriend. Seeing a shooting star can be quite a common occurrence, so always have a wish handy. Close your eyes and wish fervently!

When Your Date Of Birth Adds Up To 8
(without any remainder) such as in 9/6/65 (9 + 6 + 65 = 80) you will be lucky all through the period of 8 which does not end until 4th February 2024. 8 is already a magically powerful number, so when one’s birth day adds up to 8, it is an indication of good luck. Those with kua 8 will also enjoy good fortune all through the period of 8.

When Your Ears Start To Itch
Many believe this meams that someone is talking about you. If it is the left ear that itches, it means that whoever is talking about you is saying nice things, while if it is the right ear, then whoever is talking about you is saying uncomplimentary things. Next time your ear starts to itch, you know you are being talked or gossiped about. Some say, “right for spite, left for love.” Others reverse this omen. If you think of the person, friend or acquaintance who is likely to be talking of you and mention the name aloud, the tingling will cease if you guess correctly!

When A Butterfly Flies Into Your House
This is commonly interpreted to mean that you are about to receive some important guests. If the butterfly has bright colours, it means the visitor will bring good news relating to your love life. If the butterfly is dark – almost black – the visitor is bringing you good news related to your career or business. Never chase a fluttering butterfly out of your house. They almost always bring good tidings. Do not try to catch it, as inadvertently killing a butterfly causes your good luck to change into bad luck.

When A Cat Comes Into Your House
It usually means some kind of bad luck. Usually black cats signify treachery and betrayal, so it is better to chase them away. White cats signify death, but some say that golden cats signify good luck hidden in bad luck. In the old days cats were often associated with witchcraft and bad omens.

If You Put On Your Clothes The Wrong Way Round
This is said to be a sign of extreme good fortune. It doesn’t count if you do this on purpose, but if for some reason you wear your clothes the wrong way round, it indicates that you will shortly receive some windfall or some very favourable news. This is a particularly good omen for those who have been suffering a spate of bad luck, as it suggests that your luck is about to change for the better.

Finding A Good Luck Symbol
Such as an acorn, a four-leaf clover, a horseshoe, a coin all spell good luck of some kind coming your way. You should not throw away the lucky symbol, as signs of prosperity often possess some excellent energy. It is also believed that if you bury them in a metal box in your garden, the good luck multiplies.

Meeting Up With A Cow
Is said to be a most auspicious sign as the cow is a symbol of prosperity and fertility. Of course this is not something likely to happen in big cities except perhaps in India where the cow is so highly revered it is allowed to roam freely on roads and highways and motorists are required by law not to run them down. But if you do take a drive to the countryside one day and are confronted by a cow, rejoice, because it suggests great good fortune coming your way!

When A Dog Comes To Stay
When someone brings you a dog as a gift or if a stray puppy decides to adopt you, welcome him or her into your home. A dog entering your home is a very favourable sign, as it means you will have faithful and sincere friends come into your life, helping you overcome obstacles of all kinds. Black dogs bring wealth and protection. Golden dogs bring prosperity and happiness and white dogs bring love and romance.

When You Hang A Flag
You should make very sure that it is hung up securely and that even with the daily wind and sun causing it to flutter, it should not fall. When any flag you hang up falls from the staff, it implies danger is coming OR that your success takes a tumble. A flag coming down sometimes also means a car accident or some tragic accident. On the other hand, when the flag flies proudly and flutters in the wind, it brings plenty of good fortune. Usually flags flying indicate victory.

Garden Creatures That Bring Good Fortune
Include insects and grasshoppers. If a grasshopper were to hop into your house, it means a very distinguished person is about to visit you. It can also mean that you are about to receive a great honour. Ladybirds suggest visitors, while frogs jumping into your home suggest money is coming to you.

When It Rains And The Sun Is Shining
The simultaneous appearance of the sun and the rain is a very good sign indeed. This is when it is most likely for you to see rainbows in the sky. Indeed when the sun is shining brightly and there is also a shower of rain, it means that everything you are working on will be successful. You will receive the support of some very important people. If a son or daughter is born on such a day, it is a wonderful sign of a great life. If you happen to be getting married on such a day, you will enjoy a very auspicious life together.
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Monday, February 8, 2010

Temporary February Thaw

Hiya....

Sorry about the lapse between posts. January was a tough month for me - not anything truly bad, just incredibly busy and distracted.

I am still writing and doing other stuff, and will be posting more frequently (hopefully) if you are eavesdropping on my life.

I'm going to think out a minimal schedule at some point (probably Mondays and Fridays). As far as posting content - I'm really going to play it by ear until I get back into business.

Am currently playing around with the blog format, because I got tired of the old one. I actually don't know what I'm doing for the most part, so you may see weird little things here and there until I figure out how to fix them.

Offhand, I am very glad it is February - even if we are facing the worst snowstorm of the winter this week (actually tomorrow). I can smell spring approaching deftly and secretly, nudging the sun out a little earlier each morning and letting it stay out just a little bit longer each evening. And I can actually smell spring. Visited the grocery store today and was thrilled to see the garden section is up and running. The one section was filled with citronella candles of all kinds. I love that smell. I was seriously in heaven.

Olympics are coming up next week - which means I am going to be rooting for USA in all of my favorite sports - including (gulp) curling. Yes, I enjoy watching curling and wish that all of the guys on TV would stop joking about it like it is the worst thing since boiled spinach. It is only fair, since I don't offer my true opinion of golf.

At any rate - I'm working on things and should be posting more regularly. And yeep! This also means I'm going to start checking out the blogs on the side and following properly, including commenting. If you suddenly see an influx of comments from me (not likely to happen, since I'm generally a gentle lurker in most cases), it just means I'm moving around again. I believe that the frigid dry winter temperatures froze me in a dark earthen spot for a month or two.

So rah!
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My Shelfari Bookshelf

Shelfari: Book reviews on your book blog

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