Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Lost and Found

I'm relieved to report that I found my missing pages. I had them saved, but for some reason I hadn't added them to my main manuscript file. Lesson learned - scavenger hunts are way overrated.

So, not only did I actually write what I remembered writing, I found it again. Hoorah! And, since the chunk was around 30 pages long, it's an extra relief to have it back. The next CWC meeting is just around the corner, and I'm up for submitting.

In other news, I'll be doing the Thanksgiving thing over the next few days and have decided to officially bail out on NaBloPoMo. It figures that I'd decide to do a blog post challenge during a month when I have no internet hookup at home. Hopefully, that's a second lesson learned.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

What I Learned From Harry Potter

One of my biggest problems in writing is going too fast. I speed through scenes I should take my time on and my readers always give me grief for it, as well they should.

One thing Rowling definitely doesn't do is write things too fast. I mean, we're talking about a seven-book series filled with thick, chunky books. And, aside from a spot or two, I didn't really notice the length. Nor, obviously, have hordes and hordes of kids, adolescents, and adults.

It's reassuring and a good example of why I need to slow the heck down. Now, knowing it and doing it are two different things.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Deathly Hallows

I finished reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows this morning. I have to say, it was well done. I won't go into it much, 'cause Harry's been plenty talked about already.

I will say I think Rowling did a beautiful job of bringing the series to a close and I really enjoyed seeing all of the characters & plot threads come together. I also liked her overall tone and emotion.

As a writer, it all makes me wonder about which parts Rowling always had planned and which parts she came up with as the series went on. It also makes me wonder what Rowling will do next. How do you follow up a seven-part series that's been so gigantically successful? There's no way to top it, so how can it be matched? She's got a tough job ahead of her. I'll be very interested in seeing what she does next. I know she's already got the Beedle the Bard book out, but I dunno how much I count that as a force of itself.

Any bets on how well Rowling will (or won't) live up to herself?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Lost Marbles

I think I'm losing my mind. For the second time, I seem to have lost a chunk of Oracle. There are two chapters, the two most recent chapters, that I know for a fact I wrote and now I can't find. What the heck?

Have I been saving pages in a weird place, or accidentally deleting them? Ugh. It's exceedingly frustrating to have spent the time to write two full chapters and now be unable to locate them. I mean, seriously, how did I manage to do this not once but twice?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Riffing on Goodbye

"Gwyn," Sedge started. Her name came out of his mouth as clumsily as a pile of rocks.
All of the years he had spent knowing her, all the nights of lying beside her, breathing in the smell of her skin, they slipped away from him. He felt like a stranger in front of her, trying to hold on when he was already letting go. Only for a time, yes, but letting go nonetheless.

"Don't," Gwyn said. Her arms went straight down from her shoulders, straight and stiff. That, more than anything, hurt him. More than anything else in that moment, he wanted to soften her. "Don't say you're sorry. Don't say any of the rest of it. I don't want to hear it."

He reached out to her and felt like his hand traveled a hundred miles before it found the warm curve of her waist. The insults and hurts of the past that had spurred him to take up the sword seemed blurred and faded. What did it matter what had happened so long ago? Here, in front of him, stood everything he wanted in the world.

Gwyn yielded to his touch. She wrapped her arms around him and tucked her face into the crook where his neck met his shoulders. Her breath made her chest push against his with gentle, insistent pressure with each inhalation.

"I'll stay," he whispered.

"You won't," Gwyn replied. "You can't."

Even as she said it, he knew it was true. Even now, he felt the tug. If he stayed here, he would always be that little boy who ran away. A flash of anger heated his face. Rellin would win if Sedge stayed. Involuntarily, Sedge's hand went to the hilt of the sword on his belt. He had to leave and confront what was ahead of him so he could face his step-father as a man.

He had unfinished business and in a week, in a month, he'd feel the need leave again. Just as he'd felt it so often in the past years. It had grown stronger the nearer he got to the moment of taking the sword and he knew it would never let him rest until he heeded it. When he got back, he would tell her everything. Every last secret he had been keeping from her for the past seven years.

"I love you," he said.

Her hold on him tightened as if she were trying to keep him firm to the spot. "I know," she murmured. After a minute that felt like a year, she loosened her grip. Gwyn lifted her head from his shoulder and kissed him. At the touch of her lips, he felt his eyes grow hot and wet. He blinked the tears back furiously.

"I'll be back as soon as I can," he said.

Gwyn put her hand against his cheek and he turned into the caress. Without saying a word, she nodded and turned away.

He climbed in the saddle and looked back over his shoulder as he left the yard. Just before he was out of sight, Gwyn looked up one last time. Their eyes met. She smiled sadly at him and raised her hand in a wave. Then he rounded a turn in the road and the branches of a pine tree slid across his view and hid her from him.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Riffing

In Lyon's book, she discusses a trend that she's seen of under-writing. One exercise she puts forth is riffing. It's a pretty simple concept:

You take a passage that you've written where you move through a scene or image really quickly. Then you take out a fresh piece of paper or do a hard return and you just start writing. You write on that passage and instead of having a paragraph, you go write a page, two pages...

The exercise especially caught my attention because I'm someone who's often heard my readers say, "Slow down. Where's the fire?"

With Oracle, one scene where the CWC crew were especially displeased with me was the scene where two major characters, lovers, say goodbye to each other. Yeah, they're totally right, I went way too fast. So, it seems a good spot to use for an expansion exercise.

First, the scene as it is now (and yes, this is the whole scene between the two characters). Next post, the riff.

“Gwyn,” Sedge started.

“Don't say you're sorry, or any of the rest of it, 'cause I don't want to hear it.”

“I love you.” He kissed her. She kissed back. Now was his last chance to call it off. He held her tight for a moment, then released. “I'll be back as soon as I can.”

“You'd better be.”

He climbed into the saddle, gave her one last wave, and headed south. A few days ride south was Selm, his destination. It was the nearest Nyman temple with an oracle. He hoped to get answers there about what he was being called to do. When he got back, he would tell Gwyn everything. All the secrets he had kept for the past seven years.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Manuscript Makeover

I'm not much of a one for writing books most of the time, but in light of my search for writing exercises, I've been digging through a few. So far, I've found one I really like, Manuscript Makeover: Revision Techniques No Fiction Writer Can Afford to Ignore by Elizabeth Lyon.

If you're in the mood for checking out a writing book, take a look at this one. She's got really strong, practical suggestions and she uses a lot of examples from both classic writers and contemporary folks. She totally got bonus points for using a passage from one of Sherman Alexie's stories as an example.

Lots of good stuff, and I'll be coming back to her in the next few days as I do a couple of the revision exercises she suggests.

What's a writing book you'd recommend? Why do you like it?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Glitches

You know what the problem of doing NaBloPoMo is? Not having an internet hook up at home.

I've been able to do the writing part okay, but it's the putting it together with the posting part that's problematic.

Right now, I'm wrestling with a technology issue. What issues do you have to wrestle with when you're working on a writing project?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Oracle Prologue, Part 3

For a moment, all thought of the pain from her injuries was eclipsed by surprise. Pink, mica-flecked quartz swarmed together to form a rough oval. Two large cabochons of labradorite crawled in toward the center and Jalena was struck with the impression of eyes. Carnelian lips added to the impression and shadows made by the shifting tiles completed the image of a face. Azurite hair streamed back from the head, twitching as if blown by a breeze.

Jalena shook her head. Was she still in a dream? The lapis lazuli eyes met hers. Stone lips curled up in a welcoming smile. Using her good hand, Jalena pushed herself to her feet. This time she did not slip. More tiles cascaded across the wall, this time coalescing into a hand. It gestured for Jalena to approach.

After a moment's hesitation, she did as the mosaic bade. If this was really happening, as the pain of her injuries testified, it could be no less than a miracle. If she was dreaming this, and the pain with it, then she had no reason not to. She looked down at the stream in the floor. Everything she believed told her that to cross the stream was sacrilegious. Decades of respecting the goddess' sacred space were difficult to overcome.

On the wall, the mosaic beckoned again. Jalena closed her right hand into a fist. The cut burned, spurring her to raise her foot and jump across the gap. She landed roughly on the other side, heart speeding at the thrill of being somewhere she was not supposed to be.

Jalena walked slowly toward the wall. She closed the distance with just a few steps and stood almost nose to nose with the face. She stood mesmerized, holding the goddess' gaze. Tiles scraped against each other as the mosaic hand raised with the palm facing Jalena. She raised her right hand. Blood dripped off it to splatter on the floor. Acting on instinct, Jalena pressed her own palm against the wall. Despite the chill of the morning, the stone felt warm. A jolt like electricity ran through her. Carnelian lips parted. The goddess spoke.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Oracle Prologue, Part 2

The pre-dawn gloom lightened to a hazy shade of blue. Soon, the other clergy would begin stirring. Jalena should prepare for morning prayers. No more at peace than she had been when she woke, Jalena rose. As she did, her foot caught on the hem of her robe and she fell to the floor, slamming her knees on the stone with a shock of fierce pain. Her right hand struck the corner of the stone stream, breaking her skin across the edge. Jalena bit back a cry of pain. A rivulet of blood ran down the stone to mingle with the water. The blood darkened the water in a cloud that looked black in the low light.

Knees and hand stinging, Jalena struggled to rise. Blood slickened the stone. Her hand slipped as she tried to gain purchase. Her knees hit the stone again. Agony rushed through her legs. Frustrated and hurt, Jalena felt tears force themselves into her eyes.

In front of her, something scraped. Jalena blinked back tears. Another scrape. The noise came from the other side of the stream. Scrape. It was the sound of stone on stone. Jalena took a deep breath and rocked back on her heels. She held her injured hand in front of her. Blood streaked down the front of her robe. The scrape came again.

Sight blurred, she looked ahead, trying to find the source of the noise. Something was moving on the wall. The scraping grew quicker, like the shuffle of a card deck. She blinked to clear her vision and saw that the sound came from the mosaic. Tiles of blue, green, black, and every other color on the wall squirmed against each other, struggling to go in different directions.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Honey, Part 2

In the sun, his eyes saw a brighter color than the one inside, a hue more yellow and white instead of gray. That was another reason he liked the bright summer, when the light was this bright, he could see dim blurry shapes. He craned his head up to look above him. A wobble in the solid color told him he must be looking at her face. He touched a finger to her face and felt the curve of her smile before she put him into the van.

S-A-N-D-Y was one of the people who looked after him. The others were mostly fine, though sometimes they came and went so quickly that he never had a chance to really get to know the texture of their hair. Hair had such nuance, sometimes. The complexity of how it felt near the scalp, still warm from its closeness to skin, then cooled as it reached out from the head, and the butterfly wing edges of where it was cut. Three separate and distinct stages that told him more about a person than the letters they clumsily finger spelled into his palm.

The van slowed to a stop, pulling him away from his thoughts on hair. He felt the shift as she got out. Hot air whooshed in when she opened the door beside him. The smells were different here. More overtones of brick and sickness. He began to feel uneasy. Breezes brushed his cheeks as people hurried by, walking to either side of them. He put his hands to the wheels of his chair, skidding to a halt. He signed, “No, no, no, no, no, no,” over and over again. He remembered now what the sign earlier meant. It had meant this place. “Home,” he signed.

S-A-N-D-Y took his hand and held it in her warm palm. It was what she did when she wanted him to know that it was okay. “Doctor,” she signed into his hand.

Monday, November 8, 2010

No Visuals

On my drive home from CWC last night, I started thinking about the exercise you can do where you write something without using visual description. It made me think about someone I saw recently who is both blind and deaf. What would that be like? How does the world work if you can't see it or hear it? When I got home, I started writing a story.

Here's the first chunk of my rough draft:

He felt the vibrations of her steps on the floorboards as she approached. Her shampoo smelled like a flower he had held with petals wrapped around each other tight like a secret. The smell of hot pavement came from her shoes, stale coffee wrapped around her, combined with the lingering aroma of bleach. Best of all, underneath it all, was the natural smell of her. Her skin smelled the way honey tasted, sweet and smooth on the tongue.

When she came close enough, she reached out and lifted his hand. She touched his fingers to her nose and then to her hair, which was short and coarse under his palm. This was her hello, to let him know she was there. Her name, S-A-N-D-Y, was an abstract concept to him. But her smell, and the coarseness of her hair, these were the ways he knew her.

She cupped her hand in his and signed against his palm. Her hands, so rough, were always gentle when she touched him. The signs were familiar, but he could not remember what they meant. It was hard to remember meanings. It always had been for him. Sometimes, he did not remember the letters to his name, B-R-Y-A-N. Letters tended to run away from his brain, leaving him grasping at nothing, like trying to catch the water in his bath. Numbers were the same. Slippery, slimey things. A while back, it had been his birthday. Someone had signed “32” into his hand over and over until he realized that was his age.

He did not have to wonder for long what S-A-N-D-Y's signs meant. She helped him into his wheelchair and pushed him outside. Summer's heat burned down on him, pulling sweat to his skin the moment they went through the doors. He liked the heat after the chilly air of the center. The heat was what told him he was moving, going somewhere, instead of day after day after day of cold air that smelled like bleach, plastic, paper, urine, and all the other chemicals that went along with people who couldn't take care of themselves.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Exercise Hunt

So, with my goal of doing some writing exercises this month, I'm having a difficult time finding exercises. I went to my new local library and found one book with actual exercises (but, about 15 books on how to get published).

In light of my difficulty, I want to ask you if you've got any good exercises to share?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Exercise: A Single Moment

Raindrops tap danced on the windshield, tappity, tappity, tap. Lorena's hands were stuck to the steering wheel like they were glued there. Her lips were sealed like there had been extra glue left over from her hands. Her eyes pointed straight ahead.

Sitting in the passenger seat, Meg eyed the car radio, hesitating. She wanted to turn it on, to have some sound in the car other than the beat of rain, the periodic swipe of windshield wipers, and the silence.

Meg reached out her hand until her fingers were nearly on the radio's volume knob. Was that her imagination, or did Lorena's jaw just clench? Meg let her hand fall to her lap and she wrapped it around the strap of her backpack. The fine wrinkles around Lorena's eyes smoothed slightly as she relaxed.

Tappity, tappity, tap.

“I'm sorry,” Meg said.

Lorena said nothing.

Tappity, tappity, tap.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Oracle Prologue, Part 1

Jalena woke to blue-black morning. The air, still cool before the summer sun warmed it, tasted sweet in her mouth. Creaky stiffness in her joints from her decades of life was not so sweet. She sat up in bed, mentally grasping at the last shreds of the dream that had woken her. The dreams were more and more frequent lately, pulling and tugging at her like nettles. They always faded as soon as she woke, leaving her with nothing but a feeling of restlessness.

She rose from bed, walking toward the public area of the temple. Stone tiles cooled the soles of her bare feet. She passed through the dorm area where the clergy lived. This was the place she had called home for over four decades. Jalena knew her way so well, she could navigate by touch alone. Her footsteps sounded like a whisper. No one else stirred.

Moments later, she reached the main area of the temple. Carved stone pillars raised from the floor to hold the ceiling. At times, they gave the space a feeling almost like a forest with grooved white trees. Many other mornings of late had found her here, in the sacred space of her goddess. It soothed her when the dreams came.

Jalena walked toward the focal point of the temple, an expansive mosaic-covered wall opposite the public entrance. A few yards away from the wall, she stopped. Here a channel in the floor carried water from one side of the temple to the other, a small stone river in the marble forest. The water started in the mountains of Tryne and flowed south as the Illyan river, reaching all the way south to the sea. The water that flowed in front of Jalena were diverted from the river on its way from mountains to sea. Like an artery, it connected vast expanses of the body of the continent.

Kneeling, Jalena dipped her fingers in and sprinkled herself with moisture. A quiet prayer tumbled across her lips, asking the goddess for guidance. These dreams troubled Jalena, though she did not know why. Slowly, a feeling rose in her, a yearning to cross the stream and walk on the other side. She resisted, as she had on the other mornings when the feeling came to her. The space opposite the stream belonged to the goddess alone. Humans were too impure to enter it.

The mosaics on the other side of the stream were dark in the time before the dawn. Jalena did not need to see them to know them, though. Images of the goddess Nyma and her forms covered the expanse of the wall. A lapis lazuli ocean that turned into the blue hair of a serene woman who watched out from the wall with shining labradorite eyes. Jade and malachite showed the shades and shadows of a wide river that held a woman running. A howlite blizzard blazed with a furious gaze. On and on, the images stretched. All the forms of water echoed with the many faces of Nyma.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Productive Use

I've been thinking of NaBloPoMo and ways that I can use the challenge in a way that's more productive than simply getting words out. Posting every day just to post every day invites tangents and ramblings. I can't say that's really an important use of my time.

So, I've decided to focus my posts by doing some writing exercises and writing bits of my current writing projects in them. I'm not sure how much of each I'll end up doing, but my goal is for each post after this one to be creative. A scene, a description, dialogue, etc.

I'll give a bit of intro for each bit, and if it's an exercise, I'll let you know what the goal of the exercise was so you can play along if you'd like. I hope you'll join me for at least some. If you do, put it up on your blog and let me know so I can link to your post!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

I Am Spartacus. No, I'm Spartacus. No, I'm Spartacus!

This past weekend, most of my time was spent doing one of two things.
1. Unpacking my worldly possessions
2. Re-watching the first season of Spartacus

I find I'm totally in love with the show, even on a second go-'round, which is good, since I shelled out the buckaroos to buy the first season. There are a couple of fun extras on the DVDs, one of my favorite being seeing two of the actors getting ready to do a scene in what is basically a sewer/trash pit. The crew has some live cockroaches to add to the set and both of these very muscle-bound men are jumping around, crying, "Is there one on me?"

Aside from that, another interesting thing was when the show creators were talking about their line of thought in making the show. One aspect was wanting to create a show that had a very graphic novel feel in its visuals (think Sin City) and wanting to explore this larger-than-life character. It's an interesting journey, going from a pretty ordinary guy to a slave, to an epic legend.

Loads of our famous heroes started out as ordinary people. We've got loads of biopics and historical novels about the historical characters who fascinate us. It makes me wonder if our fascination comes from a desire to understand where we've come from? A desire to create identity and connect with the past? Some of it has to do with current political/cultural movements. What about the way that the past seems so exotic to us in the modern world? I mean, the Romans had many, many cultural norms that are completely out of our own context as Americans - I mean, just look at their perspective on sex relative to ours. Two very different animals.

So, here are two questions for you. What makes you interested in fictional stories about historical figures? Or, why do you think people in general are interested in the genre?

Oh, wait, one more question.

What do you think is the best movie/TV series/book you've encountered about a historical person?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Harry Potter

In September, when I was doing my long, long drives every day, I started listening to Harry Potter. I know, I know, I'm way behind the 8ball here, but whatever. Better late than never, right?

This morning, on my way to a training for work, I heard the last bit of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and I'm liking how it's all getting dark now. Not that there haven't been dark themes throughout - something I really like about Rowling.

One of the things I like a lot, and which loads of others have liked before me, is the fun of the magical world and creatures she's created. There's plenty of fantasy that has either a world overlaid with this one, or a separate world, but Rowling is somewhere in between. That's cool.

When I get back to the library, I'm on to book six.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Writing Advice

Jenny wants to know what the best piece of writing advice I've ever received is. How do you like that for a question?

I've got loads of good advice. Things like:
Show, don't tell
Don't rush
Blind re-writes
Just write it
Look at other writers as models

All good, good stuff.

However, if I had to peg the one thing that's most important, I'd say it's, "Write for yourself first." I use it in the context of thinking that anything I write had better be good enough that I'd want to read it, and I'm a picky reader.

This advice also helps tie some other bits of advice together - especially things like using other writers as models. If I love the way someone else does an action scene, I have to ask myself what makes me like it and figure out how I can do something like it. Then, I'm in a better spot to hold myself to my high reading standards when it comes to my own work.

Who do you write for first?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

NaBloPoMo

With October rolling to a close (What?! How'd I miss a whole month?!) and me being a slacker of late - uprooting my life to move and start a new job is hardly a good enough excuse - I've decided that National Blog Posting Month may be a good way to
A. Make up for my slackerness
B. Get some blog/writing momentum

Ergo, I've decided that my November goal will be NaBloPoMo. I invite all y'all to join me, too. For all of you who're nearby, I propose an end of the month meet up at my new favorite yogurt shop in Pueblo to celebrate all our blog-posty-awesomeness. Come on, you know you love frozen yogurt. Who's in?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Moving, Work and Technomology

"Somebody needs to update her blog!" Jenny said.

"Who?" I asked innocently.

Jenny narrowed her eyes and scowled at me. "You know who." This was followed by the signature Jenny finger-point.

"Dude, I have no internet at home. I have a real job now, and I just moved."

Jenny folded her arms over her chest, clearly not impressed. "I don't care," she said. "Don't be a slacker."

Can't you just feel the love?

Now that I'm actually all the way moved (Don't even ask, just know: never agree to rent a place that's not done yet. Just don't do it.) I can make arrangements to get some interweb set up at home. In the meantime, I've got a handy new library card to use at my new library.

More posts in the near future, I promise, Jenny.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sherman Alexie, the Author Who Writes Epically Long Titles and Has Jay Leno Hair

Sherman Alexie's "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian" is this year's pick for All Pueblo Reads.

That means that I got to see one of my very favorite authors live, in person on Sunday when he did a library-sponsored talk. The talk was great. He's a very good speaker and his personality and sense of humor in person are very much in the same vein as in his books, which I largely adore. (With one or two exceptions, but, you know, nobody's perfect)

I brought a copy of my the first Sherman Alexie book I ever read, "The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven" and now it's got his signature in it. How awesome is that?

It was impressive, as he talked, to see just how much of the featured book was autobiographical. He talked about events and characters from the book and the events and characters they were based on, which was fun. Also cool was when he started talking about the idea of "crossing the waters," of making a journey to a new land. He was very poetic about it, describing it in terms of the human quest to go and seek out new places. To paraphrase:

"We are travelers, we humans. We started out in Africa and started walking. We've been walking ever since. Anyone who denies that journey denies the very essence of humanity."

I'm glad I picked him as one of my major writing heroes. He's very cool. And, he gets bonus points for having to apologize to one of the audience members for calling her a zombie.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Guys Who Write Gals

Two books I've listened to lately have been The Last Queen and Cold Mountain. Both books are written by men and both use a central female character's POV. Authors who write POV characters who are of the opposite sex have a challenge. Sometimes they can pull it off. Sometimes it makes you wonder how many members of the opposite sex they actually have met.

The first one I listened to caught my eye because it's a historical novel about Juana of Castile. She was Katherine of Aragon's sister, and I just watched the next-to-last season of the Tudors, so I was totally primed. Also, C. W. Gortner's area of expertise is this time period, according to the blurb on the back of the book about him.

It started off okay, though it quickly became clear that the main character was kind of a cliche. The book is in 1st person POV and Juana describes herself a lot. When a character describes themself as a free spirit, it's kind of annoying. Then, throughout, there are a lot of author-intrusive kinds of "internal thoughts" where Juana comments on a tradition or practice with a distinctly modern perspective. But, whatever, I could forgive it a bit. The part that made me groan was Juana's habit of looking herself over and talking about how gorgeous she was. Gag me. Of all the women I know, I know exactly... um, none? who like to stare at themselves in the mirror and say, "Look at what a babe I am." After the part where she discovers her husband in bed with another woman and, to paraphrase, loves him too much to be overly bothered by it because she's kind of an idiot, I stopped listening to it. Truly, I would have stopped before that point, but I was on a road trip to Denver and didn't have anything else to listen to in the car.


I watched the movie a few years ago and liked it, so I thought I'd check out the book. One of the first differences I noticed was that this one was read by the author, unlike The Last Queen which was read by a female actress. Charles Frazier's reading style is a great deal different. Instead of a dramatic reading, his voice is almost flat. He reads at a slow and steady pace, which is actually remarkably fitting with the tone & subject of the book.

I was feeling kind of neutral about the book for the first chapter in Inman's POV, but then Frazier got to Ada and I warmed up to it. Ada's in rough shape trying to get by on the already-neglected farm after her father's death. In her first chapter, there's a part where Ada crawls under a boxwood and finds she likes being hidden away from everything. Frazier writes (this is an approximate paraphrase): "Ada decided that if she could think of three reasons to leave the boxwood, then she would. However, at that moment, the only reason she could think of was that she did not especially want to die in the boxwood." I instantly liked Ada then. She's got a really dry kind of sarcasm to her and Frazier writes her like she's human, vs. like she's a daydream of what a woman's like.

One of the parts that made me really like Frazier's perspective on women, too, was toward the end of the book when Ada and Ruby (another great female character) are talking about Inman. Ruby tells Ada, "We can live on our own just fine. You don't need him."
Ada says, "I know, but I think I want him."
Ruby responds, "Well, that's alright then."
The two women have done all the heavy lifting on their own and they're at a point where neither is a damsel in distress, waiting for a man to save them. Ada's choice to be with Inman is then based completely on her attraction and affection for him, and not on the idea that him being in her life is going to make things easier for her. Cheers, Frazier.

So, two books. One pulls off female POV, one doesn't. There are plenty of male authors who can write convincing female characters, but then there are plenty who can't. I think it would be interesting to look at men who write women and women who write men and how successful each group tends to be. It makes me wonder if it's easier for a woman to write a man or if I just notice fewer problems with it since I'm not a dude.

I will end with one word of advice for guys who want to write gals. If you find yourself writing in your female character's POV and describing her body in terms of, "Oh, I'm a girl. I have boobs. Aren't boobs awesome? I'm totally hot," then you're going in the wrong direction.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Spoken Word

The past little while my new job has been my main priority. The good news is that I've gotten to the point where I feel like I've got a good grasp on the lay of the land. Now, though, comes the even more challenging part - beginning the nitty gritty of the work itself. For September, I'm also going to move to a new place.

In light of all this, and my long daily commute, I'm dubbing September in honor of audiobooks. No particular goals here, but I'll be talking about them on the blog.

Current audiobook: Cold Mountain

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Next New Thing

So, in the past few weeks I've been caught up in a whirlwind. I applied for a job and got called in for an interview, then another interview, then I was offered the job and I accepted it.

My new job is being the Training Coordinator (aka staff trainer) for an organization that works with the developmentally disabled. It's an exciting opportunity and I'm really happy about it. Of course, since the organization is nearly 70 miles away, it's meant some very early mornings for me lately. It's also meant looking for a new place to live and trying to get settled into the new job and remember the names of a lot of new people.

It's a lot of work and a lot to sort out. But, on the whole, it's a very good adventure.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

August Photo Contest

I'm off to photo club soon. Every meeting features a contest, the themes for the year are announced each January with one theme per month. This month's theme was sunset/sunrise, and it was tough. I had a hard time getting photos because there are so many elements that go along with the perfect sunset photo, like timing (obviously), clouds to reflect the sunset color off of, and things like having a focal element aside from just the sunset because have you ever seen a photo of a straight sunset? It's kind of boring, actually. You need good landscape, or a good subject, etc. to really make the photo work. In the end, I'm not all that satisfied with the photo I'll be submitting, but I'm still submitting it because it was the best photo I got for the theme and a huge reason for participating in the contests is the participation itself.


Things I like about this photo: the sunset was a beautiful one, with pretty clouds and bright reds.
Things I don't like about this photo: the angle (I think it would have worked better if I'd been able to get a lower angle) and the sharpness isn't all it could have been.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Radio Silence

No posts lately, but for good reason. Something's come up that's made me very busy. I'm holding off on commenting just yet, but I'll post details next week.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Unwrapping Old Stories

The first thing I had to do with my 100 pages challenge was decide what to print on those pages. Cue a trip to my old computer files. I skimmed over file names, focused on finding stories that were old enough that I could look at them with fresh eyes.

Suffice it to say, there were a solid handful that I haven't looked at in a few years. One or two, I didn't even recognize the file name. I saw a file and literally had no idea what it was. Then I opened it and viola! It was kind of like Christmas morning.

Current printed page count: 33

Sunday, August 1, 2010

100 Colorful Pages

After all of this drafting during the past two months, I think it's time to shift gears and focus on revising.

Jenny does this thing where she prints out drafts on colored paper. First draft is one color. Second draft another, and so on. The idea is that each draft is then color-coded and she can easily track how the work has evolved.

Well, I don't know about all that mumbo jumbo, but I do know that office supplies are fun and they make paper in so many pretty, pretty colors these days. Yesterday, I picked up a pack of bright yellow paper. In this pack there are 100 sheets and in August, I am going to use them all.

My goal for August is pretty straight forward. I'm going to look at some things I've already written and I'm going to print them out on my new colorful paper. Then I'm going to read through the pages and write all over them. Simple, isn't it?

I've got 100 pages to print and write up. Now I just have to look at what I've got in my files and decide what to print. Here goes step one of a great revision adventure. Stay tuned.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

35,000 Words

Sadly, it looks as if John has won the contest. *cough, cough* I mean, congratulations, John!

In all seriousness, cheers to all who participated. I've done short (two week) contests before, and now I've completed a two month contest. All-in-all, I think the two month contest is actually harder. Marathons are tough. It's easy to be ultra focused and ultra motivated for a short period of time. It's tough to maintain it.

At the end of the contest, I am not the winner, nor am I even in the top three. However, and this is important, Jenny did not make me cry. So, even though I'm not necessarily THE winner, I call it a win.

Also, that goes for the 35,000 words I've written in the past two months. That comes out to 100 new pages, or 2 full CWC submissions, or about 4 months before I'll be submitting pages I haven't written yet. That's cool.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Tomorrow! Tomorrow! I Love ya, tomorrow!

Tomorrow's the last day of the contest and I confess I just wasn't up to the challenge. Too many balls to juggle lately and there were a few others I decided were more important than the contest. I'm feeling alright with how I did, even knowing I'm getting beat.

For tomorrow, my aim is 35,000 words. It's a nice, round number to finish on.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Final Time

Boy howdy, summer classes go fast.

Today's the day my 121 students had their final exam. Their final is to write a self-evaluation essay discussing their writing abilities.

It's fascinating to see their commentaries on how their writing has changed, in some cases a great deal, in just two months.

Now comes the grading. Today I collected two papers - one last formal paper that they've been working on in class, and the final. Grades are due Wednesday. You can guess what my plans for the next two days involve.

It's going to be tough to do final grading and still make progress on the contest, but I'm going to do my best to do exactly that. Here goes a very intense few days.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

10... 9... 8...

We're getting down to the last few days of the contest and people are starting to feel the pressure. Jenny did an update yesterday, and already, those tallies are inaccurate. Now, on the last leg of the race, everyone's reaching down deep and pulling out the stops.

Honestly, I don't know if I have a chance at all of winning - the timing of the contest has been working against me and going into the last week I'm also facing grading finals and essays from my summer class (which has exactly synced with the contest). As of Monday, I'm going to collect approximately 45 essays which I'll have to read and grade by Wednesday, when final grades are due. Piece of cake.

Oh, and I have about 20,000 words to write, post haste, in order to catch up to the contest leaders. And that's only if none of them decide to write any more. Yeesh.

We're coming down to the finish line, folks and all I can say is, in the immortal words of Samuel L. Jackson on Jurassic Park, "Hold on to your butts."

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I Write Like


I write like
Dan Brown

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!


Thursday, July 8, 2010

America's Got Talent

I'm not much of a one for reality TV shows. So much of it is focused on whining, cat fights and petty melodrama and I've got little patience for it. However, there are a couple of reality shows that I'm totally hooked on. The main difference for me is that these shows are about people who have genuine talents facing off against each other to see who wins out. Less politics, more talent.

Right now I'm in the midst of this season's offerings of Last Comic Standing, Hell's Kitchen, and America's Got Talent. To me, the last one is the best of them all because it gives a chance to people who ordinarily wouldn't make it. Have you seen Airpocalypse? I mean, come on, they're an air band for crying out loud! And, all the same, I must admit they're way entertaining. Though, I'll add that some of the acts that made the cut to Hollywood are absolutely not anything I'd vote for. Mary Ellen and Ronith being at the top of my "Are you kidding me?" list.

Definitely lots of cool performances overall, though, and I'm pleased as punch that some of my favorites got sent to the next level. If you don't watch the show, you should check out the Hollywood acts. There's some top-notch material. Here's who I'm rooting for:

Ali and Christina
CJ Dippa
Debra Romer
Fighting Gravity
Lindsey Stirling
Luigi
Michael Grimm
Prince Poppycock
Studio One Young Beast Society
Taylor Matthews
Wreckless Dance Crew

Who are your favorites?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Bring on the Second Half

It seems like June went by in a flash. I give a lot of the credit for that to teaching a class this summer. Having an abbreviated, two-month semester means a pretty hardcore schedule of prep and grading, especially since I'm teaching the summer class at a new school.

I didn't make as much progress with the writing contest as I had hoped, but my plan is to step up my pace now that I've developed a rhythm with the summer class.

What I do know for sure is that I've gained some distance between me and Jenny, which will make it more difficult for her to accomplish her contest goal of beating me and making me cry. Now if only there was less distance between me and the other competitors who're way out ahead.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Revision Logs

I'm teaching a composition class over the summer and right now I've begun grading my class's first set of papers. With this class, I decided to try something I haven't tried before. Along with the final draft of their papers, I had them turn in a revision log. For this log, there are two parts:

Part 1: They had to create a list of feedback they have received on their paper. They needed to include feedback they received from their peers in the class, feedback from me, and feedback from anyone else (like a tutor, friend, or family member) who helped them work on their paper.

Part 2: They had to create a daily log of what they did on their paper that day and, if applicable, whose feedback that change was in response to.

I had a couple of ideas behind the log. One was to help students look at their feedback comprehensively and see if there were trends where more than one reviewer pointed out the same strength or weakness. Another principle was that if they wrote down the specific steps they took to revise their paper, they would be more aware of their writing/revising process, which is something I put a very big emphasis on in my classes. One of the most important things anyone can learn about writing is what works best for them, and being aware of process is where that all starts. Last, my practical impetus behind the revision logs was to help hold students accountable for their revision. Sometimes, when I read a final draft, I find a student has ignored feedback, or made minimal changes. In a few of the very worst cases, I've read final drafts that were identical to the rough draft, save for a change in font, because students are nothing if not optimistic that I'm not paying very much attention.

So, I thought I would try an experiment where students had to write down what work they had done on their papers and when. Then, when I return the graded final drafts, I hope that by looking at their revision logs along with my comments on their rough and final drafts, students will be better able to see how effective their revisions either were or were not.

At this point, I haven't yet read the papers themselves. I decided to start by looking at the revision logs. It makes for interesting reading. Not surprisingly, I'm noticing a correlation between students who wrote detailed revision logs and students who are strong writers overall. Students who struggle with writing overall also struggle with their revision logs. As we continue through the semester and students get more practice with writing and revising, I'll be curious to see how the revision logs evolve.

Here are a couple of audience participation questions: When it comes to revision, have you ever done anything like a revision log? How do you handle going from getting feedback to compiling/implementing it?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Mind the Gap, or At Least I've Got Fun Books

I've been lagging behind on the contest for a while now. No Bueno. Sadly, half a dozen other things have been demanding my attention lately, and while they're good things to pay attention to, they're rather distracting from the thousands of words I currently need to write in order to catch up.

Oops.

In other news, I was at the library the other day and I stumbled on The Best of Joe R. Lansdale and since I was looking for something that'd be either funny or horrific, I picked it up. I'd never heard of Lansdale before, except, when I looked at the Table of Contents, I realized that I had, sort of. A few years back I got talked into watching a movie called Bubba Ho-Tep which is based off of Lansdale's story of the same name. I was pleasantly surprised by the movie, which stars Bruce Campbell, by the way. So, I was quite delighted to find out that the book I'd more or less randomly picked off the shelf was directly connected. Sometimes, it really is a small world.

I'm about two stories in to the anthology right now (one of the two I've read was "Bubba Ho-Tep") and I'm quite enjoying Lansdale's style. In some ways, he rather reminds me of Chuck Palahniuk, whose book Tell-All I'm currently listening to on audiobook.

I may be lagging on the writing contest, but, on the other hand, I'm in a good reading place right now. It's kind of a wash.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Emotional Writing

Some time ago, I was on a professionally published writer's website. I'll skip her name, but tell you that she's got multiple novels on the bookstore shelves. On her website, I read an update where she was describing how she gets emotionally invested in what she writes. A specific example she described was in the book she was writing, she had just written a scene in which her main character did something "unforgivable." According to the author, writing that scene where her character committed this act was so emotional for her that after she finished, she went into the other room and sobbed. She was... dramatic about it.

My reaction was, "Huh? Are you serious?" Getting that emotional about a made up person committing a made up act that you made them do? Sounded a little unbalanced to me.

Do I think good writing requires emotion? Sure. Do I think good writing makes the reader feel like they're involved in what's going on in the book? Absolutely. Do I think that, in order for the reader to feel the emotion, the writer should feel the emotion first? Sure. But, do I think you should have a nervous breakdown because of a fictional event? Um... there's a difference between reality and pretend.

I was thinking about this last night. Last night I got to a scene where I killed off a main character. It wasn't the easiest scene to write because I was trying to make it as hard as I could on the other characters. I was trying to make it hard on the reader. I mean, that's kind of the point behind killing a main character. But, I have to confess, I did not, in fact, have to go in the other room and sob about it.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Sit Down and Shut Up!

Deb sometimes talks about this guy. He's the worst kind of guy. You know the type. He never has a good thing to say He's always finding the negative. He never builds anything up, but instead is constantly tearing you down.

And you want to know the very, very worst part about this guy? He's not really a guy. He's the voice in your head. He's the Inner Heckler. When you're writing a scene, the Inner Heckler whispers in your ear, saying things like, "That dialogue is awful," or "I can't believe you thought this plot development was a good idea. It's soooo lame," and, "Really? That's the best you can do?"

Most of the time, my Inner Heckler doesn't act up too much while I'm doing a rough draft. Usually, he bides his time, waiting until the rough draft is finished and he can be dismissive about my chances of ever getting it polished up to be good enough. See, my Heckler and I have a system.

For some reason, with this contest, he's breaking the deal. The past week or so, my Inner Heckler has gotten brave and he keeps hollering at me, which has put a big kink in my plan to write the most words. Dang Heckler, I bet Jenny's paying him off. I wouldn't put it past her to try bribing him to act up.

But, the good news is I've put in a call to Security and they're hauling him off, even as we speak. He's been disruptive and now I'm putting him in his place. It's a place with a sturdy lock and that funny-looking stuff they put on the walls of music studios to soundproof them.

Take that, Mr. Heckler.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Slow But Steady

The writing contest is trucking right along, with most folks keeping a pretty steady pace. Me, I took a few days off to concentrate on other things, but I'm trying to make up the distance I lost. My usual writing bribe tends to be Twizzlers, but lately I've been trying out Mountain Dew's summer flavors, so that's been my bribe of choice ;)

Between the soda and doing a lot of out of the house pages, I'm feeling pretty good about where I am right now in the contest, though I do need to step it up a bit.

Bring on the caffeine and sugar!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Words, Photos, at Least I'm Getting Something Done

I've been doing a lot of polymer lately and I'm finally getting around to taking photos and listing new earrings in my Etsy shop. Taking photos of jewelry is tricky and I feel like I'm only now getting the hang of it, thanks to the help of my nifty tripod and a couple of props from the thrift shop.

It's funny how there's little that motivates me quite so well as having something else I should be doing. Turns out, this contest is proving productive for my non-writing To Do list.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

From the Starting Block

The starting pistol's been fired and the race is on. My June goal is simple: write, write, write. My aim right now is more about consistency than quantity, and I'm making it my goal to average at least 3.3 pages a day.

One other thing I did to help me was that last night I took a page from Debbie's book and spent some time with index cards. I wrote out the next chapters for Oracle with one to a card. I don't have too many yet, but it's a start. On each card, I wrote a couple notes about what happens, making it clear which POV that chapter should be in, and then I wrote a note titled "Main Conflict" and things like "Sedge wants..., but..." to help me focus on having tension in each chapter.

Writing out the cards was interesting and helpful. I'm curious to see what writing pages with them will be like.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Race Plan

The two-month writing race starts on Tuesday, and it's going to be a doozy. So, I need a game plan. Namely, I need to figure out what I'm going to write.

Key parts of the figuring:
1. It's a writing contest, not a re-writing contest, so edits don't count for word count, which means
2. My original plan to be working on revising my old Oracle material right now won't fit, but
3. I'm going to need a CWC submission during the contest and I'm really wanting to make progress on Oracle and not just sideline it in favor of a new project, so
4. I've decided to continue with the blind re-write, but
5. This is going to be a marathon race, not a sprint, and sometimes I get stuck. If all I'm working on is Oracle, running into a road block means game-over, so
6. I spent a lot of time over the past two days coming up with and developing an idea for a new novel to start on if Oracle stumps me, therefore
7. I've got a plan.

I'm going to keep on keeping on with Oracle without going back to the pages I originally wrote, and I'm working on my project B if I get stumped. Doing a blind rewrite on a whole novel is not something I'd ever have planned on, but it seems my best option right now. While I could just dive into project B for the contest, and submit it for my CWC obligation, it seems like cheating to me and it's been so long since my first try at Oracle that I'd really like to get it done instead of shelving it again.

I am totally intimidated by a two-month long contest, and I have no idea how this is going to go. But, I know that I'll get some pages written and, however it goes down, it should certainly prove interesting. Whether or not I'll cry remains to be seen, though I know Jenny's hoping for tears, that meanie.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Lots and Lots and Lots

The past few days I've been on a polymer clay bender. Goodbye kitchen table, hello beads, beads, and more beads. Whew.

Then, Jenny goes and decides that to help her meet her goal of writing 200 pages in two months, she's putting out a challenge. A two month writing race is intimidating, the two I've done before have both been more like two weeks, but, let's face it, I'm too hard headed to back away. Jenny put out the challenge, John jumped on it, and, after trying to talk myself out of it, I'm throwing my hat in the ring too.

Goodbye polymer bender, hello writing bender.

If it isn't one thing, it's the other. At least now I've got a ready-made challenge for myself for June.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Traveling Photos

Boy am I ever tuckered out. The first part of May went by in a flash as I graded finals, submitted grades, went to visit Casey in Florida, then drove to Grand Junction for Camii's wedding. All the travel was lots of fun, and it was really great to see my brother and Camii. But, I have to say I'm glad to be home for a while now.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Homework

In order to keep from over-reaching this month, I'm keeping things simple. The CWC crew has been assigned homework for the next meeting: expand one of the writing prompt responses into a whole story. For May, I'm going to make that my primary goal.

There's something about writing when other people are expecting results that helps to motivate me. It's an accountability thing. If I don't get my story done, the CWC crew will give me a hard time. If I don't get other things done, well, they just don't get done. Yes, I have to have 50 pages for the gang when my turn's up, but it doesn't automatically have to be 50 pages of anything specific. Anyhow, having the clear expectation and clear deadline is a good kick in the pants for me.

I'd challenge you to do something similar this month. Find someone who knows your writing and ask if they'd be kind enough to give you homework. It can be anything you want, but I'd recommend some kind of writing exercise instead of something that specifically relates to your current work in progress - this is more about shaking up your routine than just getting a few more pages written.

Alternately, I'd love to get some audience participation here. I had so much fun with the writing prompts at the meeting that I'm wondering what you think of writing prompts/exercises. Do you like them? Are there any in particular that you can tell me about? I'd love to hear about any that you've found especially fun, challenging, or productive.

Cheers all, and happy Cinco de Mayo!

Went Over Like a Lead Balloon

I have to confess, I totally bombed my April goal. My idea of getting in four solid hours of writing on Oracle came out to not writing any Oracle at all. The 1.25 hours of writing I did get in were all on other things. About half an hour of that came from the CWC meeting and responding to writing prompts. The rest came from working on our May CWC homework - expanding one of the prompt responses into a whole story.

The good news is I've got a new short project to work on, which is fun. It's also still pretty low stakes writing, since it came from a game and I have to get it done quickly.

For May, I've got lots of things going on and though it'll be a different type of busy than April was (i.e. no ton of end-of-semester grading, no finals, etc.), it'll still be plenty busy. So, I'm going to think small scale...

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Lost It

Right now I'm having a "what the heck?!" moment.

I got an earful from the CWC crew last go 'round because of a section in my submission that was missing. I had a new chapter, with a new character, and at a little more than half of the page, I ended with {more here} and that was the whole chapter. Boy howdy, did they give me the what for.

The thing is, I had gone back to that chapter and written the rest of it later on. That's why I didn't think of it when I was printing, because I'd written it. At first, I thought it was a simple oversight where I'd printed the wrong version of the file. It was an "oops" to be sure, but I had it. Or, so I thought.

I've been looking for the file on my laptop and all I can find is the file with the missing chunk. Now I'm baffled, because I don't know where I saved that file. The only thing I can think is that it's on my PC, which would be weird, but it's possible. Luckily, I do have a hard copy of the missing part (another reason why I know I wrote it and why I know I wasn't just imagining that I had). So, the good news is that even though I can't find the file, I haven't lost the words. The main mystery is where on earth did they go?

Note to self: figure out a better way of keeping track of what file's on which computer and which copy is the most recent.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

CWC's Writing Prompts

Last night, our CWC meeting was devoted to a bit of literary goofing off. It was a blast. Our homework for the month was for each person to bring in two writing prompts/exercises. For each prompt, the designated person read or explained the prompt, then we wrote for approximately five minutes. When Mary told us our time was up, we took turns reading what we'd written. After each person read, we spent a few minutes talking about what they'd come up with. Since we knew we were winging it, the comments weren't really focused on critique, but there were a lot along the lines of, "Ooh, that's a great opener for a story."

At the end, given all these, "I so want to read the rest of that," comments, Jenny gave us homework. For next month, along with the regular submissions, each of us is going to submit a short story/poem grown out of one of the prompt responses from last night. I'm looking forward to it. The especially cool part is going to be seeing the finished draft of a work that I was there for the birth of. It's a neat thing, to be involved in someone else's process like that, and to see the pieces come together.

Without further ado, I give you the prompts:

1. I went first. I'd been thinking of Frank O'Hara's poem, "Why I Am Not a Painter" and how the absence of things is a theme of it. So, for my prompt, I read the poem and then told everyone to write a scene without using any visual description.

2. Jenny told us to think of a bumper sticker we've seen. Then, thinking of that bumper sticker, we had to write something about the person who'd drive the car that bumper sticker was attached to.

3. Mary opened her iTunes on her laptop and played us a recording of Amy Beeder's poem, "Yellow Dress." It was really interesting to see how everyone responded to a different idea, image, or phrase in the poem.

4. Deb's prompt made us think of two antagonists, either from our own work or someone else's, and then write a conversation between them where they complain about their protagonist.

5. Shane told us we had to write a descriptive narrative without using adjectives or adverbs. We had to rely on choosing just the right nouns and verbs to convey ideas without using modifiers. Boy, talk about tough.

We got a very cool collection of prompts to try out and we all had a ball. Being forced to wing it created some fun and unexpected results. The nice part about responding to prompts is that it's very low stakes. It's a good way to get your inner editor out of the way - it's timed so you don't have time to muck about with thinking too hard about what you're writing, and you've only got a few minutes to come up with something. It doesn't have to be gold, it just has to relate to the prompt. It's liberating.

If you're curious, I'm posting one of my responses. This one is what I came up with for Mary's prompt. The part of the poem I responded to was the idea of looking at a prone body, and, if you know me at all, what follows shouldn't surprise you much. Fair warning, there's some gore, so if you're squeamish, proceed with caution.

June pulled the collection wagon to the side of the road, tugging on the horse's reins to slow it and stop. Here was another one to add to the pile in the back of the wagon. It was especially ripe, too, all oozy and reeking. Once upon a time, it looked like it had been a teenage boy. Now it just laid there and twitched a little when she got close, its jaw opening and shutting in a feeble mimicry of biting.

“There, there,” June said softly, pulling out her machete. The two crusty holes where it used to have eyes turned toward the sound of her voice. The thing flailed weakly, little more than sloppy skin outlining a stick skeleton. A tear in its flesh along its rib cage tore open a little wider with the movement, gaping like a second mouth trying to bite her. June leaned over and swung the machete. The mouth stopped biting as the head rolled off a few feet and its body went limp. June tossed the body into her wagon. One more for the compost heap.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Live From the April CWC Meeting

Hey all, I'm posting this during a lull in our CWC meeting. Since Deb's turning in her epic manuscript, we decided to give her two months to give us halves, which left us with a meeting without material to critique. So, we decided to do writing prompts. It's fun.

So far we've had a prompt built on bumper stickers, a poem, and describing a scene without visual description. I'll put up a full list tomorrow.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Too-Much-Twizzlers Dilemma

Good news, the Twizzlers worked. I've gotten a whole lot done this week, and I even managed to end up with some leftover bribe. It begs the question, what to do with the extra? Given the givens, it seems like this weekend might be a good time to start making head-way on that 4 hour goal.

Since I'm heading into the section of Oracle where I'm going to be going from blind rewrite into digging out my old draft, that means that at least part of that 4 hours this month will be less about writing from scratch and more about revising/re-writing. I am still absolutely counting it.

I'm a little curious about diving back into the old draft since I've spent so much time away from it. Should be interesting, to say the least.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Shameless Bribery

Right now I've got a lot on my to do list and, to help me through it, I'm bribing myself. I try not to use bribery too often, 'cause the last thing I want is to become dependent on it to get work done. However, right now I need whatever help I can get. Enter the Twizzlers. Mmm... They're great writing bribery because they're easy to eat without making a mess. These says, I hardly ever have them except when I'm bribing myself, so in my head, Twizzlers have become forever tied to writing.

Do you ever bribe yourself when you need to get motivated? What do you bribe yourself with?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Book Recommendations

Since I gained some reading momentum last month, I'm hoping I can keep it up at least a little. To that end, I'm going to ask you all for some help. I'm looking to find some new authors and I'm hoping you might have some books to point me to.

These days I'm looking for books that have some humor to them, whether that's the overall tone of the book or an undercurrent. Snark, slap stick, whatever, I'm in a mood to bring on the giggles. Genre-wise, I'm pretty open. I'm not really interested in Romance and I tend not to read a whole lot of Sci-Fi because it's a genre that I think translates better on film. That said, I'm open to any other genres.

So, can you give me a couple of titles to look up? Thanks in advance.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Writing Hours

Last month was reading based. This month is going to be writing based. I'm aiming for four hours of working on Oracle. I know four hours doesn't seem like much, but it's a starting place. I really want to get my next CWC submission prepared in advance, and that's the first step in getting there.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Wow, 4.5 Books Is A Lot

On the 31st, I considered finding a YA or comic book to get me through. Ultimately, though, it felt too much like cheating so I called it and finished the month with 3.5 books. That makes me one book short of my goal. Bummer.

I will add a bit of a "however" to that, though. March was a weird month involving strep throat that knocked me out of commission for a week. I initially thought being sick would be a great time to do some reading, but it turned out that it's hard to concentrate on a book when all I wanted to do was sleep pretty much all the time. Ugh.

Still, I read more than I would have otherwise, so I call that a win, even if it's not a complete one.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Fits and Starts

Right after my last post about how my reading momentum was gathering speed, I hit a road block in the form of the picky reader impulse.

I picked up Sherman Alexie's new short story/poetry collection, War Dances. Since it's Alexie, I thought I had it in the bag. An easy book to get into, right? Not so much. His style in this book is very different than the books of his I love, far less dry humor, far more literary. I read a story, thought, "Eh, maybe I'll like the next one better." Half way through the book, I set it down and didn't feel like picking it up again.

Next, I opted for Chuck Palahniuk's Stranger Than Fiction, a collection of non-fiction essays. They're basically mini documentaries and lack story. I got about half way through that one, then I set it down too.

After some thought, and another trip to the library, I cracked open Christopher Moore's The Stupidest Angel. I figured I was in that kind of mood and now I've whipped through about half of it in no time at all and look forward to finishing the rest. Thank goodness I finally found one that fit my mood.

I'm staring down the end of the month and trying to read as fast as I can. For the sake of being on a deadline, I'm counting the half-way books. So, right now my tally is:

The last half of John Connolly's book + the whole Gail Carriger + half of Sherman Alexie + half of Chuck Palahniuk + half of Christopher Moore = 3 books. That leaves me with the second half of Moore's book and one other whole book to read by Wednesday. Doable, I think. I hope. Time to buckle down.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Gathering Reading Momentum

My, I've got to say, tackling four books in one month is proving quite the undertaking. More so since this is a busy time of the semester, and on top of the books themselves I'm also reading many student papers. Time's flying, which means it'll be spring break before I know it.

So far I've finished The Gates and Soulless. One and a half books down, three more to go. I'm not sure what I'll start next, but I've got a substantial pile from the library to choose from.

How's your March going so far?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Like Being An Agent

I just stumbled onto a fun website called Webook. It's got an interesting premise based on the idea of book selection by consensus. You can play with it two different ways:

1. Read 1st pages submitted by randomly selected authors. Rate them. Then you can move on to rating the 1st chapter, then 1st 50 pages of books that are rated well.

2. Submit your own work to be rated, and perhaps advanced, by the readers on the site.

The principle is that the books which are advanced and rated well then come to the attention of professional literary agents. It's kind of neat. I've signed up just for giggles, and I tried reading one 1st page. I read it, then I rated it, then I got to see the average ratings from other readers, broken down by percentage of ratings. That part was cool. As it turns out, my rating was the same as the majority rating. Fun, huh?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Decisions, Decisions

Hi all, I'm going to ask for a little bit of audience participation on this one. My photography club has a monthly contest and this month's theme is "Pattern." I've been going through my photos, trying to pick out the best one, but I've only been able to narrow it down. I'm asking you to do me a favor and help me pick which one I should enter in this month's contest. What do you think?

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Quatro Libros

February's 28 things in 28 days didn't quite happen. I got overwhelmed, I got distracted, I just couldn't pull it off. It was good to shoot for, though, and I got some things done that I wouldn't have otherwise.

This month, I'm shifting gears. My recent goals have been all about producing things. For March, I'm going to focus on consumption. My March goal is to read four books in addition to finishing the book I'm currently reading. So, four and a half books total.

I just need to average about one book per week. Should be doable. I hope. It may not seem like all that much, but when I factor in the workload of teaching, especially at this point in the semester, it's more intimidating. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Needle and Thread is Published

The February edition of The Absent Willow Review is out and one of this month's stories is mine. Totally cool.

You can find it here.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Week 3 Plan

This week's to-do's:
1: Grade one class's worth of final drafts
2: Make handout for Eng. 102's project 2
3: Taking photos of earrings
4: Take car to the shop
5: Grade second class's worth of final drafts
6: Grade third class's worth of final drafts
7: Submit one story for publication
Bonus: Cookies!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Ancient Hairs, How Exciting!

I just stumbled on this nifty science article that talks about DNA testing on a sample of hair that's thousands of years old. Ok, I know it brands me as a nerd to be all excited enough about this article to pass it on, but, well, I've never claimed not to be a nerd, have I?

Mostly, I thought I'd pass it on to you folks because it offers fun imaginative possibilities. We're learning more and more about those who came before us, and an article like this practically begs for a story behind the man. If you close your eyes and imagine what this man's life might have been, what comes to mind?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Week 2 Amendment

I had a realization about daily goals. They need to be flexible. It's silly to have time on one day to do the next day's thing, but put it off because it's the next day's thing. I know it seems obvious, but it took me a while to figure that one out.

This week, I'm not going to worry so much about strict adherence to which day something gets done on (with the exception that certain things, by their nature, should not be pushed back). I think it'll make the experiment more realistic.

Unfortunately, I'm starting off this week without my first thing - coffee w/the pirates - done. But, that was totally the weather's fault and not my own. Crazy Colorado winter. Today, of course, it's sunny and the snow's melting and the roads will be perfectly fine by the evening. At least that means my students in the two classes I have today shouldn't be using weather as a reason for being absent.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

On To Week 2

My first week of having daily goals went okay. I was kind of spotty on hitting all the goals, but it was nice to have something to try for each day. Overall, I got some things done I wouldn't have otherwise.

For the second week of the experiment, here's what I'm aiming for.
Monday: Pirates' meeting
Tuesday: Finish grading 102 rough drafts
Wednesday: Finalize plan for 102's second major paper
Thursday: Make a pair of earrings
Friday: Goof off
Saturday: Library run to swap out reading materials
Sunday: Submit story for publication
Floating Goal: Bake a batch of cookies

Monday, February 1, 2010

Thing a Day

I've got to be honest, I've been feeling a bit overwhelmed recently. I feel like my to-do list is too large scale. Now, since it often helps during these times if I focus, if I break things into chunks, I'm going to do exactly that as my challenge for this month. I'm going to look at what I want to do and make it into really, really little parts. Then I get more check marks on my list and a clearer sense of making progress.

For February, I'm going to plan a week at a time and give myself a list of at least one specific thing to do each day. 28 days = 28 goals. They won't all be writing goals, but I'll be aiming to get a check mark every day. Depending on the week, I'm also going to have one or two floating/bonus goals.

Without further ado, here's this week.

  • Monday: Meet with Cindy and send my thesis to Forth Collins. (first check mark of the week!)
  • Tuesday: Grade all pending homework for my classes and prepare peer review forms for their first project.
  • Wednesday: Finish typing up my latest story.
  • Thursday: Go to poetry reading on campus.
  • Friday: Grade at least one class's rough drafts.
  • Saturday: Submit a story for publication.
  • Sunday: Take photos of earrings I've made recently.
  • Floating goal: Do a total of 9 miles on the elliptical at the gym this week.

Are you up for joining me?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

If It Was Easy, or Going on a Roadtrip

Today I wish things were easier. I've got a couple of things I'm trying to do and all of them are hard and take a lot of work and effort. For instance, on Monday, the CWC gave me a full manuscript critique. They all had good, solid comments that will help me make the Cass book better. But, it's going to take work. There's a lot to do.

Between that and other things, there's a part inside of me that's starting to whine. It's crossed its arms, plopped down in the corner, and is scowling out at me saying "It's hard! I don't wanna do this any more." That's the little kid in me who's overwhelmed and impatient. That's the part of me that sits in the back seat and keeps saying, "Are we there yet? Why aren't we there yet? Are we ever gonna get there?" even though we've just pulled out of the driveway.

Some days, my inner impatient kid has a really loud voice and today is one of them. That makes today a mediation on being a grown up. In my kindest, gentlest tone, I have to remind the kid that we'll get there when we get there. Maybe there are detours, and yes, it was really frustrating when the tire blew out and stranded us on the side of the road for hours during a July heatwave, but tires can be mended and sometimes detours turn into the highlights of the trip. We'd never have had lunch at that wonderful cafe if we had stayed on the planned route.

My inner kid is still feeling cranky and wishes we were there NOW. But, it's the grown up who's driving, and it's the grown up who knows how good it's going to feel to finally get to our destination. That first step out of the car once you're there, that's what it's all about. You finally get to relax because you've arrived. Now it's time to stretch your legs, see the sights, and take photos. Years later, it's the photos that stay with us, not the hours in the car.

The thing is, there have been things that have come easily to me. Not many, mind you, but a few here and there. The thing is, it's just like the psychologists say, when it's easy, we have a hard time appreciating it as much. Note all the lotto winners who are bankrupt two years later.

I have to remind my inner little kid that the important things are supposed to be hard. The difficulty is what makes us treasure them all the more.

Even so, there's nothing wrong with making an extra stop from time to time to bribe that kid with some ice cream.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Off the Premises

I did some bar pages last night. It may seem an odd choice to go to a bar to write, a comment voiced by a few of the people I ran into last night, but it works for me. I got a few pages written longhand, which meant more than half of the story.

I was stuck on an idea for a while, then I remembered a few sentences I jotted down a couple of days ago and realized that, with a little bit of adjustment, I could make it fit. So, I sat at the bar, sipped a drink, chatted with some people, and wrote. Looks like I'm going to meet my goal for the week after all.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Delicate

My main goal this week was to write a short story. I found a contest, On the Premises, and I thought it'd be fun to enter it. The deadline is the 30th. If you click on the link, it'll tell you what the prompt is. In short, the key word is "delicate." The hard part about prompts is that there are a handful of ideas that pop into your mind right away. But, those ideas are popping into everyone else's minds as well. The trick, when working with a prompt, is to try and follow the guidelines but be original at the same time.

Frankly, I'm stumped. I think this calls for some out of the house pages.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Deal-breakers, or Books I Didn't Read

In the past week or so I've picked up three different books that looked interesting at the library. Each seemed interesting when I read the back flap, but I ended up abandoning all three. I'll readily admit that part of it was circumstance - I just came off of a couple books that were really, really good, so I'm pickier than usual. However, there were reasons beyond that for why I put them down. At least two of the three would have been put-downers regardless of mood, and so it makes me curious whether or not you would have done the same.

Book 1: The Harsh Cry of the Heron by Lian Hearn
It seemed promising because the back flap says the main character has a secret - he can only be killed by a member of his own family.
It lost me in about three pages thanks to a zillion exclamation marks - just about every other line of dialogue ended with a ! Also, there was the part where the narration was talking about how the main character sparred with his wife so their daughters could see how a woman could be a fighter. Then, a few paragraphs later there's the part about how the daughters are going to a special assassin school - i.e. they're already fighters. It's not the hugest thing, but the logic glitch combined with the !!!!!!!!!!!!!!s, were enough together to pull me out of the book.

Book 2: Cyndere's Midnight by Jeffrey Overstreet
It seemed promising because it has beastmen in it, which can be fun.
It lost me when I started to see how the premise was going to work and I just didn't get into the characters. Some POV jumping right away didn't help.

Book 3: Wraith by Phaedra Weldon
It seemed promising because it's an urban fantasy with a female protagonist - the type of books I'm keeping an eye out for as I work on the Cass book - it's good to know what's out there that's like your stuff, after all.
It lost me when the protagonist started getting on my nerves. She's 28, but she spews out this constant stream of airhead teenage vocabulary - words like "neato" and "oogy" all over the place. Now, while I don't mind the odd cornball word, when they're in every other sentence and make me think, "What is she, twelve?" I have to put the book down. Cutesy and noir do not play well together.

How about you, have you got any recent deal-breakers that made you stop reading?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Primeval

I recently started watching Primeval. I had never heard of it, but it's one that's available for instant viewing on Netflix, so I watched the first few minutes to see if I was interested. They hooked me right away and I've been speeding through episodes ever since.

The premise: After a report of a "monster," in a local British forest, three guys from the university, lead by Dr. Cutter, a professor of evolutionary zoology (a professor whose wife disappeared in that same forest after a similar report eight years earlier), go to investigate. On the way, they run into a gal from teh zoo who's in the forest for an unusual lizard. They find out that the monster is actually a dinosouar who's come through a bizarre magnetic field from its time to ours. From then on, the team goes around, catching creatures that come through these anomalies. There's also an over-arcing plot revolving around Dr. Cutter's wife.

Now I'd be the first to point out certain logical/logistical holes in the series. They're minor, and not vital to the overall story, but they're the nit-picky kinds of things that bother me sometimes. Also, there are times when they over-simplify things that would, in real life, be more complicated. However, I'm hooked on the Mrs. Cutter plotline, the characters are a lot of fun and the one thing that the show does really, really well, is mechanics. There's a definite horror element to the show - come on, it's all about people getting eaten by creatures - and they do a great job of building tension. It's not often that a show makes me jump, but this one does plenty.

I'm fascinated by the fact that it's not brilliant TV, but it's definitely got me hooked. The pacing/plotting is spot on and I love the fact that I'm not paying attention to the holes because I'm too busy paying attention to other things. That's good writing.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Dollhouse: The Big Reveal

Dollhouse got cancelled, so we've only got a few episodes left and Joss is really ramping things up. In episode 11, a whole heck of a lot happens. We've just been plunged into the beginning of the big showdown and, among other things, there has been one particularly big revelation. For a few episodes now, there's been the question of the identity of the man behind Rossum. Our heroes are working hard to find out his identity.

Next comes the spoiler-y bits, though I'll try to not give everything away.

I've been following Joss long enough that I can see his patterns, so when a certain character who's been gone suddenly reappeared, I knew she was there for a reason. When she entered a scene right after two other characters had a "moment," I knew no good could come of that. Sure enough, she killed one of them.

But, the biggest thing came later, in the last few seconds of the episode. The whole time we've been leading up to seeing, through Caroline's eyes, the identity of the man behind the curtain. Caroline finally walks into the office and meets him. I was immediately confused because, in keeping with Joss's M.O., this dude should have been someone we know, and he wasn't.

Then comes the turn. She meets him again (there's logic here with the technology), and this time, he is a character we know. Not only that, but the reveal comes through her memory, while in "real time" she's alone in a room with none other than that same character. Next come the credits, leaving that moment just hanging there for a week. Joss is a cruel, cruel man sometimes.

During the first season of the show, I was pretty neutral. I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it. Now that it's been cancelled, the stakes are higher and everything is bigger, more focused, and more urgent. I knew Joss had it in him, it's just a shame that we had to wait until it was already too late to see it.

I can't wait to see what he does next week.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Black Snake Moan, or How Far Is Too Far?

I just finished watching the movie Black Snake Moan. If you're not familiar with the plot, here's the quick summary: Christina Ricci is a damaged young woman, who was sexually abused when she was young. When her boyfriend leaves for the army, she becomes untethered, gets in a bad situation, and winds up beaten and left on the side of the road. Samuel L. Jackson's character finds her, brings her into his home to heal her injuries, then discovers her history of sleeping around. Since his wife has just left him, he decides the only rational thing to do is to literally chain Ricci to the radiator and begin the task of "getting the devil out" of her by showing her that there are ways to connect to people other than sexually.

There are interesting things that go on in the story. Ricci and Jackson are both going through the same situation, just opposite sides of it. Jackson's wife was unfaithful and as soon as Ricci's boyfriend left town, she was unfaithful. Yet, instead of taking out his anger on Ricci, Jackson's character decides to save her. In redeeming her, he ultimately saves himself. The chain goes from a symbol of imprisonment to one of safety, of connection.

The thing to remember is that the movie is meant to be more allegory - yeah, there's a chain, but it's not really about it being a chain, but about connection. Still, there's that moment when she finally regains her senses after coming out of her drug haze that's decidedly uncomfortable. She realizes she's been chained and, naturally, doesn't like it. "I have to get home now," she says. He tells her she's not going anywhere. Now, seriously, I don't care who you are or where you're from, the idea of being chained up by a prisoner is just not one that evokes warm, fuzzy feelings.

By the end of the movie, the main characters have evolved, and the fact that he held her against her will slips away. I just don't know if that sits right with me, even though I think there is much in the movie that was really good story telling. I haven't fully decided whether or not the chain went a step too far. Which isn't to say I'm squeamish. But, we all have certain things that bother us more than others. Gore? Nah, I don't mind. Body count? Eh, I'm okay. But being chained to a radiator? That touches a nerve.

What stories/novels/movies have you come across that went too far for you? Are there any you can think of that stand on the line, but don't quite cross it?

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Little Bits

I've been swamped with big projects this past year, like working on the Cass novel and finishing my thesis. It's all been a series of big bites, and the past couple of months were exhausting. Going into the new year, I feel the need for a change of pace. I am officially declaring January the month of small projects.

I had some time the other week to start two new short stories, and it was fun to think on a small scale again. This month, I want to finish at least one of those - one feels like a dead end - and maybe do a couple more. The cool thing about working on smaller projects is that they get done faster, which means you don't have to wait as long to feel like you've accomplished something. I don't know about you, but I'm very much in the mood to see ticks on my TO DO list. Starting with small things, or chunking big things up into small parts can be a good way to pep yourself up and get some momentum going. It's a good way to fight the bogged-downs.

This month, I challenge you to think small. Write some flash fiction, a poem, a short story, or a one act play. By the end of the month, you'll have at least one thing finished. Not a bad way to start the new year.