Monday, May 31, 2010

Painting and musing

Due to a dark and wet day, I've had to shift to plan B for my long holiday weekend tasks. That means I'm back to painting walls.

As I'm painting away, my mind wanders--which it likes to do when I'm in the midst of mindless tasks. It wanders to Anne Mini's blog posts of this past week regarding the perils of the Frankenstein manuscript. You know, that masterpiece you've revised twenty times in various stages over weeks/months/years.

I have one of those. I've been over it countless times since the final major overhaul. I've read from beginning to end. Critique partners have been over it from beginning to end. I've read it outloud. I've done a find/replace hunt on all my character's names that have changed spellings to make sure they are consistant. I've double checked all my spacings, my punctuation, use of italics, and formatting. Everything should be perfect, right?

I've painted my wall. I wiped it down, filled the holes, mixed the paint, put down my dropcloth, cut in all the edges with perfectly straight lines, and applied the rest with a roller ever so carefully. It should be perfect right?

Yet, why is it that when company comes over, I notice the spots I missed? That line I cut in at the ceiling wavers all over the place! How did I manage to paint over a long hair and embed it in my wall (and by the way, pulling the hair out only makes the mess far more obvious.) And I swear I used the same roller and the same paint, but the color from the beginning of the wall to the other side is uneven!

The heart of the analogy is:
A. Don't invite company over.
B. Don't paint your novel.
C. Pay attention to what you're painting instead of mulling over blog posts and your wall might turn out better.
D. Your novel will never be perfectly perfect, but make sure the color is even and the lines are straight before inviting company to look at it.

(For the record, I'm finally happy with my novel and fairly secure that I've got all my bases covered with this particular frankenstein. Not to say I don't have niggling doubts. Which is where this musing analogy stems from.)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Fortunes and Flogging

Sometimes you open a fortune cookie and roll your eyes or get a good laugh. Sometimes they aren't even 'fortunes' but general sayings. This one was so appropriate I had to wonder if someone slipped it to me on purpose, so I thought I'd share.

I apologize, my cell phone camera apparently wasn't up to the job. For those who can't read blurrese, it says: The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.

In other news...

Upon visiting one of my favorite procrastination sites this morning, I see that Ray at Flogging the Quill is running low on first page submissions to flog. If you'd like an editor's opinion and faithful readers to comment, follow the instructions at the end of any flogging post. I've run a mine through a couple times and received some very helpful comments.

In light of the upcoming long Memorial Day weekend, and all I need to get done before it, I'll keep this post short today. I plan to spend my weekend hopefully finishing up my flowerbed renovation project. Anyone else have productive plans?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Tag redux

The tag strikes back from a new opponent, Stella Telleria .This time I am charged with sharing the seven most fascinating characters I've come up with.

Oh, so many to choose from.

1. Leoric of Swan Queen - The timid son of an ambitious duke who goes from being known as the Mouse to the Hawk in the mind of the princess on the run. Why he's fascinating: Leoric was meant to be a throw away character, an experiment with writing someone dimwitted for a purpose within the story, however, he grew on me, became a major character, bringing about one of the most emotional scenes I've ever written.

2. Samarah of Samarah’s Sunset – Alone and far from home, Samarah prays to the goddess for help, only to learn that even the gods charge for their services… and they don’t take coin. Why she's fascinating: I set out with the intent to write something quite different from Trust: a female MC in a fantasy world. Samarah’s situation opened the door to adding an element of romance into the mix with both men and women.

3. Joshua of A Broken Race – A simple-minded man born into a life of hard labor who brings about the healing of what is left of humanity when he stops being a cog and becomes his own wheel. Why he's fascinating: After good things happened with Leoric, I thought I’d see where the simple-minded character would lead me in a dystopian setting. Playing with both sides of the sweet, well-intentioned, yet unwittingly violent young man proved to be an interesting challenge.

4. Watcher of To Exist – A robotic being learns religion from humanity and prays the knowledge will save its priceless research. Why it's fascinating: Writing an it that felt no emotion and had no expression wasn’t easy!

5. Dragon of Not Another Bard’s Tale – All he wanted was his jewel back but the knight who made the deal to find it was taking his sweet time and the townsfolk looked awfully tasty. Why he's fascinating: Dragon is the only central character in the story to not have a pov scene, yet he is the glue that holds the entire story together. Plus, writing a ticked off, hungry dragon was just fun.

6. Kenric of Swan Queen – Is he an evil duke as many say, or a proactive man moving to secure the countries borders and expand his people’s wealth with new resources and land? Why he’s fascinating: Kenric has been a good lesson in writing the bad guy who thinks he’s a good guy in his own mind, and sometimes it’s just liberating to be in the bad guy’s head for a while. Is that scary to admit? Probably a little.

7. Yanis of Samarah’s Sunset - Captain Yanis serves as gruff protector to Samarah, the lone woman in a band of starving, desperate men until he meets his end during a skirmish as they make their way home through enemy infested borders. Why he’s fascinating: Yanis was an angry man, bad-tempered and stern, yet his death turned out to be quite touching and a major turning point for Samarah.

What, no Trust characters? Many of you know them by heart by now so I thought I’d pull out some that are lesser known. Of course, Vayen, Delyn and the gang are fascinating in their own right.

Now, since I’ve already tagged others on my first time around, I’ll call my duty done and sign off. Thank you, Stella, for giving me a reason to revisit some of my attention-starved WIPs.

Monday, May 24, 2010

If only I had more time

There came a time in my life when personal and work interests took me away from writing. Though I had enjoyed the outlet writing gave me, I just never found the time to get back into again.

When the planets aligned eight years ago, allowing me to quit my job in printing and become self employed, I'd envisioned all this 'extra time' I'd have to write. After all, my son would be moving into kindergarten soon and business was sporadic. Slow days wouldn't mean me sitting at my desk twiddling my thumbs or chatting with co-workers, I could be writing without worry of the boss catching me work on personal projects on company time.

I started to write again for at least an hour or two and during the day, and as my love of writing reignited, a couple hours at night once my son went to bed. It felt wonderful.

Ten months later, I had my daughter. Let me tell you, having a baby at home directly impacts writing time and mental capacity for constructive thought.

I thought naptime would be my writing escape, but I was tired too, and friends called, housework needed to be done, and of course, work.

When I finally got her to the preschool stage, I was overjoyed to have my quiet writing time back. Work was slow enough, I could write again and make time for both kids and parental/social obligations.

I started looking around online and found some writing groups to get involved with. My actual writing took a back seat to learning how to write better.

When full time school hit, I thought I was golden. I would have all day--on slow days--to write!

But the bills still want to get paid and new equipment must be purchased to keep up with changing demands? Crud. My slow days were spent with promoting the business and developing new products. Then there are critique partners to work with, learning about this whole publishing business, and figuring out how to make my writing suck less.

Now business is good and steady. Which is great. Except that mythical devoted writing time I'd envisioned? Yeah, that just never seems to happen. Something will always come up. Something I can't blow off because it’s not a matter of break time, or being off the clock. There’s overtime, rush jobs, and customers calling during my morning writing hours and no boss I can give puppy-dog eyes too and beg to get out of it. No sir. It’s all me.

That time you hope for, that you can devote solely to writing, will never happen unless you make it happen. Write when you can, be it five minutes here and there or a block of hours you set aside each day. Every word you manage get down is one step closer to putting that idea into words, or finishing and polishing your current WIP.

If you have the fortitude to shut your door, turn off your phone and internet and just sit and write, go you. I allow myself to do this one month a year—November for NaNoWriMo. I know I can pump out an entire rough draft of novel in a month. I’ve done it four times. But if I did that all the time? I’d quickly find myself single, wearing the same clothes all week and living off ramen noodles while my children played in the street.

So it’s all about balance. We all sacrifice things for what we love, right? I won’t cut my kids out or my husband, work still needs to get done and the yard needs my attention, but I will turn off the tv, let the answering machine get the phone during writing time and do my best to stay off the internet unless what I’m doing is writing related. I will try to manage my time to get the most out of a day as I possibly can.

That doesn’t mean that everything coming out of my fingers during writing time is uber awesome, but hey, getting words written is half the battle. The other half… I’ll get to that when I have more time.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Bunny fodder

I hear feminine sobbing and sniffing coming from somewhere in the midst of the crumpled pages that litter my floor. Ms. Wildstar, the most likely suspect, is over at the edge of the room trading beautiful and handsome adjectives with Xander.

Delilah is languidly combing out her lusciously long, curly, ebony hair far too close to the adverb storage crates for my liking. And she's not sobbing. She's casting coy looks at Nekar and Zsmed.

Unless the rabid dust bunnies did a real number on Marin's manly bits, I'm thinking it's not him crawling back into our midst. Everyone else seems to be accounted for.

Hmm. I give up all pretense of writing and dig around in the paper until I uncover the culprit. "Trala?"

She looks up at me with tear-filled blue eyes. "You remembered my name!"

"Yes, well, I do that. I wrote you, for goodness sake. You're right here." I point to one of my character sheets where her name and information are neatly typed. Of course, there's also a big, thick sharpie line through it all.

Her sobs elevate to full-fledged wailing.

"Oh, shut up you whiny woman. It's not like you're the only one cut around here." I point to all the others who are shaking their heads and rolling their eyes at her.

She takes a deep shuddering breath and holds up a scrap of paper—recently cut from the sequel I gather by its position near the top of the pile. "She says I'm sappy and boring."

"Ms. MC never liked you. I thought that was pretty clear from the original scene you played an active part in."

"She was just jealous." Trala balls up the paper and tosses it aside. "Mr. MC bought me a pretty blue dress. It matches my eyes." She batts them at me as if I hadn't noticed them yet.

"Very true. But she was already jealous of the other women Mr. MC spent time with. You were an anvil."

"Are you saying I'm heavy?"

I'm saying you're not real bright, you dimwit. Yet another reason you got cut. "Noooo, I'm saying I’d made the point twice and in this case, the third time was not the charm. It was the anvil hitting the reader over the head."

"What about the other girls, did they get to stay? Are they lighter than me?"

I smack my forehead. "There were a few that floated away, the rest were heavy anvils like you. You're not alone, dear." I pat her little head. Huh, sounds rather like a ripe watermelon.

There are times when a character can be less than intelligent and it works within the story. Trala was not one of them. She was just aggravatingly dim and that made her all wrong as a love interest for Mr. MC. Not only that, but when I decided to add more of a romance twist to the novel, those 'other women' had to go unless they served a major purpose. This one, nope, not one of the lucky two.

Hmm. On second thought, the 'lucky two' both ended up dead, so I suppose they weren't so lucky after all. Hey, I might be on to something here...

"Hey Trala, I hear there are some cute bunnies behind the desk. Maybe you should go look for them and see if they are hungry."

"I love bunnies!" Her face bursts into a grin that reeks of unicorns, sparkly rainbows and i-s dotted with little hearts. She dashes off into the shadows.

Population control at its finest.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Monday update

I had planned a fun post for today, but instead decided to spend my creative efforts on a final nitpick edit run. Not that I finished the edits, but I did get several chapters done and since it's been a little while since my six hundred and twelth time reading this thing, I was enjoying myself. All right, maybe I exaggerate slightly, but I've read it a lot.

My fractured ankle is starting to bother me less. I'm officially off my crutches and down to hobbling in my walking cast. Which is nice because I'm falling woefully behind on my flowerbed cleanup project that I'd begun before misfortune caught up with me.

To further overload myself, I've picked right now as the time to paint and redecorate my living room. Why on earth would I do that now? Our tv blew up. Seriously. Tiny flames and several puffs of smoke and all. Which means a new tv is required to view few shows we do watch. Which means we have to get the newest tv, the kind that doesn't require our current mammoth entertainment center. Which means dismantling said mammoth entertainment center and finding new homes for the far too many knick knacks that it has become the home for over the past eleven years. And while this is all going away, what better time to paint than before the much smaller entertainment center and new tv arrive?

I'm also in the midst of rethinking a short story that needs revising before going back out into the world and coming up with better blurbs for all my work than I currently have so I can post it on my new page writing page here.

You know, if there ever came a point in life where I only had one project going on, I think I'd self-combust out of boredom.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


Nothing makes me all warm and fuzzy inside quite the same way as chatting on the phone with a fellow mom and hearing that her child is still plugging away at their NaNo Novel even six months after our school NaNoWriMo Young Writers program has ended.

Contented sigh. Another kid turned on to the joys of writing.

I've run into several of my writing program kids in the past weeks while doing volunteer work in both the elementary school and middle school where I run the writing program. Several of them are still writing, others are looking forward to next November. On days when I feel down about my own writing, I think of these moments and feel successful.

I'm not a teacher. I'm not an awesome public speaker. In most social cases, I'd rather be in my writing cave, but doing this program for the last three years has been a very gratifying experience. It has driven me to start submitting my work so I have something to show for my efforts and to set an example of success. I'm very excited to have something to show them this year, and by November, I hope to have a couple more.

Ah, goals and a deadline, they are a powerful motivation.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

An interesting way to waste time

I'm innocently critiquing a story last night during Lost's commercial breaks when my husband says, "Go check this website out. The pictures of Dubai are amazing."

So I do. It's both cool and a little disturbing. At least I think so. Sure makes me think twice about doing any gardening in a bikini, that's for sure. Yeah, I know, that sounds weird already, but I'm not one of those people who can just sit and sunbathe. That lasts for five minutes (unless I'm in the midst of a really good book), and then I start looking around at all the things that need doing in the yard. I might as well do two things at once.

But someone somewhere could be unknowingly capturing that unflattering pose and posting it for all to find.

On the other hand, there have got to be a million story ideas hidden among these photos. What could those two people at the theme park be doing? Who is the woman talking to on her cell phone as she walks down the street? And my personal favorite, why is there a man standing in his underpants in what looks to be a construction site?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Looking back

After I 'finished' my first novel -- turns out I was far from finished, but at that time I did manage to finally write 'the end' to the long-winded, backstory-ridden, learning experience that it was -- I needed a break. I needed to step out from under my rock and learn about craft. To begin this journey, I wandered into fanfic territory. It seemed a little less intimidating than joining an actual writer's group.

Playing with existing characters in an established world helped me to learn to write in various points of view and learn to get a character's voice right, to keep them seperate and keep them acting consistantly. Because if I didn't, whoa boy, did I hear about it from other fans! I had to do some research. Me and Google got real familar with one another. I learned how to give and take critism. And I met some great people. (Hey Gracie!)

I've been on a nostolgic kick lately, likely spurred by digging back into the sequel -- which was the second big thing that I'd written -- so I reached into my archived files and pulled out my fan fic novella, my first forray into writing something completely different. A western.

Honestly, I had been entertaining the thought of stripping out all the fanfic bits and rewriting it into something original, maybe a fantasy short.

I remembered the bumbling romance story as a little corny with a side of cheese and a bit awkward in a few places, but it had been well received by readers. Egads, memories really gloss things over.

Things I've learned since then, as illustrated on the first page:

1. Paragraphs should not be huge blocks of text that take up a quarter of a page. Maybe one here and there, but not every. single. one.

2. Proper formating. Double spaced with indents everyone?

3. Adverb control. Round those villians up and shoot them. Except that cute one with the big brown eyes. One or two can remain alive for flavor.

4. Omni is not my best choice for pov. *cringes*

5. Dialogue tags are not needed every single time someone speaks.

6. People that are getting beaten usually react in some way other than (or at least along with) glaring daggers at their assailant.

7. All you critiquers that complain that I don't describe enough would be squealing with glee in the midst of the description overload in this monstrosity.

8. Commas are my friends when used correctly.

9. A story is better shown than told. But it was startling and bizarre, I tell you!

10. A lot of blood doesn't mean someone is automatically dead. Feel for a pulse, you idiots.

After recovering from the dizzy spell brought on by all the head shaking and ironing my forehead from all the brow scrunching, I'm not sure I can do anything with this other than call it a learning experience, but it was gratifying to see how much I've learned since diving into this writing thing more seriously.

I don't know if I can make it through page two. But really, how much worse could it get?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Tagged: Seven awesome things

Thanks to Spammy, my planned post will have to take the back burner while I ponder the seven most 'really awesome' things I've read about in any book.

1.Dune's sand worms that create spice to make people live longer. Really Awesome. We just won't mention how they create it.

2. Again from Dune: The Bene Gesserit litany against fear.

3. And again: Weirding modules. When a word has real power, look out!

4. From the Taltos series: Morganti weapons - they don't just kill you, they kill your soul too.

5. From the same: assasssins that kill your body for money but if you have enough money and are found quick enough, you can be revived from the dead. Say it with me: I'm not dead yet!

6. Thieves' World: for introducing a M/M character relationship to their mix back when they were not so publically accepted or widely written about.

7. Bill the Galactic Hero: For just being silly and making me laugh. How can a solidier who literally has two right arms, be wrong?

And now what I've revealed my awesome things, I'm to tag four people. These lovely four people will then have to ponder seven things of my chosen topic: Seven most interesting ways a character has died in a novel you've written or read.

Bontanist - I know you have plenty of dead characters to work with

Marion Sipe - Here's a topic for you and your shiny new blog. :)

Penelope Barber - You've been quiet lately. Hopefully that means you're busy writing.

Owllady at Letter Go - Have you managed to work 'death by drumsticks' into a story yet?

Have fun.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Oh frak!

I fall in love with alternate swear words on tv. I freely admit to using Frak, Frell, Dren, and even the more obscure Felgercarb in conversation as if they are socially acceptable substitues for the real things. If I'm out with friends, I'll likely use the real thing. Unless I'm conversation with fellow geeky friends -- then those other words seem to come up as if they are some special code only the cool, geeky people know. That may seem like an oxymoron, I know.

Stubbing my toe often brings forth a string of, 'frak frelling frak!' Somedays my writing resembles a big pile of dren. Forgetting to record a tv show might result in a muttered 'oh felgercarb.'

I get that on tv, we get alternate words because it allows the characters to swear and keeps the censors happy.

In stories, this sort of thing bugs me. Sometimes.

In sci-fi stories, I'd much rather have characters actually swear in familiar terms. Sure, in the future I'm sure we'll come up with new obsenities, but I can relate to the current ones so they work for stories set in current day or the future.

Whereas in fantasy, I'm not fond of the 'f word' but other milder words don't bother me, however alternate world or religon based swearing seems more effective. Using something different helps establish an alternate world or time period feel.

Not all books need to contain this sort of language, but in others it is part of the characterization. I've written stories with and without swearing, both real and made up, it just depends on the character and situation if its called for or not.

I've received enough positive critique comments for using real obsentites in my sci-fi novels that it leads me to believe I'm not alone in my somewhat twisted preferences. Yet, in perusing publishers websites, I've run across a few who refuse to consider any works containing real swear words, though made up ones are acceptable.

Out of curiosity, what do you prefer?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sequel update

I know you're all just dying to know how this sequel project is coming along. Ok, maybe a little feverish? A cough or a mild headache? I'll settle for distant concern.

Anyway, the answer is: Slowly.

Not for the fact that I don't know where the story is going or the characters aren't cooperating, I just haven't had the time to devote to it. Ten to twelve hour work days are just not conducive to creativity.

And now I've managed to complicate matters by fracturing a bone in my ankle so I'm not getting as much done work-wise or any-other-wise as I was before wednesday when I dashed for the business-line phone on a sleeping foot. Snap! Ouch! Let me tell ya, the answering machine can get it next time.

Hopefully work will slow down soon -- just a little would be nice -- and my ankle will heal up quickly so I can get back on track.

The Trust query is to a possibly workable stage, despite Gamnock's antics.

One short story is out in submission. Another is ready to head out very soon. The newest was to be from the pov of something not human. And so for inspiration, I turned to this Flight of the Conchords song- which turned out not to really inspire the short story at all -- other than the use of a robotic(ish) pov. But their songs always make me laugh and who can't use a good laugh now and then? Enjoy.