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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Monday, March 29, 2010

Snag: Doorways to the Dead

Click link, Ancient Doorway to the Afterlife found...

My first thought: It looks and sounds like a tombstone. Well, an ornate one.

Second thought: That certainly gives a new spin to tombstones, besides them being grave markers. Which only reminds me of a cemetery down in New Orleans, where they built little houses over the graves. Which em, goes in a different direction altogether.

About tombstones being doorways to the afterlife - that reminds me of all of the fairy tales I read as a child, where people entered through a big rock and entered a new world and were no longer known in the real world. It took a specific tap on a big rock by a special stick to make it cleave and permit passage to the other place.

This is something I want to hold onto, in case it will become useful later on. With the current WIP, there is a possibility that the protagonist might need to contact those that have gone to the Other Place.

The Other Place is not the heaven which regular people go to. It is a place farther away and practically unreachable, unless you are dead and have the right kind of soul (not human).

The tombstones, imo... would not be doorways. More like portals or glimpses which allow communication across the dimensions. If you know how to knock.

*is leaning on chin, deep in thought*

Otherwise - I saw a bluebird today while walking the doglet. That is a VERY good thing, especially if you are like me and in hate with this past winter.

Oh, and I was on my lunch break and had a chipping sparrow land on my windshield wipers and peek through the windshield at me. So cute.

YES, the above has nothing to do with writing, but mad bird-lady here. :)

AM READING - "Bad Kitty" by Michele Jaffe. Am only on the second chapter, but looks to be a fast fun read that has me reaching for the sequel(s). From the description of the protagonist, I'm getting a mental image of Rihanna. Which um, confuses me when she's described as not that pretty. Because Rihanna is very pretty (though her outfits are way out there). The clothes and dialogue might be dated too, if only because I'm getting a mental image of "A Cinderella Story" or something. With Rihanna instead of Hilary Duff. OK - and a totally different storyline. :)

ETA -


*laughs derisively*

I'm sure everyone lingering around writing forums and critiquing websites, that there are certain words which always get misspelled. Such as writing 'loose' instead of 'lose'.

I just one-upped all of them. Try typing 'loozing' instead of 'losing'. :O

ETA2

No reading tonight. Wrote/worked on BSW instead. I'm shocked to admit I'm thinking about changing the plot slightly. I'm not sure yet. I just deleted 5000 words and wrote up to a point where the protagonist is kneeling in her room, flipping through an old art journal of hers. She had been changing her clothes, and is only in her underwear - which puts her in a vulnerable position.

I originally had something come out of the closet that she's semi-afraid of, but now I'm waffling. I think I'll sleep on it.
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Sunday, March 28, 2010

All Things



I sit comfortably in the living room, warm, my feet propped up. Out the front window I see the green of the white pines, their long needles drenched and glassy from the cold rain. Although the sky is gray, downcast, and drear, I know the snips of green are popping up through last fall's leavings. Rising from their scarce beds the lilies, hyacinths, tulips, daffodils wait for warm sunny days to burst into bloom. And in the shady spots where they have been allowed to grow and spread, the crocuses already stand purple and gold.

The birds have taken to the backwoods, but I only need step under the green canopy to hear their songs and drummings.

It's spring, Easter is a mere week away... I'm glad to see and hear the world today. Good morning.

ETA -

And on a completely different note, I found a link to this article on the "Five Most Overused Childrens Book Plots. It doesn't have anything to do with what I write, which is possibly the reason why I'm humored. I wonder what the fantasy novel equivalent would be? Or would they be rewrites of the following favorite stories -

1. Beauty and the Beast
Beautiful person is thrown in with an ugly person and must learn to accept that ugly person for the beauty that lies beneath.

2. Cinderella
Mistreated or otherwise forgotton person gets chance at happiness and day in the spotlight, but it comes with a time limit and strings.

3. Little Mermaid or Prince and the Pauper
The grass is always greener in somebody else's lake. Person longs for a life that he/she wasn't born with. Must learn to appreciate things right under nose, either that or learn to sacrifice self for things they believe in or love.

4. Aladdin
Poor outcast is given a miraculous chance at power and it is all his/hers for the taking, as long as he/she doesn't get too big for britches. Or, there are consequences if you steal or lie your way to prosperity. At some point, you have to tell the truth.

5. Jack and the Beanstalk
Poor nobody goes on a great adventure, finds treasure, and must use wits to battle monsters.

Optional 6. King Arthur
Poor orphan boy rises to greatness when he alone is able to do a very simple but remarkable thing and be declared King by the powers that be. Then he must civilize his country and defeat all enemies while forming an army of heroes and wooing a gentle lady - all with the help of a grizzled old wizard. <- And I would say this story dates back to King David with the help of the prophet Samuel.


The above examples, of course, do not include the other two prototypes which show up in almost all genres -

1. Romeo and Juliet
Star-crossed lovers go through a lot of trouble to be with each other, despite the fact that their races, families, friends, social set - everything that used to matter to them - stalwartly tries to keep them apart.

2. Much Ado about Nothing
Story centered around two couples, one sweetly and definitely in love and the other obnoxiously and snarkily in hate. The couple sweetly in love is pulled apart by lies and tricks by others. The couple snarkily in hate falls in love and draws together to bring the sweetly in love couple back together. <- Possibly known as the inspiration for Pride and Prejudice, which definitely has inspired zillions of such book and movie plots.

ETA2

I'm halfway through the fourth book of the seven I borrowed from the library last week. This book, "The Glass Maker's Daughter" by V. Briceland - I absolutely worship it. Imagine a place in Italy where seven noble families have made a pact of fealty to the King and the powers that be. Every sunset, they raise their flag and blow the horn, and their casa will stand. If they fail to perform the rite upon a night, then a disaster will occur instantly and their casa will fall.

Risa was distressed when she becomes the first of her family to go unchosen, when all children were taken into private schools to learn more about their families crafts as well as the magic that goes into their work. Glassmakers, for example, weave magic into the glass to make it unbreakable.

Halfway through the book the reader realizes even before she does that it was a VERY good thing that she went unchosen. For she is left at home to keep the casa safe while her family is held hostage at the palace and in the schools.

And though this isn't revealed yet at page 150, I'm placing my bets that the old beggar whose life she saved is really the king who was supposedly dead.... *picks book up to finish reading*

Oh - and if I ever become published, I'd like to have a bio that goes like the author's:

"V. Briceland wanted to be an archaeologist when he grew up. Instead, he has worked as a soda jerk, a paper-flower maker in an amusement park, a pianist for a senior citizens' showtunes choir, an English teacher, and a glass artist. He likes writing novels best of all. He lives in Royal Oak, Michigan, where there is a sad lack of ruins to be excavated."

Is amused.

ETA3

Ha. I was right. Finished reading the book. Thoroughly satisfying.
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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Read What You Write...?

I'm casually taking part in the Read 100 Books in a Year Challenge and will be setting up a static page soon to show what I'm reading. What I'd like to do is have it set up so there is a mini review (no more than a paragraph) and a book rating with every book. And I'm also going to be including the beloved re-reads I've done this year so far.

I'll work on this tomorrow - probably.

The standard advice to new or questioning writers = READ, READ, READ, and then Write. There is no better way to learn how to craft a smooth plot, develop strong characters, and so forth. Yep, you can develop ideas from watching movies or TV shows, but that isn't going to help you learn how to describe and pace things so it reads smoothly.

After I read three books over the last two days, I considered another angle to that rule - which likely has been addressed by zillions of people who are in the know, but it is worth repeating.

When you go to the library or bookstore to grab some brain-fillers, you might want to look for books that are similar to what you write or what you WANT to write. Be selective.

Like - if you are writing YA, figure out ahead of time what kind of book you want to write, and then look for books of the same type. If you are writing a Meg Cabot type book, you probably do not want to be taking out all of the Harry Potter books. And the opposite is true.

The other thing is you need to read current books. If you are writing youth fantasy, you probably shouldn't be fixating on Tolkien and Lloyd Alexander. You need to be reading something fresh. Keep an eye on books that are currently coming out or due out this year and aim to get those on your reading lists.

This topic came to mind this afternoon as I finished reading a book. I paid a visit to the library mid last week and took out seven books. As of tonight, three of seven are read and they couldn't be more different.

In my writing, I'm aiming for something that would be more cross genre - like Urban Fantasy (but minus the city setting and monster fighting). I want to write strong teen characters and I want solid fantasy elements too.

So when I grabbed books at the library I was aiming for books by people like Meg Cabot or Michele Jaffe, or I was picking up random fantasy and paranormal novels that caught my eye.

Of the three books I read so far...

The Third Eye (Lois Duncan)
Enchanting Season (Marissa Doyle)
Jinx (Meg Cabot)

Jinx was very much helpful (and not just because I heart Meg Cabot). It had the today type characters with real life issues that they were dealing with, and then it had the fantasy elements (witches, spells, magic).

The Third Eye - somewhat helpful. It cast a fuzzy doubt on the plot for BSW, in that I unconsciously had something similar (Wesley and her guide find lost children who are in trouble). I'm going to change my plot in the next round of edits, so I do not look like a copycat. I know exactly how to do this too, so yay. Only downside about this book was how dated it was. The mother/daughter relationship, post-graduation expectations, and the relationship between the protagonist and the police officer left me feeling a little squeamy. The dialogue was awkward in spots too, especially with the police officer.

Enchanting Season - Urgh. Told me exactly what NOT to do while I'm writing BSW. *laughs* Which I knew ahead of time because it was a Victorian setting and I broke my own rule about only reading books that are similar in focus and setting to what I'm writing*. <- Still, the book really didn't work for me. I somewhat felt that it was written for a younger audience than what I'm used to reading. I couldn't believe the characters were old enough to be going to their first Season. It's like a regency romance for children + magic. :O

*And I'm sure this isn't a BAD thing.

If you aren't hunkering down and trying to focus on writing something that is NOW and would sell in X or Y genre, there is no reason why you shouldn't read widely. Especially if you are trying to figure out what genre you are going to write, or if you are just looking for different writing styles while you figure out your own or where you fit.

The other thing is that if your main weakness is developing characters, adequate descriptions, moving the pace, creating deeper plots - sometimes reading something in a completely different genre will help you figure out how to get stronger in those areas.

I could be off the wall in saying this, but I've noticed that certain genres have their own specific strengths that make them unique. Maybe there is the odd duckling here or there, but the following genres could be relied on this way:

YA - How to tighten up and keep a fast pace (look over and see how much an author accomplishes in every short chapter)

Fantasy - How to slow down and expand a plot and improve descriptions (read the wealth of words that most fantasy authors wield - the Hilari Bells and Maria Snyders, not so much Tolkien who went OTT)

Thrillers - How to deepen your plot and add twists and turns (Uhm, take a look at books by guys like Michael Crichton and Dean Koontz).

Romance - How to develop strong characters and situations that your reader will be INTERESTED in.

WRITING UPDATE

This... unfortunately... is the side effect to catching up on my reading. I haven't written a single word since last weekend. I've either been busy with work or real life, or I've been slouching in a random corner* reading.

* This is an embarrassing admission, but when I was a munchkin, I'd take the latest book with me and crawl behind our living room couch to read to my heart's content. That way I could guarantee that nobody would bug me and I wouldn't have any distractions. <- I still do this sometimes.

CURRENT PROBLEMS IN WIP

1. Making sure that the school environment and scheduling is believable. <- It's been a few years since school and I've FORGOTTEN a lot. :O

2. Character voices - I need to make sure that my five year old character sounds like she's five.

3. As mentioned above, I have to change the 'finding children' side plot. It is not going to be pleasant (gutting a few chapters... again).


- - - Tomorrow is going to be a good day for writing, I'm convinced of it. Goodnight world. :)
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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

BOOKMARK: NEW WRITER'S TO DO LIST

Lisa Schroeder's timeline and checklist

The above link is a keeper for a prospective author who is either on the verge of snagging an agent or has an agent and just received the DREADED question: How do you plan to market yourself?

Um. When I started writing twenty or so years ago, I had this daydream where I sit at home, write, send book in to be printed, and watch the money come rolling in. I knew that authors had to do interviews and visits and stuff like that, but I always had this warm and fuzzy hope that it was optional... :I

Maybe it was at one point, I don't know. Definitely in today's world, you really have to put your work shoes on, take to the streets, and unflinchingly sell your book to the masses. And definitely in today's world, it seems like agents are doing less and expecting more from the authors they 'partner' with. Well, either that and things are the same as always, but the industry is trying to ditch the Hollywood depiction of publishing and hit new writers with a touch of reality. :)

Personally speaking - I really like Lisa's list and feel that most of the items are do-able - in small steps at a time anyway.

My ideas for marketing myself:

1. I will find a website designer to do a website for me just like he/she/it did for X author whose bells and whistles website setup I worship. And I will also frequently blog, tweet, facebook, etc...

2. I will find a videographer who I desperately want to do a book trailer for me. A book trailer which I've painstakingly planned and written out ahead of time, including different options to choose from. IMAGINES STICK FIGURE DRAFTS.

3. I will commit to taking trips every weekend for signings everwhere from schools, libraries, bookstores, conventions, etc... ROADTRIP!

4. I will DEFINITELY enjoy coming up with freebie ideas. *looks mischievous* <- For starters, I want clay animal-spirit tokens and eternity stones for BSW - even if I have to make them myself!

5. I will somehow convince agent that it is absolutely necessary that I bring at least one dog on every signing with me.

Dear agent, think about it! A shiny, glossy, fluffy, smiling, tail-wagging golden retriever is a perfect people magnet. The other authors at a convention would be completely envious as those that dog-worship abandon their tables and swarm my way. <- It could work, right? :)
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Monday, March 22, 2010

Story Idea

I was thinking about lucky colors today (inspired by Julie over at juleswrites.blogspot.com and a post she did on superstitions), while I tried to remember whether my great-grandparents tied yellow ribbons to their pets and children or if it was red ribbons. I'm leaning towards yellow ribbons, but red ribbons make more sense after I googled and saw that eastern europe and asia saw red as a color that frightens evil away. And indeed, I know that my family has always seen red as a lucky color.

As I sought an answer that did not include lyrics to the song (which furthermore causes the song to repeat over and over in my head while I work), I came across the following link: factmonster.com

Quotes and information are either taken or derived from that above link.


Red

*Signal for battle, color of a soldier.
*Royalty
*Color means beautiful, but also is lucky and wards off evil.
*Red herring is a distraction, something that takes attention away from the real issue.

Green

*Symbolizes victory
*Symbolizes youth and energy
*Symbolizes envy
*Somebody one with nature
*A healer

Blue

*Color of a public servant
*Protection against witches and evil <- Say what?
*Loyalty
*Love
*The unknown

"A blue blood is a person of noble descent. This is probably from the blue veins of the fair-complexioned aristocrats who first used this term." - Fascinating.

Purple, Violet

"The Egyptian queen Cleopatra loved purple. To obtain one ounce of Tyrian purple dye, she had her servants soak 20,000 Purpura snails for 10 days." <- EW!

*Color of mourning
*Regal or authoritative color

"Purple prose” is writing that is full of exaggerated literary effects and ornamentation." <- I knew that

Yellow

*Mourning
*Regeneration or rebirth
*Courage
*Deceit
*Warning

"In tenth-century France, the doors of traitors and criminals were painted yellow." <- I wonder if that is why we call cowards 'yellow'.

"In the Middle Ages, actors portraying the dead in a play wore yellow." <- Hmm....

White

*Peace, or truce
*Spiritual, or of spirit world...
*Good luck, especially if you wed in it.
*White is a pacific color, however "white heat" can be intense passion.
*Savior, or rescuer
*Clean

"The ancient Greeks wore white to bed to ensure pleasant dreams." <- Ha! Now you know.

Black

*Secrecy
*Morbid
*Evil
*Elegance
*Expert
*Occult
*Outcast


"The ancient Egyptians and Romans used black for mourning, as do most Europeans and Americans today."

"The ancient Egyptians believed that black cats had divine powers."


What am I thinking?

Mainly about how when people pick up a book to read, they want to see something new... but there is always that small psychological part of them that wants something familiar or relatable. Or something they can look up and read and understand more about.

That was something I appreciated when I picked up the first Vampire Academy book. When the protagonist's mother gave her a eyeball bead as a present, I PERKED UP, because I'm familiar with the use of an eyeball or gaze thereof in paintings or ancient art. It wards off evil. <- Not that I believe in that, but it is something I'm culturally aware of.

Uhm. Keep in mind I was also also PEEVED when I saw the evil eye bead appear in the VA books and become somewhat popular as a result. <- That's because in my one book, "Marbles", I also made full use of the evil eye bead. Though probably not the same way Richelle Mead intends to do so in her books.

Regarding the colors, I was sitting back and thinking about possible character traits for different characters in a future novel sometime. Yes, it would be somewhat cheezy to put X character in a red dress all the time or Y into a yellow suit to infinity. I'm not talking about writing Clue (even though I absolutely loved those books when I was a kidlet). I'm mainly thinking about little clues, similar to what Steven Spielberg did for Schindler's List, or M Night Shalaman (sp) does in his movies. If you ever watched the special for Sixth Sense, he described the importance of red and white, which he emphasized throughout the movie.

I want to be the type of author who slips little easter eggs and such into my books which MAKE SENSE if the reader spots them. But I don't want to hit them on the head with it, or go over the top with colors.

On the other note... I really DO want to write a new version or fan fiction of Clue.... who doesn't?
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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Music to Write To...

What is playing on the ipod right now as I write?









Normally I do not write well with music playing in my ears, but this is one of those days where it's helping. *smiles* I'm not working on any love scenes yet, but I'm on a part where Wesley starts to understand why her beautiful mother was so troubled and distant. :)

And it's almost the weekend. I'm gearing up to get a goodly amount of writing done. :]
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Touching 30

I stood in the restroom here at my work, looking into the mirror while I put my mascara on and dusted my cheeks with makeup. I considered my age and smiled. This might come across as weird, but I don't mind being as old as I am.

Yes, I do have dark days still - and this is going to be embarrassing to admit. When I was a teenager, and even in my early 20's, I tended to look at 30 as the point in life when women became uninteresting. I mean, I would pick up a book, see the protagonist was in her thirties, and I would put it down and move along. Shame on me.

Guys are allowed to be interesting at 30, because that is the time when they have settled down and turned into the people that they are going to be. As far as I know, women go through that same stage when they are 20. <- Though, technically, I was 22 when that day happened.

Women - when they turn 30 or start getting up to that age - always seem to be fighting aging skin and hair, sagging figures, ticking body clocks, dancing babies... and they are also fighting to keep their men from losing interest and yenning after 20 y/o college girls. <- That is such a depressing prospect!

So sometimes, I'll sit cross-legged on my bed and DWELL on the fact I'm stuck on a one way street in a runaway Toyota whose brakes don't work at all.

But...

Looking at myself in the mirror I noticed that my face has more character than it had when I was a round-cheeked twenty-year old. I feel pretty and confident behind my face, and that was definitely not going on when I was getting into my 20's.

A couple days ago, I saw a story about the French President's wife, Carla Bruni. She was a model at one time - and had guys eating out of her hand. Now she's in her forties, she has had extensive work down on her face (from all appearances, anyway). She had botox to tighten up her forehead and collagen filler put in her cheeks and lips. She also had a lot of makeup on in a failed effort to hide the crinkly skin under her eyes.

Maybe I'll feel differently when I start getting up closer to my forties... but right now, I see the beginning changes in my face, and I like them. The only thing I'm frantic about preventing is the undereye problem. *grabs eyecream and smears on generously*

But seriously -

I agree that most women find themselves in their early twenties. But it is possible that there are some who don't actually feel like swans until much later.

While I'm dithering thusly, the point is that I can see myself down the road starting to write novels with thirty-something protagonists. IMO, it is just as important a find-yourself time as turning sixteen.
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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Family Tree Blues

One thing led to the next, and I found myself doing a quick google of some of my ancestors. I was a little curious whether they were Acadians, Creoles, or just French Canadians like I've always thought. <- I'm still not sure, especially since they were French Canadians settled in Quebec territory (what is now midwest portions of the US), but then they slowly made their way south to Missouri and Louisiana.

I've always been proud of that portion of the family history - because yay. They were original settlers. <- That ranks just as much bragging points as saying that your ancestors came over on the Mayflower.

OK, it's different, I know.

Doing a google, I discovered that the French settlers in Missouri turf thereof were slave owners. As in, they owned Indian slaves. Or they owned both indian and black slaves, which begot children of mixed marriages who were born into slavery. When the Spanish won the lottery and took over the southern territories, they forced the French to give up their indian slaves, as it was against their laws. The people didn't always give up their 'inheritances' and ugh! When the US purchased the territories, the settlers threw a party because they could keep slaves again.

UGH. UGH. UGH. UGH.

*stabs horrible ancestors*

How can I brag about the ancestors knowing they were slave owners? <- On one hand, I know that several of my ancestors intermarried with Indians through all this and they were a large family. But that doesn't make up for the ones who were gleeful slave owners. Horrible. >.<

Aside from that -

Note to self:

When I get around to cleaning up Swapped Fate, I need to look more closely into the Acadians. <- The novel is a fantasy and takes place in a world far, far away. But I did base it a little bit on the French flight and forced emmigration. I see now where I cut corners and where I can make the novel stronger.

I might even include my HORRIBLE ancestors and their crimes against humanity. It would give me a chance to express my disgusted and disgruntled feelings through one of my characters.
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Do you Ring?

I was doing a little research for a friend on wedding rings, symbolism, history - and I came across some FASCINATING information that I'd like to use somewhere in a WIP.

Check this link out for the website + info that inspired me...

It was a while back that I paid a visit to the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit with my family. That museum isn't just about cars. They have a lot of stuff there, sharing the history of peoples who lived in this area. Some of it is history you can touch. Others are enclosed behind glass cases with information posted nearby.

It was here I realized that people did not always exchange actual rings upon getting married. Only the wealthy or upper classes had money to purchase gold rings (or such) for their brides. Some people were more into hair and brooches - something that really grossed me out at the time, actually.

During the recent research too, I discovered -

1. Guys only recently started wearing wedding rings. They did so during WWII, as a reminder of the gals back home while they were fighting. Historically, only women received that particular item as a part of the wedding. Guys DID wear rings for other reasons, just not to show they were taken.

2. The wedding ring used to symbolize ownership - as in, the woman was property of the guy who wed her.

3. The ring's circular shape symbolizes eternity, which is why it came to be used as a particular symbol of marriage. <- This despite the fact that divorces DID happen during ancient times, particularly Rome.

4. The EGYPTIANS were the first to begin wearing wedding rings. I know I shouldn't be surprised, but still, I didn't expect that.

More to the point, the above link had two items which almost caused a FLASH for me -

The Greek and Roman bridegroom often gave a ring to the bride's father-a practice that was probably a survival of primitive bride purchase. In the second century B. C., the Roman bride was presented with a gold ring. But this she wore only in public. Such a ring was much too precious to wear while tending to household duties; and so the groom gave the bride a second ring - for use in the home - which was usually made of iron and had little knobs in the form of a key. Of course, these "key" rings were weak and could open only those locks requiring very little force to turn, but their significance, in that the wearer had the right to seal up the giver's possessions, was strong.


I was thinking - WOW. Can you imagine receiving a ring that is really a key that opens something special? Yes, I know this has been done before, but I'm still thinking about the possibilities here.

And elsewhere, I came across this:

To Obey
Although the Ancient Romans placed a ring on the fourth finger of their wives hands, the practice had little to do with love and devotion. Rather, wives were a possession to the Romans and the ring was a sign of ownership. Ancient Roman women had no voice in this decision; there was no proposal. Once the women were captured and "ringed," they were married.


The above was taken from here.

And also this:

Some 2000 years ago, Asian puzzle rings were commonly used as wedding bands. It is said that sheiks and sultans required each of their wives to wear one as a pledge of fidelity while he was away.

If for some reason, the woman removed her ring, it would fall apart and be very difficult to put back together without knowing the answer to the puzzle.


The first is a historical romance writer's DREAM. Heheh. And it could work in fantasy too, especially if you are trying to get away from earthian (and Christian) influences.

The other one -

<- A Turkish puzzle ring <- Is something I want to use in a Bluebeardesque story. :]
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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

QRY B4 U R DN

*Yes, I suck at txt speak*

I wonder why people do this... querying before they finished writing the novel, even with all of the information and conversation (especially within their critting and writing groups) advising people to keep low until they have a completed and polished novel to hand around.

I know there are people who want to get experience with querying and know they aren't going to have any nibbles on the line. I'm not so much talking about them, because they definitely aren't building their castles before they bought the land.

I'm talking about the other people... like those who have done all the homework and know how the publishing industry works. They seem to have their heads on straight. But then they send a query out for a partially completed novel and start talking about all the money they will make with that novel when it's accepted.

I really sincerely hope that they will prove me wrong and make it... but dude. Where does this come from?

Yeah, it might be three months before you get a response, but what happens if you hit a wall and can't finish and have the novel critiqued in time? Life is unpredictable. You might find yourself in a position where you can't find time to write. So there you might be with an incomplete novel when the nibble happens.

Then there is the miraculous possibility in that an agent or editor might find your sub on their desk within a week and request more. They have made it clear that they do not want incomplete or rough submissions, so what will their reaction be if you have to tell them that you still need to finish the book?

In movies or books, the agent or editor is this frazzled person chasing the author around and begging them to finish the novel so they could PUBLISH it. In real life, they only make that effort for the big names who are guaranteed sales no matter what they write.

I could be overthinking this, especially since the person I'm thinking about did submit to a publisher vs agent. Publishers, especially the bigger ones, are notoriously slow to respond. That will give this person plenty of time to finish her novel. <- That doesn't make me less squeamy about sending too early and suffering the panic attack when the response comes 6 months or even a year early. But then that leads into the other point. Publishers do not rush and publish things so that authors can reap the winnings. And this author is banking on getting paid soon.
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Morning Update

I'm still alive (hurray!).

Don't you just hate it when a blog you are following suddenly starts randomly posting brief updates which all say the same thing?

As in, "We is writing. We is happy. Novel is growing like weed. That is bad thing, because is already too long, but we is going to deal with that later."

'Is' is a much better word than 'Was'.

In all seriousness - the novel I've been working on has morphed into something I did not anticipate - but it feels real. Real, as in I might have something publishable if I finish the novel. (._.)

Chapter 1 thru 3 are cleaned up and fully edited. They contain the character intro, plotting hints, and hook.

Chapter 4 thru 6 (what I'm finishing up right now) are semi-clean drafts. I've been writing a chapter at a time and editing it before writing the next one. <- I've been doing this to keep the transitions and pacing smooth. When you keep writing new chapters every night without checking the previous chapters, there is a chance that some choppiness will develop and characters will morph several times (depending on your mood) before you finish the book. By reading over and editing the previous chapter before writing the next, I'm getting a feel for the characters and mood, so I can keep it consistent when I actually start the new writing.

Oh, Chapter 4 thru 6 contain the side character development and plotting development. I'm starting to show all my cards.

My plan for Chapter 7 thru 10 is reaching the climax or farthest point and beginning to resolve the plot and tie loose ends.

Chapter 11 thru 15 will be the completion of the novel. \(^.^)/

Yes - that sounds VERY SHORT for a YA Urb-Fant, but remember that those are very long chapters. I have five completed chapters and the novel is already 26,000 words. <- And yes, I know that is VERY, VERY bad. But that is what final edits are for. Weeding.

The novel is character driven (like everything I write), but there is a strong(ish) plot unveiling itself too - something that really makes me happy. It keeps me interested in writing the novel, and I think that will show in the finished product.

More posts to come later this week. <- And not all of them ENTHUSING about my own writing.

12:30 PM Update

Summons inner Urkel...

"Did I do thaaaat?"

During lunch, I sat in my car to enjoy the fresh early afternoon sunshine and practically balmy (when you have been through a frigid winter, 50 degrees feels like global warming, but in a good way). I had my mini laptop with me and pulled it out to do a little work or light reading.

Rather than look at an outdated version of the current WIP, I opened Gladiitor and I read through the first eight chapters. There are 40 (I think?) chapters in the novel (short ones, so don't freak out).

I did notice my weak spots, or areas where I could have tightened up the text or fixed things, but uh...

It is a GOOD thing when you open an old WIP and realize that there is something good about it, right? I was actually thinking that even though Gladiitor is a sequel, it stands the chance of going out on it's own without the support of the first book.

The first novel is essentially first love angst and figure skating in space. *puts on geek hat* The book ended with the protagonist giving the guy up in favor of pursuing her dream to be a Warrior.

Gladiitor was the dream cracked... um, the Warrior's League falls to shambles and the Warriors are all disbanded. The guy comes back with a renewed offer of partnership on the ice, though he's no longer interested in a real life partnership. He is engaged to somebody else who is wildly planning the marriage while the universe goes nuts around them. Oh and there was a love triangle in Gladiitor.

Heh. It was kind of a soap opera <- Which means it was fun to write and even more fun to read two years later. I forgot a lot of stuff and almost was my own beta reader. (._.)

On that note -

I was doing a little spring cleaning in my closet over the weekend. I'm old-fashioned (or just old) enough to have a huge stack of cd's in my closet. Cleaning means going through and switching cds over to their proper jewel cases.

Mixed in with all my cds was a floppy disk over which I wrote in a thick black sharpie marker - "Russian Skating 2".

I have no idea what that novel is... and I no longer have a computer that reads floppy disks. And even if I did, it is a sure bet that the floppy has demagnetized over the years. Ugh. So, unless I get up the courage to take the disk over to a computer place that specializes in demagnetizing floppy disks or whatever, I'll never know. "Russian Skating 2" will be one of those fragments from my teen years, a novel never completed.
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Friday, March 12, 2010

Info Snag: Ranks of Nobility

I figured this would come in handy at some point...

I'm at work right now, but am planning to look up and type in the definitions of some of these. Like, Erfridder looked like Elfrider to me. And what's with the knights?! :)

I'm probably not going to be writing the type of novel that calls for titles like these (I'm allergic to using Europe as a setting, only because everyone else does). But at some point when I pick up one of my fantasy type novels (NSAM), I could use these as a guide when I'm setting up a system.

Ranks of Nobility

*Emperor & Empress

*King & Queen

*Archduke & Archduchess

*Grand Duke & Grand Duchess

*Duke & Duchess
Prince & Princess
Infante & Infanta

*Marquess & Marchioness
Marquis & Marquise
Margrave & Margravine

*Count & Countess
Earl & Countess

*Viscount & Viscountess

*Baron & Baroness

*Baronet & Baronetess
Nobile, Edler von, panek
Ritter, Erfridder

*Hereditary Knight
Black Knight, White Knight, Green Knight

*Knight & Dame

- snipped from Wiki


Random Suggestion:

Let's say you are one of those people who is writing a book (historical, fantasy, romance) based in Europe. Please pay attention to details - especially those that can annoy or distract a reader.

I recently came across a fascinating synopsis by a fellow writer. This person clearly had skillz and knew the genre, and I was really hooked by the idea and hoped to get a chance to read the book.

There was one blemish that this book had, and I was wondering if the author was having a hard time placing the book because of this blemish... this would be the names which the author chose for the main characters.

I'm not going to give them here, because it might identify the author, but it really isn't a good idea to use names of major figures in history. And I mean names that would be immediately recognizable to anyone who likes history (like moi).

If your character is fictional, try to give them fictional names.

A good example would be writing a American Revolution era historical novel, and giving the main character a name like Georgiana Washington. :O
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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

BOOKMARK: FIRST PAGES

Muy Importante!

If you are in the revision stage and trying to get your novel ready for 'ither eyes', you need to take a look at the fabulous list of elements to avoid in your first 50 pages which blogger Lindsey Edwards of The Write Words has compiled. Go directly to her blog. *looks bossy* Remember, revising isn't just about running find/replace searches for adverbs and words from the naughty list (was, been, felt, almost, very, practically, almost, etc).

Personally speaking, these following are things I'm spotting in my own writing (currently BSW) as I revise and rewrite:

Every paragraph seems to start with the same word.

Oh. My. Goodness.

I wrote a 4000 word chapter yesterday and felt quite smug about it... until I glanced over the chapter as a whole and noticed all of the paragraphs which started with the progagonist's name, or "she". Ghastly! <- Guess what I'll be editing later today. Blegh. T_T


Unnecessary sentences.

This is something I'm paying attention to both while I'm writing and also when I'm editing. Because I'm writing a YA book, I know I need to keep the writing tight and the pace fast. You don't want to keep saying the same thing over and over again, or tell the reader something that you already made clear by the situation or the characters' actions.

Too much emphasis on the mundane.

This is the reason why I cut an entire chapter a couple days ago (this is the chapter I wrote fresh yesterday). Every scene should be crafted with the objective of furthering the plot. I told myself that I didn't need to take the reader through a full school day with the protagonist, because most people already know full well what school is like. Cut the scene focuses down to those where SOMETHING HAPPENS. Even when you are providing a setting and trying to put a reader there in the classroom with your character. You shouldn't have scenes where nothing happens except for the character describing the four walls of the classroom, the smell of lysol and erasers, tables and chairs, sounds of students shuffling about and breathing. Even if you provide details like that in a scene, there needs to be a bigger plot FOCUS. Something that happens outside the norm.

Too much back story.

Yep. This is something I'll be doing in the next revision round, though I did make a lot of progress this time around. Initially, I dedicated half the first chapter to explaining why the characters were in boarding school and what life was like there in BS and other background stuff like that before I moved on with the story.

Back story is important, but you need to keep it tight and you want to provide it in pieces instead of all at once.

Stiff conversation between characters.

*NODS GUILTILY* I had that problem with the protagonist and some of the other characters. It reminded me of playing dolls with my niece when she was small and shy about getting into total doll-playing mode.

It was a lot of:

"Hi, how are you?"
"I'm fine. Nice weather we have outside, huh?"
"Yes. I like your dress."
"Why thank you. I like your dress too."

[awkward silence while dolls are moved around to different standing positions]

"Well, I have to go now. Bye."
"OK. Bye."

[end of scene]

[[[Giggles]]]

The worst is dialogue like this gets filed under mundane and unnecessary sentences, as mentioned above. Like everything else, dialogue needs to serve a purpose.

The way to fix this... I saw somewhere around the web somebody said to write the dialogue first and not worry about it. As you revise, you can add the dialogue beats or actions. And you can touch up on the dialogue itself, making it less robotic.

Just food for thought and kudos to Lindsey for posting that list. It does help - especially if you are new at this and don't know where to begin.
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Monday, March 1, 2010

Skull Bumps

This topic came up while I sat debating whether I should call the doctor about a bump on my head. It feels like bone - like my skull is just shaped wrong in the one spot.

Like any other hypo, I went online to figure out what the bony bump could be.

The info is taken from a website, see link below:

There are some physiological characteristics which are called ethnic markers, that seem to be passed on through the lines of some Melungeon descendants. There is a bump on the back of the HEAD of SOME descendants, that is located at mid-line, just ABOVE the juncture with the neck. It is about the size and shape of half a golf ball or smaller. This is called an ANATOLIAN BUMP, and indicates ancestry from the Anatolian region of Turkey. If you cannot find the bump, check to see if you, like some descendants, including myself, have a ridge, located at the base of the head where it joins the neck, rather than the Anatolian bump.

This ridge is an enlargement of the base of the skull, which is called a Central Asian Cranial Ridge. My ridge is quite noticeable. It is larger than anyone else's that I have felt, except my father's. I can lay one finger under it and the ridge is as deep as my finger is thick. Other ridges are smaller. To find a ridge, place your hand at the base of your neck where it joins your shoulders, and on the center line of your spine. Run your fingers straight up your neck toward your head. If you have a ridge, it will stop your fingers from going on up and across your head.
http://www.melungeonhealth.org/info.html


It sounds like my golden retriever's occiput. :)

The bump I have is not quite in line with my neck/spine. It's more to the left. I do not know if that still counts as a Anatolian bump (not impossible, as some of my ancestors were from what is now modern day Turkey). <- Hence I will check with my doctor, just to be safe.

Still!

I decided to stash the skull information away where I can find it later. There is a book I'm working on where I have members of a certain race sneaking around on a planet of another race. <- I was just getting tired of having the racial differences being based on skin and hair color. I like the idea of having the races divided based on something different - like the shape of their skulls. Easier to disguise, as long there aren't scalp checks. A golf sized bump on the back of everyone's skull seems to be one of those more likely genes that could get passed around through a planetary system. More likely than having everyone in X planetary system be blond. :L

The other option is the length of their toes. <- Anything foot related grosses me out, so I'm not overeager to go this route. -> But I did read one of those random old wives tales type things where the descendants of royalty can be identified by their feet. Apparently, their second toe is always longer than the rest of the toes.

With the bump - that is something that could be exagerated or artificially created. I'm sure I wasn't the only one fascinated in history class when I read about the Mayans who had the same head binding practices as the Egyptians.


Head flattening, also called head binding, head shaping or head moulding, is the application of pressure or bindings to cranial bones (the human skull) to alter their shapes. Flat shapes, elongated ones (produced by binding between two pieces of wood), rounded ones (binding in cloth) and conical ones are among those chosen. It is typically carried out on an infant, as the skull is most pliable at this time. In a typical case, headbinding begins approximately a month after birth and continues for about six months.

Usually it is a part of a cultural ritual, aimed at creating a skull shape which is aesthetically more pleasing or associated with desirable attributes such as intelligence. For example, in the Nahai-speaking area of Tomman Island and the south south-western Malalukan, a person with a finely elongated head is thought to be more intelligent, of higher status, and closer to the world of the spirits.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Head_flattening

Fascinating details, eh? And it gets better - according to Wiki, Australian aborigines and then Native Americans were also known to practice the same cradling methods. Also the Huns.

Random add here - Eric van Daniken observed these similarities in ancient peoples, and took it to mean they were all binding their heads to imitate the alien god who visited them and taught them industrial and mechanical mysteries.

Stargate SG1 creators read Eric van Daniken's book. I'm convinced. :]

ETA - Do check this link out for a fascinating detail on the Melungeons. I've never heard of these people until today when I was looking up the Anatolian bump/ridge. Apparently these are a strange group of people who lived in the Tennessee/Virginia/Kentucky mountain areas. There is a mystery as to where these people came from, especially since they spoke an odd language and had a jumbled mixture of physical traits.

They are tall, straight, well- formed people, of a dark copper color ... but wooly heads and other similar appendages of our negro.7

They are of swarthy complexion, with prominent cheek bones, jet black hair, generally straight but at times having a slight tendency to curl, and the men have heavy black beards...Their frames are well built and some of the men are fine specimens of physical manhood. They are seldom fat.8

While some of them are swarthy and have high Indian cheekbones, the mountain whites, too, often display these same characteristics. Also, many of the Melungeons have light hair, blue eyes, and fair skin.9

The color of the skin of a full-blooded, pure Melungeon is a much richer brown than an Indian’s skin. It is not the color of a part Indian and part white, for their skin is lighter. The full-blooded, pure Melungeon had more the color of skin of a person from India and Egypt.10 - Taken from Wiki


They were also known to have a lot of six fingered people among their group, or it was highly hereditary.

Gathered under a tent at a public park, about 150 Melungeons had come from around the country (a show of hands indicated that about 70 percent came from states other than Tennessee) to hear results they hoped would tell them something about their heritage.

Those who were looking for black-and-white answers didn't get them. Jones' rather vague results showed that about 5 percent of the DNA indicated African descent, 5 percent was Native American, and the rest was "Euroasian," a group defined by clumping together Europe, the Middle East and India.

The most surprising finding was evidence of a rare DNA sequence common to a Northern Indian tribe called the Siddis.

The Siddis are descendants of African slaves, sailors and merchants who ended up in India as a result of trade with East Africa, starting in the 12th century and lasting into the 19th. Some of the people were stolen from their homelands and taken as slaves.

They became part of the Indian population known as the "untouchables," and are still marginalized in northwest India.
taken from wired.com

Fascinating stuff.
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