Friday, July 30, 2010

A new old project

Nekar perches on the edge of my desk. He squints at the monitor and then glares at me. "Just what do you think you're working on?"

Whoa boy. I knew I'd get busted. I just didn't think it would be so soon. "A new old project."

"What the does that mean? It doesn't look like anything Trust related."

"It's not."

He gets up and comes closer, peering at the words floating before him. "Who the hell is Sahmara?"

"A character you don't know from a novel I wrote years ago that I've wanted to get back to revising. I needed a Trust break."

"Look." He stands in front of my monitor, making a right nuisance of himself by blocking the paragraph I'm working on. "We've all noticed the lack of incoming characters around here lately. Marin is still missing. The discarded adverbs are all sorted. Ms. Wildstar and Xander are off making moon eyes at each other. Zsmed made a move on Delilah and hasn't come running back to my corner yet. Everyone else is sitting around, reading their cut scenes and growing restless."
"Hey, I let you all keep your names for now."

Nekar glances at his nametag. "Thanks for that. However, I'm here to warn you that something is going to go down if you don't give us someone new to play with."

I run through the distant memory of the novel I'm working on. "I can't think of anyone from this novel that I need to cut. I wrote this one after the bloated nightmare of a novel that spawned all of you."

Nekar's shoulders droop.

"Are you pouting? You are!" That's hilarious, but I've already rubbed it in enough so I don't say that outloud. "What is this really about?"

He points down to the mountains of crumpled paper and the two couples blathering to each other like no one else exisits.

"What, you want me to cut a woman from this novel for you? Is that it?"

He turns to me, looking mortified. "No! You think I want to hang out in character purgatory forever? Gamnock got to go back into Trust. For goodness sake, if you won't give me anyone to fight, write me into this new novel! Get me out of here! I can't stand another day of listening to those moronic lovebirds!"

I rub my chin. "Interesting idea. I can't promise anything, but I'll keep your plea in mind."

"You do that." He climbs over the edge of my desk. "It might be a plea for now, but if you take too long, you might find it's become a threat."

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

No thanks, but thanks

Rejection. It's not a fun thing. Yet, it comes with the territory and we have to accept that it's not personal. It's not you. It's not me. It just is.

In light of a nice rejection I received two days ago, I'd like to thank the thoughtful, patient and utterly considerate editors out there who take a moment to add a helpful comment to the standard variations of "This isn't right for us, but thanks for considering our publication and we wish you the best of luck in placing your story" form letter.

This editor took the time to note a few typos that managed to get past me. While mortified I actually missed those typos even after reading the darned thing out loud to myself, at least now I can go onward in my search for a story home knowing that they are fixed. And so I thank you, dear editor, for taking your time to help the typo-challenged of us out here in submissionland.

Angela Ackerman, over at the Bookshelf Muse, did a wonderful post on rejection today. In light of saving me the time I'd planned use waxing on about the subject, I recommend checking it out.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

When evil characters go bad

I'm happy to announce that Beatrice is dead. Overjoyed, in fact. I think I'm supposed to be feeling tragedy at the fact her life went so wrong, perhaps nodding at the injustice of her sheltered childhood and how it made her into such a horrible person. But no, I'm just smiling because she's finally dead and I can put the book down.

There came a time yesterday as I sat outside, enjoying the elusive perfect weather of mid-summer, with my dog happily at my feet and three young hawks chasing each other through the woods, when I nearly tossed the book into the unlit firepit. I read the few distasteful pages that killed any remote sense of redemption for wayward MC and closed the cover in disgust. Did I want to bother reading more about this horrible fictional person with no redeeming characteristics whatsoever? At that point, not really.

But the day was so lovely and peaceful and if I put the book down, I'd have no excuse to keep myself outside rather that endure the racket of my children reaquainting themselves with the X-box and television after my son's long electronic deprived week at camp. Toys were again scattered over my orderly floor, friends were visiting and my husband was busy drilling and grinding something in our workshop. No, it was far better to subject myself to quiet (other than the screeching of the hawks) and attempt to learn something from dispicable Beatrice.

Which means I didn't toss the book into the firepit. Instead I took a deep breath, opened the book, found my page and continued to read.

Beyond friday's post, here is what I learned.

- A MC has to have SOME redeeming quality or I want to see her fail. Please don't make me wait 600 pages to see her fail in two paragraphs of lackluster, I'm-ready-to-die action.

-When every other character in the novel can't stand your character, it isn't a good thing. It doesn't make her more evil or misunderstood. It just means they all see the logic and reason the MC missing.

- A MC who's motivation is the steadfast center of their life at the beginning of the novel shouldn't spend the rest of the novel contradicting their motivation in every bold way possible just to create conflict. It makes no sense and makes me want smack them upside the head and ask, "What the hell are you doing?" Deliberate self sabotage is not compelling

- If there is a direct conflict between the MC and another character, for goodness sake, act on it. The terror factor I praised in my previous post sputtered out shortly afterward. The words, "he's coming" only have so much effect when repeated for the next three hundred pages without anything actually happening.

- Do not point out the direct problem with the novel in dialogue. "It's like you wish things to happen and the gods just make it so." Yes, exactly. No one stands in the MC's way. Stuff just happens. Stupid stuff. Stuff that makes you look at the words again and just exclaim, "Why does no one at all question this? Why on earth would the MC even think of this course of action when there are twenty other far more logical options that never cross her mind?"

- Ruining other characters for the sake of it (because she's evil!!!), characters that would have helped the MC if only she had actually spoken to them in a logical manner, is just wasteful and makes me want to chuck the book into the firepit.

- Writing in first person with random moments of omniscent pov is disconcerting.

- A MC who knows they are evil but keeps being evil anyway, just cause, makes me want them to die horribly. Yes, this somewhat repeats my first point. Which is another point. Don't repeat everything in case I didn't catch the anvil the first time around. I got it. Thanks.

- Just because I enjoy some books by an author, doesn't mean I'll love them all.

Friday, July 23, 2010

How much evil can you tolerate?

I'm halfway into Philippa Gregory's Wideacre at this point. While I'm enjoying some aspects of the book, I keep getting distracted by asking myself the question above.

The main character, Beatrice, starts off as a young girl in awe of her father and his social position as a Squire. He owns land. She loves the land. That's all good.

There's no hint that Beatrice is actually the antagonist until a short while later when she falls for the gamekeeper's, half-gypsy son, figures out that she's a girl--in the sense that she won't inherit the land she loves, it will go to her older brother who doesn't care about it like she does--and plots with her young lover to kill her father so she can control her brother, who turns out to be in love with her.

As if plotting to kill the father she's adored since early childhood just to keep her hold on land--because her brother will need her to help run it, he's an idiot when it comes to management--isn't bad enough, she has a moment of clarity, attempts to stop her lover from following through, but doesn't get there in time and then tries to kill him to keep everything secret. Beatrice is officially evil. And horribly vain.

I don't mind that the story is told in the antagonist's pov in so much as I have a hard time caring what happens to her. It's more like watching a car accident in slow motion. I'm rooting for her to get caught. She's grasping at straws to stay home and not marry--which she should know by fifteen, is her duty, as much as that sucks. And she's totally avoiding any forward planning past what hole in the damn she needs to plug next. One of these days, she's going to run out of fingers.

Her mother is happy to avoid the truth of what her daughter really is. Her brother is happy to have someone to sleep with who shares his tastes. Her new sister-in-law is happy to be out of her abusive childhood home and is grateful that she has Beatrice to run interference with her 'rough' new husband. Oh and did I mention that sixteen year old Beatrice has managed to get pregnant with her brother?

The whole not even realizing that getting married is bound to happen for a girl, to get shipped off and not inherit, seems kind of like avoiding the obvious for the sake of making the story work. She's also not ever once taken the fact she could get pregant into account with all her jumping to bed, at fifteen, with a commoner who lives in a shack down by the river, which would ruin her reputation to no end and what on earth would mama and papa say? Or what about when she sleeps with her brother? Nope, never once crosses her mind until the revelation that she knew she was pregnant for two months but was hiding it from herself--and us.

Now, onto the story thread that I'm most enjoying: the 'he's not dead yet' young lover. See, Beatrice is evil, but like most evil folks, doesn't check to make sure the person they tried to kill, is actually dead. Evil fail! Now she's terrified he's going to show up, maimed as he is, and tell the truth about who she plotted with him to kill her father. This aspect of the story, the terror of being found out, is done really well, full of heart-pounding, she's-going-to-be-found-out moments. The sad thing is, so far, only one other character is bright enough to suspect she's even hiding anything.

What I've learned so far:
1. Check to make sure your victim is dead! Not doing so only causes convienent plot points.
2. Being an evil character is fine, but being oblivious about common conventions in their own setting/world is not.
3. No amount of excellent description of characters and settting will hide the fact that the other characters are all going far too easy on the MC, easily explaining everything away that should be an anvil.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Guilt Monkey update

Hold your bananas! The rat story is finally started! Not enough that I'm bragging about any wordcount or content, but it does officially contain words.

I've begun reading a new book. Exciting announcement, I know. I needed something to read while soaking in those lovely oatmeal anti-itch baths. My current selection is Phillipa Gregory's Wideacre. More on that another day when I get further into it. So far it's good, but moving a bit slow which is not unexpected for 647 pages of historical fiction. I've enjoyed several of her other novels, so I'm willing to give it a chance to truly draw me in.

Mumurs of NaNoWriMo 2010 have begun to surface. As the muncipal liasion for my region again this year, that means its time to gear up, plan events, solicit donations, and brainstorm goody bag items.

Then there's the Young Writers program end of NaNo that I host in an elementary school and assist with at the middle school level. Thankfuly, I found a wonderful school librarian who was willing to take on most of the adult duties last year. I'm debating whether to pull in more schools, knowing I'll not be able to be personally involved unless I finish my clone factory in time. Oh delegation, you are the bane of my controlling exisitance.

Today's question
For the upcoming NaNo season, should I:

A) Not follow in the true spirit of the event, already having proven I can whip out a 50k draft in 30 days 4 times and instead make a 50k effort at rewriting one of my current novels in 30 days. Actually sitting down and diving into those projects hasn't happened yet, though I love all of those novels and think they all have promise. This would be far more of a challenge for me.

B) Set a good example and do it the right way: Do a little brainstorming in October and then write 50k from scratch in 30 days.

C) Run with a prompt you guys come up with because that would be something different for me to try. Each year I attempt to at least challenge myself to write something different or explore a different way of writing. Such as: new genre I've not played with before, a main female pov that does not technically kick ass, multiple povs, humor, etc.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Tap, Tap, I'm done

Since I had a little too much... ahem... fun this weekend and the poison ivy is still driving me nuts, I gave up trying to concentrate on writing. Instead, I finished reading Tap, Tap .

While the quick, clear characterization remained utterly inspiring, the various character voices were well done, and the witty character comments kept coming, a clumsily inserted major plot point halfway through brought on a revelation anvil in an otherwise materfully crafted dark tale. After I recovered from the anvil, (I swear that was the reason for the cold washcloth on my forehead) the solution to the mystery was clear. By the point the main vampire kidnaps the protagonist's wife, I called the ending. Reading the last quarter of the book was just to confirm I was right. I was.

Would I recommend it: Yes. The story is dark, distrubing and definitely adult in nature, but it's an entertaining variation on the typical vampire tale.

Empty wine bottles: too many
Rat story words: 0
Rotten bananas: 5

Friday, July 16, 2010

Vampires of a different sort

Why I'm reading this:

My mother in law handed it to me a few months ago and said, "I know you like vampire books." She shrugs. "I was out of things to read." She's a shut-in reading addict more of the Nicholas Sparks and Danielle Steele variety. Vamp novels are totally not her thing, so I took her "this was really weird" with a grain of salt. I was heading to the beach with the kids and grabbed it off my To Be Read pile without ever even glancing at the inside flap.

Turns out she was right. But in a good way. Tap Tap not your typical sparkly, angsty or lusty vampire novel, to be sure. Gritty, twisted and full of surprises, I've been enjoying every minute of it.

Maybe I'm twisted all on my own, but I've laughed outloud several times at the witty and masterful characterizations of the vampire's unfortunate victims. I am in awe of Martin's ability to pack so much characterization into a paragraph or two, painting such a clear picture that I know exactly who the unfortunate soul is and when they die a page or two later, I find myself caring.

I can't see the end yet, which is a big plus for me. When I finish, I'll deliver the final verdict, but so far I'm impressed!

Rat story progress tally:
Rotten bananas thrown: 2
Progress: 0

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Another writing distraction conquered!

First of all, thanks to all who stopped by last week to vote on the direction of my newest writing project. The rats have won! I spent some time doing my rat research last night and am ready to dive in when tonight's writing window comes around.

Onward into my victory!

Prior to rat research time, I was busy cleaning up the remnants of my far too long and drawn out redecorating project. After much swearing and cursing of the original builders, I am happy to announce that the laminate floor is in! The tools are put away, the sawdust has been vacuumed, and the chaos of renovation has been put back to rights.

Behold the the before and after.

The green room becomes...

The red room!
(Yes, we still need new carpet. That wasn't in the budget just yet.)

The other half of the room.

Ah, that feels good. If only it would stay all neat and clean.

Okay, guilt monkeys, I have all my major distractions out of the way. I declare that two weeks from now, I'll have the first draft of this rat story done. Here are your bananas. Thank you.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Why is everything blurry?

I had planned this victorious monday morning post. As usual, my plan went out the window as I pried open my eyes. Well, one of them anyway.

As of last wednesday night, my flowerbed project is complete! My last task was to clean out the overgrown play area--mostly filled with invasive pricker vines which have kept my kids at bay and kept their toys all over the yard since last fall.

The mission was successful. Mulch mountain is no more. The weeds are removed. The toys have their old home back. All was well... until...

I woke up the next morning with blisters all over my arms and cheek and realized we'd been hosts to poison ivy. In the thirteen years we've lived here, we've never had a problem with it. Now, apparently, we do. Or at least, I do.

Vegetation obliteration spray has been applied. Anti-itch cream as been heartily slathered. Thankfully I was wearing gloves so my hands are only slightly affected or it typing would be a miserable task. The bad news is, I'd just cleaned out the wayward raspberry bushes the night before and my arms were covered in scratches that happily absorbed the aggitating oil and I was hot as hell while pulling the weeds and apparently wiped my face on the back of my glove several times, so my eyelid, cheek, jaw and neck are also affected.

As if that wasn't enough fun...

I spent my weekend intent on making the the best of the situation by finishing up the living room project--at least that could be accomplished in the luxury of air conditioning. The last slip cover has been sewn. After a month and half of walking around it, my sewing stuff has been put away. Hooray!

With all of sunday ahead of me and a severe need for distraction from the ever increasing urge to itch my skin down to the bone, I give my husband the wifely equivelant of the boo-boo lip and got him on board with finally putting in the laminate flooring. After much swearing, sweating, prying up of staples and ancient tack strips, and breathing in of carpet padding funk, the new flooring was laid.

This morning I woke up with a half swollen shut eye and a puffy side of the face. Thanks allergies and poision ivy!

Today, I'm planning to enjoy a cold washcloth on my face as much a possible. Tonight we can conquer the trim and then put things back to rights. Tomorrow I can get to writing about the rats.

Lets hope that this time, things go according to plan.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Oh rats!

I've started a new story. The one I was percolating in the last post. This is a dysotopian-type story, set after a major earth-shattering catastrophy. Being new as this story is, I'm still feeling my way around it, seeing where it will go, before settling down and pounding it out.

As of last night, Marcus, the MC, is busy searching for food and fending off fellow raiders and rats. The prompt I'm working with allows for either sci-fi or fantasy. So, my question for you today is: Should I have fun and include the pov of the rats or keep this more serious and about the humans struggling for survival?

Cast your vote in the comments box.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Garden Tour

While Trust is bubbling around in the subconscious thought percolator, I'm busy brainstorming a new project, possibly a short story or novella. I'm also percolating the long awaited ending to Swan Queen. So many things to think about, I tell you.

This morning I went over feedback on a sci-fi short and got that submitted. That makes three shorts out in submissionland at the moment. I like to juggle a few things out there at once so when a rejection comes in, I'm not too bummed. After all, there are still other possible positive outcomes in the works.

Since I'm doing all this percolating, and ironicaly, this post was not on the list, how about I share some of my garden projects I've been bathering about for the past two months.

Previously. this was a solid mass of siberian iris.

And this was a mess of four foot tall orange daylilies that endeavored to choke out everything else.

These edging bricks were all covered in grass and dirt.
I've done a lot of archeological dig gardening so far this summer.

Added a lot of new stuff here, and after four years of neglect, treated this sun beaten patch of sandy garden to some much needed mulch.

Before I attacked this, only to top row of bricks was showing and the japanese iris had taken over. Amazing what a few years of letting things go will do--and not in a good way.

The new pond I put in. Previously this was a little 30 gallon pre-formed pond. Now its three foot deep and four foot by six foot wide. I wanted it bigger, but the waterfall section is sitting right on top the remains of a tree stump and I wasn't energetic enough to rent a stump grinder.

Lots of weeding done here. If I let this go, it would be a oak and pine tree forest.

The other side of the photo above. It's a very wide garden section.

A new section I put in a couple years ago that only needed some mild clean up.
Hands down, the easiest bed I had to tackle.

The roadside garden. This one was also recently redone so it wasn't horribly overgrown, just weedy.

Finally! One I can show you that has nicely filled in since last fall's makeover.
I hope they all look this nice next summer.

The other section of roadside garden. Did a lot of rearranging of perennials here because the bushes have all grown so much since I first put them in.

The iris patch in front of my very neglected garden. Blame my fractured ankle that came at the wrong time of year. (Is there a ever good time of year for that?) Did some major dividing and giving away of plants from this section.

Two years ago our new neighbors put in this fence which offered me the excuse to finally tackle one of the last untamed sections of our yard. Goodbye pricker vines and sassafrass trees! Moved a bunch of divided stuff into here and did a lot of weeding. Those sassafrass trees are like adverbs, they keep popping up everywhere!

Four more non-spectacular gardens are going undocumented for now. They need to fill in a lot before they are at all worthy of a photo.

I hope you enjoyed the tour. :)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Therapy puppet theatre

Let's just say I'm very glad I didn't jump the gun and post any bursts of good news a couple weeks ago. For those who weren't privy to this as it played out, (a big thank you to those who were. Your support is very much appreciated) I present my last couple weeks through therapy puppet theatre!

Player One sits down and opens up her board game, Lifopoly (the board game I seem to have mashed together in my previous post). She sets up all the game pieces with care, making sure to follow all the instructions and sits back to see if anyone wants to play the game with her.

Player Two happens by. "Say, is that Lifopoly? I love this! Can I play?"

Player one says, "I'd love to play with you! Have a seat."

"Thank you!" Player two sits down. "I really like what you have here, why don't you go directly to Go and collect $200?"

"Really? That's awesome! Thanks!" Player one picks up her thimble game piece and starts to move toward the Go space.

Player Two's brows furrow. "Oh. Hmm. I couldn't help but notice that you're using a thimble. Would you be opposed to using the iron game piece instead?"

"Sure. No problem."

"Oh. And how about instead of car game pieces, you call them hover ships?"

"I can work with that."

"Would you mind changing all the people pegs from pink and blue to yellow and purple?"

"Uhhh. I guess not."

"Great. Let's play."

Player one wipes her brow and moves her iron closer to Go.

Player two rubs her chin. "I just thought of something else. How about we skip the number three when we roll or spin."

"Umm. Okay." Player one gets out a sharpie and turns the number three on the spinner into a snowman and makes an X on the three side of the dice. "Can I move to Go now?"

"Do you have a full house?"

Player one blinks and looks from Lifopoly to Player two. "Uhh, what?"

"A full house. Do you have one? Maybe royal flush?"

"This is Lifopoly, not poker."

"Looks a lot like poker."

Player one surveys the game again and then notices the cards in Player two's hands. She cocks an eyebrow. "Well, I suppose they are both games."

"Lifopoly also reminds me of Cribbage."

"I don't even like Cribbage."

"Nevertheless, it reminds me of Cribbage. And Go Fish."

"Huh? Really?" Player one picks up the hover craft with it's family of purple and yellow pegs inside and examines it. "Well, they are all games so I suppose you could call them connected."

"I don't like card games. Unless you change Lifopoly into croquet, I don't want to play."

Player one picks up the iron game piece and pictures whacking it around the lawn with a mallet. "I guess I'll see what I can do."

Player two gets up, jarring the game board and sending all the game pieces flying. "You know where to find me if you want to play croquet."

"Yeah. Thanks." Player one watches Player two leave. She lovingly picks up her game pieces and packs them away in the box, one by one. She takes one last look at the Go space and then folds the game board up. "Well now, that was interesting," she says to the empty chair. "Guess I'll put this game away for a little bit while I decide whether croquet is my thing or not."

She picks up the box and gets ready to leave. The corner of the box rattles and lifts up ever so slightly. Player one notices a high-pitched hum and waves her hand in the air, thinking to shoo away a mosquito. A tiny, bright red hover craft wizzes in front of her face. It's purple and yellow occupants have grins on their little bulbous heads. She briefly wonders how they are driving since they have pegs for bodies, but shrugs the thought off in light of everything else on her mind.

"We're free!" They cry. The hover craft does one more lap around player one's head and speeds off.

The therapist snaps his fingers. "Hello, cazy writer lady, time to put the puppets away now."

"Oh. Right. Sorry."

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Remaining nameless

I sit here this morning, surveying my plethora of discarded characters, not wondering, as you might think, where one of them might be or what they are up to. No, I'm wondering which ones I can lure up to my desk to rip our their names.

Why this sudden need for names? Well, due to certain events, I find myself in the position where I must rename several main characters in order for my novel to proceed down the path of possible success.

Why does this suddenly sound like a board game? In its current state, my novel does not pass go or collect $200. It doesn't even get that piddly job where you get $12,000 every payday. (Where can I get that job in real life?) And please don’t let me land on that ‘you just bought a skunk farm’ space!

While I am rather attached to the current names of my characters, I also like the idea of passing go. The names that belong to these that are milling around on my floor amongst the crumbled papers and adverb crates aren't doing anything productive at the moment and I like them too. As a plus, these guys all came from the same novel so I don’t feel quite so much like I’m grabbing names from thin air.

You might imagine I’m sitting here, perusing my character stock with steepled fingers and pursed lips. You’d be right.

They’re going to notice me and get suspicious soon. If I don’t post on Friday, you’ll know this didn’t go well.

“Hey you.”

“I have a name, you know.”

Not for long…