Friday, December 23, 2011

Last post of the year

Well, I'm rushing around trying to get ready to hop on a ferry.

I wish everyone safe travels this holiday season, and I'll see ya all in the new year :)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Gifts of the season

On Monday, those fine folks over at Unicorn Bell posted a request for submissions. The topic? A gift we have either given or received, doesn't have to be Christmas.

Of course I had to write something...

So here's my gift, and it's 100% true!

Since my Nana died a couple months ago, and it's actually her birthday today, or was her birthday I suppose... I'm thinking a lot about her this Christmas season. That horrible doll was the first gift I remember receiving from her, and last night while the husband and I decorated the Christmas tree, I was flooded with memories as I pulled out a number of hand-painted porcelain Christmas ornaments she had given me over the years. I took a picture of a couple:

Now, these are merely trinkets, nothing like her bigger, more detailed work, which is still all wrapped up carefully in boxes downstairs. But these were also made for me... notice the leprechauns? I've got about 6 different leprechaun ornaments on my tree... so she painted a green hat/scarf on the snowman and found the little leprechaun ornament specifically because she knew I'd like them. The bell on the left is from when she first started china painting and if you look carefully, you can see the date. I cut my name out of the picture, which unfortunately also cuts out half of the painted scene. The snowman was one of the last things she painted before her eyesight was too poor to paint, and it's from 2006.

I've also spent the last week or so cleaning out the basement in preparation of receiving a truckload of her paints, brushes, and boxes of raw, unpainted porcelain.

In the case of my Nana, I suppose not only her gifts of painted pieces, but her gift of teaching me to paint will be carried on in some fashion. No doubt next Christmas season some of my family members will receive ornaments or some other such pieces painted by my hand instead of hers.

Do you guys have any specific/special traditions in your family?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

First night of Chanukah

Well, the husband and I aren't Jewish, but tonight we will be downtown Victoria celebrating the first night of Chanukah with the lighting of the 2.5 meter high menorah at the legislature.*

What do you think... is it just wrong to wear a Santa hat as my head-covering?

Maybe I should play it safe and go with a toque...

Edit: Okay, we just got back and I was inspired to put this up:

Now we're going to watch Adam Sandler's 'Eight Crazy Nights' and decorate the Christmas tree.**

* That's just over 8 feet tall
** Yup, totally not kidding. I know, I know... mixing holidays. We both love the movie, but are strongly divided on the whole 'deer-thing'. If you know what I'm talking about, I think it's absolutely disgusting...

Monday, December 19, 2011

Wow, is it really 10:40pm?

Okay, my day just disappeared...

I shopped for the last few Christmas gifts (including something for the husband), then spent the majority of the day decorating the house and preparing a nice dinner with caprese salad*, wine, and a plate with tasty cheeses, apple, bread, rice crackers, etc.

That may sound like an odd dinner, but it's something we do when we need to just chill out and relax. Normally we have chill-out music, but tonight we had on the Christmas music, which is a huge range, from Brad Paisley and Gretchen Wilson to Avril Lavigne and The Barenaked Ladies, to all the old classic stuff. And of course the Colbert Christmas special music... I kill myself laughing whenever one of those songs comes on :)

The pets were also required to be festive** for the evening while the husband and I just relaxed with a fire burning. I didn't take pictures this year, but here's a couple pics of them from last year.

She was pretty tired when I took this, notice the red-crack-eyes that beagles always get.

The cat is obsessed with bows. He steals them off every single gift and runs around the 
house with them. Such a funny little brat.

Anyways, it was a wonderful evening... just what we needed to get into the spirit of the season since we've both been a little stressed 'cause of all the travelling/driving around.

I hope everyone has a chance to have an evening of relaxation with all the craziness of the season :)

*If you don't know what this is, it's an Italian salad where you cut slices of tomato, sprinkle with a little salt & pepper, add a leaf of fresh basil, then a slice of bocconcini cheese. After, it's most common to drizzle with a good quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar, but I have this interesting balsamic reduction, which is thicker and sweeter, so I use that instead of the oil & vinegar. My husband is Italian, so we often eat Italian food.

** No, I'm not a crazy person who dresses up my pets all the time. One day a year, that's it :) ...though I do think the cat would look adorable in a ghost costume for Halloween... and maybe a pumpkin for the dog ;)

Friday, December 16, 2011

'Tis a crazy season

...which is the reason I'm not posting until, hmmm...

...6:00pm my time.

So here's the thing. I suck at multi-tasking. I'm like one of those horses where they put the blinders on so they aren't distracted by what's around them.

Yup. I'm that bad. It's surprising I can chew gum and walk at the same time... especially considering I'm blonde.

If something isn't directly in front of my eyes, it's like it doesn't exist for me.

Now, this tunnel-vision-thing is totally awesome when I'm on a tight deadline and things need to go-go-go, 'cause I can easily shut out everything around me and just focus.

When it really sucks is when something messes up my careful single-minded-plan. Like when the husband came home last night after his Christmas-work-party, crawled into bed and shut off the alarm 'cause he didn't have to go into the office early today. He also left his car at work and took a taxi home. So, at 9:15am when the cat used my stomach as a spring-board to hop from the bed to the windowsill (most likely to growl at the wandering deer) and woke me up... well, my carefully-planed-out-day was already ruined.

My plan for this morning was:

6:00am wake-up

6:30am breakfast with the husband

7:00 husband leaves for work

7:30 shower/get ready

8:00am, take pick-up truck in for service (some kind of recall on the door handles -> the latch could just pop open at any time. Do you feel safe? I sure don't.)

10:30-ish/11:00-ish, drive to Rona* to exchange a couple things and buy a bunch of things (for renovating the house and de-witching the yard. Maybe they have one of those squirrel guards large enough to keep the deer away from the bird feeder...)

12:00-ish lunch

12:30-ish big Costco run since we have little-to-no food in the house (since we've been away so much)

1:30-2:00-ish drive home/put food away

2:30-ish drive to the BCSPCA to pick up a signed form and drive it to the Police station**

3:30-ish get pet food ready since the cat goes to jail tomorrow, the dog is going to Vancouver with me

4:00-ish get myself ready for the weekend away

4:30-ish clean house, think about making dinner, etc, etc, etc

...and instead, my day went a little off-track. Let's just say I got breakfast, I drove the husband to work, the handles on the truck are now fixed so it is less likely the doors will fly open and I will fall out into traffic, my form is dropped off at the Police station... and not a whole heck of a lot else got done.

Normally, this wouldn't be a big deal, but until the new year, I'm home exactly 6 days and the fridge doesn't fill itself. If I don't make time to shop, well, the husband and I will be eating cat/dog food 'cause it'll be the only thing left in the house that's edible. I've also got Christmas shopping to finish, gifts to wrap, keep the cat/dog clean*** and their nails clipped so the cat doesn't shred anyone and the dog doesn't tap-dance through the house in the night and keep us both awake.

I don't think I'm even going to have time to put up our Christmas tree or decorate the house.

I'm tired already and it's only the 16th!, if I'm a little lax over the next few weeks about posting, commenting on blogs or replying to email... this is why.

'Tis the season of craziness... and honestly, I can't wait until it's over, 'cause all this craziness certainly throws off my carefully-planned-out-schedule.

...and now my tap-dancing beagle is reminding me it is ten minutes after 6:00pm, meaning her dinner is ten minutes late. I'm thinking she'll give me two more minute before climbing onto the sofa and attempting to sit on my laptop.

Seriously, Snoopy has nothing on her when it comes to dancing...

So, how are your holiday seasons shaping up? Please, please regale me with your tales of relaxation and get-aways to warm, tropical locations... and nothing that involves long ferry rides...

* like Home Depot, but Canadian. I have a contractor's account with them.
** I'm planning to volunteer a couple hours a week at the BC SPCA, and to be a volunteer, you have to allow them to run a criminal check on you.
*** oddly enough, the husband and I are both allergic to cats/dogs, even though we have one of each. Feeding them raw food minimizes about 80% of the allergens, but once a week the dog has to be bathed and the cat has to be wiped down with a damp cloth to remove the saliva from their fur. Most people don't know that saliva is actually what most people are allergic to, not the fur itself. Dander comes in second, which is solved by the raw food diet, and the raw diet also changes the alkalinity of the saliva which reduces those allergies, but doesn't completely erase them.

...I know too much about raw pet food and allergies...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Great post on crit groups

I love feedback on my writing, like, to a near masochistic degree, so I'm all about writing groups, crit groups, CP's, beta-readers, all that good stuff. Call it what you want, if you can get an objective eye to look over your writing and honestly tell you what they thought (good or bad), that's an awesome thing.

But I'm also pretty quick to warn others that finding good people can be difficult, so be smart and be selective.

Janice Hardy (if you're not following her blog yet, you really should) did a great guest post today on some of the problems you can run into. No, this article isn't fanning the flame of negativity, she's really giving a lot of things to watch for so you can possibly know how to avoid/handle them if you ever get into that situation.

I've personally seen all these, both in real-life meetings, and in online relationships.

...and I know when I started getting my writing critiqued, my personal 'worst' was telling others, not necessarily that they were wrong, but I would try to point out why something was the way it was.* This could have been handled differently (and I think I'm better now), but I think each of the problems are also things that change as the writers grow together as long as there is trust and honesty between them.

I'm really big on asking questions. If someone finds a problem, and I don't really understand why it's a problem or how I can fix it, I ask. Sometimes it does feel like I'm asking a stupid question when it's clearly obvious to the other person what the problem/solution is, but I don't see a reason to feel embarrassed about doing that because I genuinely want to improve my writing. Feeling silly in that moment is a lot better than going away not understanding what the problem is... 'cause then you'll never fix it.

...and if I've learned anything about writers, we love to talk about writing as much (if not more) than we like to actually read/write, so someone asking us to explain further our opinion of something, well, you might as well just wrap that up in a bow, 'cause it's so much fun to analyze characters/plots/etc.

We are all monkeys madly typing away on our keyboards, hoping our next line is Shakespeare instead of nonsense, but it might not be us, it might be the monkey sitting right beside us. We're not in competition with one another, we're a group who are like-minded, goal-oriented, and perhaps just a little crazy, so I think it's great to help each other out and genuinely be happy for the monkeys who succeed one step before us. Between our own nonsense and their lines of Shakespeare, we can each improve and grow.

*this is primarily because I'm prone to over-thinking, even down to the exact words used within a sentence and what double meanings they could possibly have.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Guess the age semi-finalists

If you've been following Brenda Drake's blog hop/contest on character voice, today's the day she posts the 20 semi-finalists, so jump on over and check it out.

Since I'm out of town from Saturday until Tuesday, I won't be able to check myself, so I have no idea if I made the cut or not.

What I can say right now is, congrats to those who moved on and I hope those who didn't were able to receive helpful comments from other readers/participants.

I know I certainly appreciated every person who helped me re-work my entry :)

Anyways, see you guys in a few days! ...and I'll check out all you semi-finalists when I get back :)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Something to make you laugh

Okay, I've talked before about all the wildlife around *the witch's hut* and how the deer are a bit pesky, but we still like them.

So, my husband filmed something funny this morning:

...don't you love the witch-i-ness of our property? And this is after I power-washed 2+ inches of moss from the patio, chopped down the four-foot-tall grass with a brush-cutter and hacked away a ton of ivy to reveal whatever that is on the patio... I think it used to be a home-built smoker or something? There are cabinets, counters and a broken chimney with a fish on it.

Guess the character's age #2

Well, based on the comments, I cleaned up my submission a bit.

Is this better? Is it clearer that the body in the trunk isn't in there the same day Dave & Sam ask for a ride? Does the *crazy is relative* line make more sense now? I got it down to 245 words now.

Friday, December 9, 2011

A note of thanks

Thank you, prerna pickett, for offering me not one, but two blog awards. If you aren't familiar with her, I especially love her Five-for-Friday posts 'cause they're always so upbeat and fun. I'm an optimist, so I love meeting other people who are able to find the good in life rather than focus on the bad.

I've been given the 'One Lovely Blog Award' before, but it's my first time receiving the 'Blog on Fire Award', and since it's been a while since I posted the 10 random facts, I'll throw up another 5:

1) My beagle is named after a cartoon character (not Snoopy) and my cat is named after a philosopher

2) When I was a kid, I would not eat my food if it was touching another type of food on my plate. I'm still a bit weird about that...

3) I got suspended from Kindergarten 3 times (don't ask)

4) If I could choose a super-power, I'd want to be able to breath underwater and be able to dive thousands of feet below the surface without being crushed by the pressure. And I'd probably never go up on land again :)

5) I don't like most sweet foods. If you want to bribe me, anything sour is a good bet (grapefruit or sour candy), spicy (Indian, Thai, Szechwan, you name it, I'll eat it), or salty (sunflower seeds & cheesies).

Since most of what I babble about on this blog is pretty random/silly/strange, it makes me extremely happy that some of you guys are willing to put up with me, and it makes me think that somehow I've pulled off the greatest con ever...

Seriously, thanks, prerna and everyone who reads/comments on my blog.

N+A+M+E = ?

You could say I'm a lazy-namer when it comes to characters.

I don't agonize over the meanings behind names, or pick clever/interesting names. Honestly, I don't even give them a lot of thought whatsoever.

And this probably isn't a surprise to anyone who follows my blog since I've admitted to being a complete and total pantser*.

Often I use the first name that springs to mind and just keep moving forward with my writing.** Sometimes it's 'cause the name makes me laugh or it has some kind of strange/unconscious association with someone/thing which I don't even understand myself until later. The name just comes out of thin air, shows up on the page and that's that.

The name Triss (from Project #4) was a 'this feels right, moving on' kind of name. But I swear, after looking back, there's some actual logic behind it.

I wanted a strong, single-syllable, uni-sex name that is a chosen deviation from her 'real-name'. For me, it has everything to do with my impression of the character. She's strong, opinionated, rebellious, and because of her... uhm, questionable relationship with the nameless/genderless MC, the uni-sex quality of the name (Triss is short for Tristan, which is the character's middle name) was especially important to me. Somehow, the particular combination of sounds 'fit' that impression. If someone suggested another name which fit all those requirements and sounded right to my ears, I'd have no problem changing it.

The name Simon (from project #3) ultimately was a device to make me laugh. I had been reading articles on dialogue tags, y'know, the ones that tell you to always use 'said'.

...and my brain went, "how funny if the character was named Simon, so every time the character spoke, it would be, "Simon says", like that silly children's game, and the other characters would have to obey.***

...which quickly morphed into an overprotective older brother where the younger brother's character arc would consist of getting out from under his brother's shadow and making his own choices.

The younger brother was named after the chivalrous hero Hector from 'The Illiad' as, out of the two brothers, he is the one who is innocent, trusting and noble. This is one of those connections that I only figured out after I was about 3/4 through the story.  I simply 'knew' it was the right name because of how I felt about the character.

Unlike 'Triss', the names 'Hector' & 'Simon' will never change.

Faith, the most important secondary character in Project #3, well, it's pretty obvious I'm not getting any points for subtlety on that one... but I'm going to bet that no one who has read Project #3 (or the synopsis some of you readers kindly agreed to critique for me) would be able to guess why she's called Faith.

That's one of those things I'll take to my grave, but I'll give one very important (but probably unhelpful) clue. Not one single character in the entire story ever addresses Faith by name until the final scene. At that time, Simon speaks her name once and another character poses the question, "Faith in what, I wonder?"

What about you guys? How much thought do you put into names? Does it have to be the-perfect-name? Do you use names from people in real life, or from movies/books/entertainment? How likely are you to change a character's name? Would you, if an agent/editor asked you to?

* Hey, if I don't even know the name or gender of my MC, I'd say I've hit a new level of pantsing. Although I don't think it's something to be especially proud of, at least I'm having fun :)

** For some reason, 'J' names are unusually prevalent.

*** yes, yes, yes, I know I've got a strange sense of humor... especially considering I made it a point to never actually use the phrases 'Simon said' or 'Simon says' through the course of the entire book.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Guess the character's age

Brenda Drake is doing an interesting blog-hop in which everyone that signs up will post the first 250 words of a story. The point is to see if the *voice* is enough to tell the reader the age of the characters. You're not supposed to list title or genre.

Well, I'm going to use my NaNo story (so, slightly cleaned-up first draft) and I'm pleased to say I edited this section down to exactly 250 words, which is something I wanted to do anyways, 'cause I wanted to end with that particular line.

EDIT: And for extra fun, try to guess the gender of the MC :) So far it's about a 50/50 m/f split ;)

So without further ado:

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Voice-shred at Unicorn Bell

I seem to be a little out of it this morning...

Since I am an absolute masochist when it comes to receiving criticism on my writing, I've submitted another first-draft (ugh) scene from Project # 4 over at Unicorn Bell.

It's the scene where I was able to fit in one particularly, um, interesting bit of description.*

Drop by, check it out, tell me where I can hack off a few limbs - I mean, where I can do better ;)

*seriously, I have no idea why there are always so many vomit references in my writing...

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Calling all volunteers! preparation for querying, I have finally written *the evil synopsis* for Simon's Oath.

From my extensive online research, it seems the best way to test it out is to have someone who knows next-to-nothing about the story read it and mark down where they were confused/etc., any volunteers?

I'm totally willing to offer small editing projects in return...

Breaking, re-working & editing

The good part of NaNo is getting the rush of new words on the page.

The bad part of NaNo is often sifting through the mess when November is over and done with.

Yesterday I went through Project #4 and took a good hard look at what was there.

One of the main reasons I stopped writing (other than going away) was I had reached the end of the present-day timeline, yet still had about 1/3 of the party 6 months earlier to fill in, plus the night Jackson died. I was alternating scenes, but wasn't alternating them frequently enough, and I didn't have time to go through the story and move a bunch of the scenes around, and it felt too weird to suddenly stop alternating scenes and write out both nights in one big uninterrupted dump.

So that's what I did yesterday :) I broke large scenes up and moved a ton of them around, pushing the party 6 months ago way further up in the story and now I have a ton of small present-day scenes on their own into which I can alternate the two past time-lines.

It does annoy me that doing this wrecked the flow of the story in a bunch of places, for example, in one set of alternating timelines, I was using warmth/cold as conduits to move back and forth between the MC stuck in Triss' car and the whole bankrupt-moral-rationalization behind stealing from Jackson and from others.

Moving those scenes around completely destroyed that.

But it also coincidentally lined up some scenes in new ways that I hadn't considered.

Like the beginning/end of these two scenes:

Her mouth was only a few inches from mine and I could feel her warm breath racing across my skin and electrifying every single tiny hair on my body. “You know I only need you.”
“I’m tired,” Triss says.
It’s been about twenty minutes since she leaned into me. Twenty minutes of her rough breath beating warm and repetitive against my skin.

Yes, this need editing 'cause the wording is far too repetitive, but those scenes used to be really far away from each other, and although they worked in their original locations, I think they work far better now. Triss' breath against the MC's skin ties these scenes together, but in each place, the emotion/tension/reaction of the two characters is drastically different.

I could mourn all the great points where the flow got broken, I could even be obstinate about it and leave them how they were originally (after all, that would be easier in a lot of ways), but in the end, I think when you ruthlessly break up a story, you end up finding things you didn't know were there and it opens up directions you hadn't necessarily considered before.

Sometimes the best thing you can do for your story is to smash it to bits and re-examine the pieces.

For all those places where I *broke* the good flow, well, I figure if I managed to write good flow in the first place, then I certainly should be able to modify the beginnings/ends of each scene to re-create the kind of flow I want.

I know there isn't one definite way this story has to be written, and I find when I break a story and put it back together again, it's better and stronger than the original was.

So don't be afraid to be ruthless.

In my case, I had written myself into a corner and I needed to break the whole thing apart to make room to write.

How about you guys? Have you dared to re-read your NaNo stories? Any major problems that look absolutely terrifying?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Building connections

So, NaNo is over, and a big congratulations for everyone who made the 50,000 word goal!

I had a much more modest goal (25,000 words) since I was only home half the month, and I'm happy to say I hit it (barely), so I'm feeling pretty good about that.

I'm also pretty pleased that I will be able to go to the NaNo wrap-up meeting this coming Friday. Since I'm notoriously, and constantly, sick from November -> March, I normally make it to one meet-up a year. Last year I went to the wrap-up meeting as well, but was so strung-out on cold medication that I can't remember a thing that went on... no seriously, I remember going, I remember driving a couple of people home afterwards... and I remember seeing a couple of familiar faces around the table. I have no idea if I talked to anyone, and if I did, if anything I said made any sense whatsoever.

I don't necessarily consider myself a shy person, but I am an introvert for sure. I get tired quickly from being around/in crowds and have no problem spending hours alone with my thoughts (and my computer). I feel more comfortable talking with one person rather than in a group, and I enjoy, really enjoy, getting to know new people and listening to them talk about what they think, what they like, and why they think what they think and like what they like.

Two of the most enjoyable things about my crazy 11-day-3-city-jaunt were talking on the phone (while in Toronto) to another writer (who lives 2 hours outside the city), and meeting up for tea/coffee in downtown Seattle with another writer.

I started this blog and become active online to connect with other writers. I've chatted with some via email, back and forth conversations on their blogs, thrown myself into a few online contests, and even developed a brand new CP relationship with someone on the opposite side of the continent, but on my trip, that was the first time I heard someone else's voice and met them face-to-face.*

It was awesome :)

...and it made me want to meet more of you guys out there :)

I know I've put this question out there before, but why are you online? What do you want out of it? As you've made online connections, have those translated into real-life meetings/friendships?

*I may, or may not, have come across as a total weirdo though ;)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Abandonment complex 101

Well, it's nice to be home again, despite the constant cold that seems to blow right through the walls of 'the witch's hut'.

I've posted a picture of my beagle on here before, but I've talked more about my cat, like how he's in every story I write, just rarely as an actual cat, and that he's a rescue cat with major personality issues.

After being gone for more than a week, I picked the pets up Friday afternoon. The dog was wiggly and excited to see me, but as soon as we got home, she settled into her normal routine of sleeping and only waking up when she thinks she's going to get fed or when she wants to go outside and tear around in circles like a crazy beast (sigh... beagles...).

Usually the cat is super clingy for about a day (goes into every room in the house and cries until I call his name, then comes scurrying into whatever room I'm in) before going back to his usual aloof self.

This time though, he's been attached to me constantly, even now, the third day since he's been home.

He's not normally a cuddly cat. On occasion he will lay across my lap, but the moment I touch/pet him, he'll lash his tail, and if I try again, usually he'll bite me. Not hard enough that I bleed, but enough to leave half-a-dozen little fang-dents in my skin.

For the last three days, every time I sit, he jumps on my lap, stretches out and falls asleep. He doesn't even twitch, no matter how much I pet him, and he only bites me when I try to get up/move. He's been getting up in the night, going into other rooms and crying... until I barely whisper his name, then he runs into the bedroom, stands on top of me and rubs his nose all over my face, hair and hands (marking me, 'cause cats have those glands around their lips). He did this four times Friday night and three times last night. He's been following me all over the house, scratching madly on any door I close (there are rooms our pets are never allowed into, like bathrooms/spare bedroom/etc), chirping for attention and standing on my foot and wrapping his front paws around my leg -> wanting to be picked up and carried around everywhere or draped around my neck/shoulders.

...this is highly unusual behaviour... and it's making me a little worried, though I know for sure it's not 'cause he was mistreated at the kennel. He'll actually let the owner touch/play with him, which is... amazing to say the least.

...but is it also a terrible thing that I'm finding his strange behaviour super interesting/curious and I am paying close attention so I can write this behaviour into a character at a later time?

For now, I suppose he's just craving reassurance (maybe some kind of abandonment complex from being a rescue animal... even though we've had him 7.5 years and have left him at the kennel that long before), while the dog is cuddled in a ball on a different sofa snoring away happily. I think it's totally wrong to say dogs are loyal and cats are not. I think it's the exact opposite. The dog loves anyone who feeds or plays with her, but for my cat, only I will do. He doesn't share his love with anyone else, no matter what you try to bribe him with.

Anyways, 'cause he's solid black, it's nearly impossible for photos of him to turn out well, but here's a picture of my little philosopher:

...don't you love the super-puffy-squirrel-tail? ...I want to pull on it whenever he's sleeping on his cat tree with it dangling over the side... sooooooo... tempting...

Friday, December 2, 2011

I'm coming home today!, one more nibble, then I'll have the weekend to recover and I'll do a proper post again on Monday. Hope you enjoyed what's gone up these past 10 days!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

We're not happy until you're unhappy

Okay, this is one of the few times in my life I feel like posting a rant. I'm still not going to, since my opinion against spreading negativity online should be known well enough by now.

...but I sure came damn close this time...

Instead I'm going to post a warning.

For anyone travelling to/from/within Canada, seriously, choose Westjet or ANY other airline. Air travel is... invasive, de-humanizing, and horrible enough without also adding on the Air Canada unofficial motto, "We're not happy until you're unhappy."

...and if you think I'm being too harsh, my best friend is married to an Air Canada pilot and when they travel, THEY choose a different airline despite the fact he flies for free and she can fly anywhere for only $25 (or maybe it was $75)

So, if even their own staff choose to use another airline, what does that tell you?

NaNo, Day 30

I hope all my fellow NaNo-ers have finished or are on the home-streth right now :) I'm on a 5:35pm flight from Toronto to Seattle tonight, so hopefully I'll have managed to get in some writing time by the time this post goes up here's the second-to-last-nibble:

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Reading, reading, reading

Well, I haven't had a chance to get much writing done this trip, but I've been reading a whole heck of a lot.

5 books so far.

Liar, by Justine Larbalestier ...loved it... wasn't expecting werewolves... if I knew ahead of time, I probably wouldn't have bought the book and then I would have missed out. Great example of an unreliable narrator.

Liesel & Po, by Lauren Oliver ...I loved this writer's first book (would probably go into my top ten of all time) but had to really push myself to get through her second. This one sounded so unlike the first two that I just had to give it a try. Very cute.

Light Beneath Ferns, by Anne Spollen ...I went into this book really not knowing what to expect, but was taken by the atmosphere of the tale. I will probably end up buying her first book, 'Shape of Water'. the *feel* of her writing seems familiar to me somehow... and since I've been reading voraciously since I was a little kid, I'm sure of of these days it's going to hit me which author I am being reminded of. This will probably sound completely un-helpful, but the writing feels like still water.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms & The Broken Kingdoms, by NK Jemisin ...I'm going to read the third book in this trilogy before I read anything else. It's an interesting series and I could tell immediately why that writing buddy of mine told me it reminded her of my own Project #1.Well, perhaps more the second and third books of that ongoing (long-suffering) project. For those who have read Jemisin's books, what feels similar are the non-god-like-gods, their origin story/relationships, as well as the rampant racism and arrogance of certain *peoples* within the world. Mine takes place in a school though. I'm curious to see how the series ends, but I am not going to start the last book until I'm on the plane (or in the airport) tomorrow night for my Toronto -> Seattle flight.

...but now... I'm going to sit my butt down, turn off the wi-fi and try to get some writing done :)

Monday, November 28, 2011

NaNo, Day 28

Today is my last day in New York. We have a 8:55am flight to Toronto. We're only in Toronto until the evening of the 30th, then we'll be on a flight to Seattle. Since the husband will be at his conference tomorrow afternoon (after we land) and all day on the 30th, if I haven't had time to get some new words written, I know I've got this time set aside for some furious writing.

Since I was only home 17 days in November, I had secretly planned to shoot for 25,000-30,000 words for my NaNo project. Should be interesting to see how far I get :), here's the next nibble:

Saturday, November 26, 2011

So tired...

It took us four and a half hours, but the husband and I just managed to walk the entire perimeter of Central Park, then to Rockefeller Centre.

...and after that we had no stamina left to actually ice skate at the cute little rink there.

Sorry if there AE more spelling mistakes than usual, since I'm typing this on my phone.

Hope everyone is having a wonderful weekend!

Friday, November 25, 2011

NaNo, Day 25

Well, I'll have been in New York for a couple days now, and just so you know, there's NO possible way I'm shopping today on Black Friday, though we are going to take in a Jets game while we're here and possibly try ice skating at the big outdoor rink. I'm already mentally prepared for falling a lot ;) I think the only other *for sure* thing we want to do while we're here is go to the new Apple store which is on the balcony inside Grand Central Station.

I am curious if I'm going to be mistaken for the actress Kirsten Dunst again this year ;) The husband and I always get mistaken for locals, but it did give me a laugh the last time I was in New York to have a sales agent slide up to me and ask, very quietly, if I was KD.

Honestly, I don't see the resemblance... but apparently what I was wearing was similar to what she wears while in-cognito ;)

...and onto the next nibble:

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

NaNo, Day 23

Well, as this post goes up, I'll be on a plane to the east coast. The husband has a conference in Toronto, so we're flying there today and taking a hopper flight to New York (since we've both always wanted to see the big Thanksgiving Parade), then flying back to Toronto (for the actual conference) next week, then instead of going home, we're flying straight to Seattle for a Seahawks game on December 1st., I won't be home again until sometime on December 2nd. It's just a hopper flight, so we'll book it when we're in Seattle.

Since I *promised* myself I would continue to post 3x a week minimum no matter what, I'm going to set up some posts to go up while I'm gone, like I did when I was gone in the summer.

...and I'm hoping you'd like a few more nibbles of my NaNo story (Project #4) which I plan to pick away at on the plane, if possible.

Comments and criticism are ALWAYS welcome, as usual ;) And I'll try to pop online whenever I can... but I just don't know how often that'll be.

I'm going to continue on from last time, but if you've been following along, you're going to recognize part of this scene from the Unicorn Bell suspense post:

Monday, November 21, 2011

Feel the fear and do it anyway

So, I'm feeling a little beat-up this morning.

I submitted my Project #2 to the Baker's Dozen contest a few weeks ago... and found out today I was not selected.

I suppose this could be considered my first rejection as I haven't really gotten into the query process yet.

Am I disappointed? Certainly.*

...although I am interested in the battle of wills currently playing out in my head between my larger analytical-response-side and my smaller emotional-response-side.

In general, I always distrust that emotional-response-side of my brain. Right now it's telling me I suck. To quit, that it's time to give up, that I've been wasting my time on something I will never achieve. It's laughing and saying I'm an idiot for telling people I tried... 'cause now they know I failed.

If I had listened to that side in the past, I would have accepted my dyslexia as a wall I could never overcome. I wouldn't have worked my butt off over the years to not only read/write at a normal level, but to excel (yes, still working on the *excel* part.)

That emotional side says, 'be afraid.'

The analytical side says, 'fight back.'

Time and time again, I distrust the emotional part of my brain and focus on the analytical side. This could be the main reason I can't get into stories that have a heavy romance element or a lot of the higher-fantasy type stories. I need the facts. I need to be convinced.

But that analytical part of my brain is what continues to prod me, to poke a sharp stick into my soft, white-underbelly and tells me to throw off the chains of self-loathing and do something. Do anything.

The point is, 'do'. Not 'try', 'do.'

So what can I do? Well, most things in life we have no control over, so worrying about them is not only a waste of time, it's self-destructive.

In this case, I have control over my words, over my story, over my reaction, and over a million other little things.

So, since I know I get a 50/50 love/hate reaction to Project #2 (half love the fairy-tale-like opening, half tell me to chop out all the description and get to the point), the biggest, most productive thing I have control over today is playing those odds.

What am I going to spend today doing? I'm going to research agents and I am going to send out queries. 10 is the number I am committing myself to.

Curling up into a ball and whining about it isn't productive. It is only going to make me feel worse, not better. It's a lose/lose response. Sure, maybe Project #2 isn't ready to send out yet... maybe it isn't good enough, maybe I'll get form rejections back from every query I send out...

...but if I don't do it, I won't know. I will be held up, not by failure, but by fear of failure.

...and the thought of that disgusts me. To be so crippled by fear that I would not even try in the first place.

One of my husband's favourite sayings is, "Feel the fear and do it anyway."

It would be a fallacy for anyone to claim that they don't get afraid at times. The point is to recognize when fear is the only thing holding you back from doing something.

So, what are you afraid of today? What's getting you down, holding you back and making you want to curl into a warm blanket and hide away from the world?

Say it with me... "Feel the fear and do it anyway."

*I think I went into this with higher confidence than usual because I was one of the September Secret Agent winners... so again, another example of how this particular story can get the 50/50 love/hate reaction :)

Friday, November 18, 2011

GREAT book...

Habibi, by Craig Thompson.

If you like graphic novels that is...

...and if you don't mind seeing some pretty harsh realities like an arabic girl married off at age nine, sold into slavery and later becoming a prostitute to survive. If you love the tales from 1001 Nights, you will probably love this book. It is... amazing. Both the art and the story. And, it's huge! 665 pages with a gorgeous hard-cover and a small index in the back.

Here's a review on it. You can see some of the amazing pages here.

I opened it up last night and couldn't stop until I reached the last page.

Interesting blog-hop for *voice*

Brenda Drake is doing an interesting blog-hop. If you're worried about whether your character's voice is authentic, head on over and check it out.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Finally the answer...

...if you've been reading my posts at all, you'll notice the absurd number of ellipses I use.

On my blog is fine, but when I'm writing, I've never been certain of the precise grammar rules for ellipses and all the different kinds of dashes.

So, I was delighted to find this article today.

I have definitely bookmarked it for future editing purposes ;), if I can only find out the correct grammar for formatting a stutter, I'd be golden ;)

NaNo, Day 17

...oh my goodness, day 17 already? (please, please don't ask about my word-count...)

One thing I'm super happy about today... 'Hundred Thousand Kingdoms' by NK Jemisin is finally available via Kindle for Canadians!! ...and I just bought it!

I'm serious... like, two years ago one of my writing buddies told me I had to read this book. She had read... pieces of Project #1 (but parts of the second book) and said it reminded her of Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. Ever since I got my Kindle, I have been checking like, once a month, and even after it was available on Kindle... it was not available for Canadians...

I've never read a lot of fantasy books, even though that's what I started out writing. So, as a new writer and as a non-reader of fantasy, I kind of made a list of what I didn't want to read and asked for recommendations from other writer friends.

Some of the things I didn't want were*:

- farm boy realizes he's the chosen one and goes out to save the world
- big-bad-evil dukes it out with ultimate-good-guy+friends
- elves, wizards, orcs, dragons, etc, etc, etc
- magic that kindof saves everything and is basically a bunch of shouted Latin or other dead language
- medieval setting

I'm sure there was more on my list, but those were the basic ones. So, I got introduced to a lot of authors I didn't like, and a few I really liked/like. I got introduced to the show 'Firefly' the same way, well, technically the movie 'Serenity'. Supposedly one of my main characters (also from Project #1) was... eerily similar to the character River in the movie. And after seeing it, I realized immediately why the buddy would think so (and not just 'cause my character's name also starts with an 'R').

So, even though these weren't direct influences on my writing, it was pleasantly surprising for me to know there were similar things out there in the wide, wide world... and that people actually liked them!

Honestly, I get worried, like everyday, whether what I enjoy writing is commercially viable at all. And by that, I don't mean sell-a-million-copies... I mean, other people actually find what I write interesting.

It's the concern that freezes me up and makes me look for anything to distract me from writing. Anything.

I don't write big-exciting-stories, I write quiet ones. Like, contemporary YA style, but within a fantastical world with no magic or actual bad-guys. So, Speculative YA, I suppose, but perhaps even a little quieter. If this was manga, you could call my genre 'slice of life'. Out of any writer in the world, I think my style of story-telling is closest to Banana Yoshimoto. If you've ever read any of her works, you'll notice right away that none of the action takes place on the pages. Usually it has already happened (a death, divorce, etc) and the actual story is about the characters dealing with the aftermath.

So, yes, there are nasty things happening all around my characters, but they ultimately aren't going to be solving any of the greater problems... they just want to survive the best they can. You could call them incredibly self-absorbed (since they have no interest in changing the world), or you could consider them to be incredibly self-aware... in that, they realize they can't change anything big, so they focus on the things they do have influence over.

...and I think perhaps this is why I'm currently stuck on my NaNo novel. There's a death at the centre of the story, and I haven't settled on why the death happened. Each time I think, "Oh, what if <x> happened..." I almost immediately discount it because the consequences are suddenly too far-reaching from the boundaries of the story, so it feels wrong. And I'm not interested in those consequences. The death of Jackson, like the decaying civilization in 'Simon's Oath', impacts the characters choices/growth/etc, but ultimately, it's not what the story is about.

So, instead of writing, I have been browsing the Kindle store, digging up my front lawn, giving my dog a bath, cutting the cat's nails and brushing him, re-potting indoor plants, splitting/hauling in firewood (oh! We lost power last night for a few hours and it was AWESOME!!) and things like that.

I'm hoping that taking a short break from this story will help me figure out where it needs to go.

...and no, I'm not going to read the book I just bought. I'm trying to hold it back as a post-NaNo-reward.

How about you guys? Anyone else fighting with a story right now? Or something else?

*The reason I actually started writing in the first place was 'cause a girl I used to babysit (and still hang out with on occasion) was a really big reader of fantasy and complained to me that it was all farm-boys-saving-the-world, that the world and races were always similar and that there were no good female main characters kicking-butt and saving others. So, Project #1 was intended to just be a fun gift for her to read and enjoy... and then I sort of fell in love with writing. That's also why Project #1 took place in a high-school, 'cause she had just started high-school... not 'cause I was trying to write the next Harry Potter (which I also had not read).

Monday, November 14, 2011

NaNo, Day 14

Well, I JUST got home... the wind was so bad, my ferry home was delayed, then I had to detour to pick up the pets from jail.

My little beagle is a favourite of theirs since she's so sweet and easy. My black cat... not so easy, but he seems to like the owner (so, no hissing, growling, biting and he'll actually let her touch him!!)

...and every time I pick them up, my little black cat astounds them.

He's kept one floor down from the kennel entrance behind a total of three closed doors. There is almost no possibility that he could hear my voice, yet the moment I come to pick them up, he crawls into his carrying bag and just sits there waiting. That is the second astounding thing. He HATES his bag. And I do not use that term lightly.

So, I got home, realized the husband didn't lock the front door when he left for work this morning, and now I'm about to give the beagle a bath since she's always covered in slobber/etc after roughhousing with 20 other dogs for three days.

Then I think I will make a nice, hot cup of tea and relax until the husband gets home. So, perhaps I'll try to get in a few words tonight, but I'm pretty wiped.

Oh, and for all those that asked, the game was AWESOME!! The Hawks beat the Ravens and, even though it rained on the drive down and on the drive up, it was clear throughout the game. It was really cool to spend the whole day with my dad and we had some pretty interesting conversations about uncertainty/risk, the butterfly effect, open systems vs. closed systems, and a ton of other really nerdy things.

So, we had fun ;)

Oh, I also figured out the end of my NaNo story. Now I just gotta figure out what happened the night Jackson died ;)

How are all you guys doing on your writing goals? ...or non-writing goals?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

NaNo, Day 12

Well, on the 12th day of NaNo, my word-count is mightily behind what it should be.

Instead of writing, I'm sitting in one of my least favourite places in the world. The ferry terminal. Yup, I'm heading over to Vancouver and, since my husband is in Detroit, I'm taking my dad to the Seahawks game on Sunday. I'm really looking forward to the game, but not looking forward to losing 5 hours of my life travelling to Vancouver today, 5 hours travelling home on Monday, and then the 6 hour round-trip Seattle drive on Sunday.

That's a lot of hours I could have spent writing...

It's actually surprisingly cold* and rainy right now and I'm wishing I had brought gloves or a jacket 'cause my fingers are all stiff as I'm trying to type out this post. I think I'll head up to the SeaWest Lounge after we've loaded and have some nice, hot coffee or hot chocolate.

...and maybe, maybe, try to get a few new words in on the 1:45 ferry ride...

* According to my iPhone weather app, it's exactly 0 degrees C, which is 32 degrees F

Friday, November 11, 2011

Inspired by failure

I'm sure some of you have already read this guest blog post from Sara Zarr on being inspired by failure, as it seems to be making its rounds...

What this made me think of was a post Janice Hardy wrote on art and writing (my link from which you can get to the original discussion).

The short version is, I claimed that I believe the entire revision process (even up to copyeditors, if you are an agented, soon-to-be-published author) IS part of the act of creating.

So, where's the line of failure?

When  I was in the process of making demo reels (basically the equivalent of a resume -> to showcase my animation and storytelling abilities) I would literally draw hundreds of sketches while deciding what a single character would look like and what possible adventures I might take them on. After that, you don't even want to know how many sketches I would do to practice getting the character *on model* in a number of different poses, expressions, etc. You have to know the character inside and out, from all angles to draw a character that stays on model, which is something Disney can't even do, and if 'The Little Mermaid' is hailed as one of their masterpieces, then really... you have to know that pass/fail doesn't have a whole lot to do with being perfect.

So, how is that different from writing a consistent character? Knowing them and how they will function/act/react in different situations, how they show their emotions, what choices they make, etc. Most of the time, all that is explored while you write the first draft and, like an inconsistent sketch, you know you're going to have to toss some of those mistakes in the end, but you're still closer to what your Ideal is.

When is a story actually *done* or at a point you can say, *I failed*?

Personally, I think a story fails the moment you give up on it.

The first draft isn't the end. Your first round of revisions isn't the end. Querying and nabbing an agent isn't the end. Acquiring a publisher isn't the end. That final stage of copyediting before it goes to press... is that really the end?

As soon as it's in printed form, can it truly be judged as *fail* or *pass*?

When you think of how many writers and artists were considered untalented hacks during their lives and are revered as masters twenty, fifty, a hundred years later... where is the end? Is there one?

You can't please everyone, and if you try to, you'll never please yourself, so I agree when she said to have fun.

When you start thinking negatively, all you're going to do is get disheartened and want to give up. I think it's healthier to say, 'This isn't quite where I want it yet...' and view it as an evolutionary process rather than thinking about a virtual pass/fail chopping block.

The article is good, but I think it's more of a jumping off point.

What do you guys thing? Do you get hung up on the idea of *failing*? Think about anything in your life... anything you're learned how to do... can you really *fail* at any of them? Do you tell your 5 year old kid, you *failed* at learning to tie your shoes, I guess you'll be in velcro forever? How about your teenager struggling with Calculus? What about a marriage, is there a point where you say, *I failed*? How about your job, raising kids, being a friend?

There's a big difference between making a mistake, not being correct, and failing.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The *implication* of a background

Okay, I thought, instead of writing an entire post's worth of clarification on this post from yesterday, I'd just write a separate post.

So, what do I mean about enough details to imply a character background without stating any hard-core facts/etc?

Throughout the story, there are lines sprinkled around like these:

I was thirteen and ran with a crowd whose idea of a good time was lifting stuff from the local Walmart, jacking cds and stereo parts from parked cars and selling it all for cash.

It’s not like I’ve ever eaten somewhere fancier than a fast-food joint.

Sure, my fingers still itch sometimes, especially when I’m hungry and I know there’s a buffet-worth of food small enough to stuff up my sleeves at the local 7-11.

You can starve to death on principle. To steal successfully is to understand that morality is like a jacket you can put on and take off.

You want to be loose with resolve and desire. Tension means your brain is getting in the way of your gut and thinking only slows you down.

To survive, you have to be cold.

Hell, if I had to live in that house with Triss’s mom, I’d go back to sleeping in garbage bins behind the mall.

I know she wouldn’t knife me in my sleep or anything, but it’s still hard to relax, to turn your instincts off when you’re wired up a certain way.

Even if the goosebumps are so bad that they prickle and ache when I run a hand over my skin and the muscles in my neck have locked into knots, I can usually push it all away and forget.

“They need to be properly cleaned. Soaping them up in the bathroom sink after school isn’t enough.” I hear a rustle and a muffled laugh. “Ugh, I can’t even tell what color your t-shirt used to be.”

“The kid talks. I thought you were a mute.” He looked me up and down, at my faded, too-small t-shirt and the cheap jeans worn so thin they were more white than blue. “So I guess you’re just a charity case then?”

You never know, in hostels or wherever, who’s prepared to roll you for the clothes on your back and whatever valuables you might have taped to your skin. Or sometimes the threat is much, much worse.

I haven’t had such bad coffee since I lived at home, and those aren’t memories I want to dredge up while in the middle of a journey to dump a dead body somewhere deep and dark where it won’t ever be found.

And then Triss stepped forward and briefly wrapped her arms around me, tighter and harder than she ever normally would, but just long enough to whisper in my ear, “I’m so sorry. I know you don’t like to be touched.”

Now, very few hard details, right? No explanation of why or how or when. There's no sense of blame, like if it was due to the MC, the MC's parents/family/friends or some external force like social services/etc.

But I'm betting every person who reads these lines will spin a slightly different background for the MC.

And y' know, I'm perfectly happy with that. I'm confident my MC is consistent, and that's all that matters to me.

I firmly believe in the right of the reader to make a story their own. I don't particularly enjoy books that wrap up too neatly, that explain every detail and, oh my goodness, let's not even broach the subject of epilogues...

I wonder about my own story while I'm writing it.

And I like to wonder when I'm reading other people's stories.

If there's too much *explaining*, then I get bored, 'cause all the work (and wondering) has already been done for me. I feel like I might as well be reading 200 pages worth of bullet points or a scientific journal outlining, in minute detail, the hows and whys and whens of a particular experiment.

Taking away the *wondering* aspect ruins my fun.

...and anyone who has had me edit/beta-read one of their stories will tell you I'm over-analytical. I like to think through all angles, I constantly throw, 'what if?' questions at the story while I'm reading. I don't necessarily want answers, but I like to examine the possibilities.

...this also means I love brainstorming solutions ;)

So, I'm perfectly happy with readers making what they will from the details I do *know* about my characters, just as I'm perfectly happy whether readers choose to believe the MC is male or if the MC is female.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

NaNo, Day 9

18,148 words into my story and I just found out something dastardly about the night Jackson died...


Any big surprises in your own NaNo novels?

Character Backgrounds

Wow, an actual real post during NaNo, can you believe it?

So, my NaNo novel jumps around through a few different time periods.

1) The present (where Jackson is dead in the trunk of Triss' car)
2) The party (before the stabbing) 6 months earlier where Triss and Jackson bet on Fay and Spence hooking up
3) The night Jackson died (Thursday night, the story begins two days later on a Saturday and will end Sunday night)

Sure there's the dead body in the trunk... but since I'm more into character arcs than plot arcs, I'm much more interested in figuring out all the complicated relationships between the characters. The 'why' rather than the 'how' of the death.

In fact, the third timeline (the night Jackson died) is something I'm going to have to go back and insert after I finish writing the story, 'cause at this point, I still have no idea what happened.

So, with the narrator already hopping between three timelines, what about character backgrounds beyond that?

Well, I made a firm decision.

I don't care about the specifics of their backgrounds.

Does that sound, like, completely against all writing rules about knowing your characters inside and out even if the backstory doesn't make it onto the page?

Okay, I have a sense of their backgrounds... the MC's more than Triss' ('cause I am following this strange journey through the even stranger mind of the MC), and there are lots of details littered in and around the scenes, and the reader should be able to pick up other hints through subtext/etc, but I honestly can't tell you why the MC is homeless or what other major events in his/her lift put him/her there. I don't know the major points in Triss' life either, and since Triss and the MC don't talk about deep things, I doubt very much it's ever going to come out in the course of the story, but there are also enough details that the reader will wonder.

With these two characters, the relationship between them is so intense, that their separate pasts and their theoretically separate futures just don't matter to them. They care about surviving the present moment, and despite the fact that they are trying to dump a dead body, because they have each other to lean on, things are just a little bit easier that it otherwise might have been. This is the core nature of their relationship.

So, if that is the case for the characters, then their pasts shouldn't really matter to me or to the reader.

What do you guys think... do you agree? Disagree?

Off the top of my head, I can already think of one, full-length novel where you get almost no sense of past or future for any of the motley collection of *broken* characters, and it is one of my absolutely favourite books (as disturbing as it is).

What are your thoughts on importance of past events, as a reader or as a writer? As a reader, do you get annoyed/frustrated if there aren't clear reasons given as to why a character is so messed up? As a writer, how important do you feel the non-novel-timeline is? Do you usually try to suggest a firm past/future for your characters?


To be honest, I really hate stories where a character behaves horribly and their sad childhood keeps getting brought up to somehow validate their bad behaviour. Alcoholic parents, rape, abuse, etc, sure those are horrible things that change and shape people's lives, but I think it's lazy to use one specific incident/factor like that to *explain* away a character's in-novel behaviour, and it always irritates me as a reader. We are shaped by more than a few bad experiences, so shouldn't our characters be the same?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Suspense shred by Unicorn Bell

So, I promised you a link :)

Go, read, leave your thoughts there, or come back here. I'd be interested in seeing your comments on this scene, especially those of you who have read the previous snippets and know more of what's going on., on to read it myself ('cause I haven't yet)


Since they didn't post the scene unedited, here it is:

Monday, November 7, 2011

NaNo, Day 7

You know you're truly writing in the spirit of NaNo when your best description of the day is:

"...a sharp, vomit-baked laugh..."

...what can I say? It's a bunch of drunk kids at a party... how else would you describe that?

So how am I stacking up, word-count-wise?

At the end of today, I should be at 11,666 words. Currently my story is 15,167, but I wrote 4,255 of that before NaNo officially starts.

That puts my NaNo count at: 10,912 which means I'm 754 behind total word-count.

I have already written 2,578 today, and it's only 4pm here on the west coast, so I'm pretty sure I can make up that 700+ deficit before midnight, and hopefully get in a few extra ;)


The Unicorn Bell site is talking about suspense this week...

And, 'cause it sounded fun, I submitted a scene from my NaNo novel for them to tear apart :)

...and I chose one with LOTS of different layers/kinds of tension, especially if you've been following the tidbits I've been posting.

I'll post a direct link when it goes up, so for those curious to read a new nibble... head on over there tomorrow and check it out.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

NaNo, Day 6

Well, after taking yesterday off to work on the witch's hut, today I've scrounged up a few words. Well, mostly I've gone back over what I've already written and cleaned it up, fleshed it out/etc.

Continuing on from the last nibble, until the end of the scene:

Saturday, November 5, 2011

A mission to make the world less witchy

So, it's day 5 of NaNo, and have I even opened my file?

Nope :)

Instead, I was working on the witch's hut to make it less witchy for winter.

Here's what the entrance used to look like:

...and here's what it looks like now:
We totally thought it was an old tree stump under all that ivy, but it was really a stone light post!

The ivy had actually crushed the original light housing. The metal just crumbled away in my hands when I pulled it off. So, I bought a new light fixture (a taller one to get more light), installed it and re-painted the house numbers so they are actually properly visible again. I'm also going to have to get some cement to widen the top of the stone post 'cause there's no place to screw the light fixture in... right now it's being held on by a ton of outdoor, metal-bonding caulk.

..though there's still a mountain of ivy everywhere, at least the entrance is a little less witchy and, when we come home at night, we will now get enough light to see the steps/walkway up to the front door. We were getting really tired of having to use our phones as flashlights...

Now, maybe after lunch, I'll think about getting in some words ;)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

NaNo, Day 3

Well, I squeaked in a few words, somewhere in the 500 range.

I also patched the asphalt in my driveway (about 30 square feet in one long broken strip), made homemade chicken soup, and put up the bird feeders ('cause, y'know, it normally takes 5 months to do that...)

For my NaNo novel, today I played with the whole gender-mystery of the main character :)

So, I went through and added bits like this:


This post definitely mirrors my philosophy on editing.

Don't go in with the mindset of *fixing* a story, 'cause then there's very little chance of understanding what the heart of the story is about.

Respect the writers and respect their writing, even if it's a genre or style that you don't necessarily like.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

NaNo, Day 2

...well, so far today I've managed to stomp out a little over 1200 1830 words.

Is anyone else sharing NaNo tidbits on their site/blog?

Here's a nibble:

Awesome book

I haven't been so enamoured by a book since I read, 'Plain Kate', by Erin Bow last March...

I just finished reading, 'The Night Circus', by Erin Morgenstern

Hmmm... maybe I just love books written by authors named Erin?

...that was a freaky coincidence I just noticed...

Seriously, it's an amazing book. I just wanted to fall into the pages, snuggle down and live there.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

It was a long day

But I think I'm done :)

...and can hardly believe that it ended up at exactly 73,000 words.

Now I'll just sleep on it and skim through it quickly in the morning before sending it off.

I'm also going to submit it to Authoress's Baker's Dozen contest. The first entry time was today, but there's another one on Thursday.

Is anyone else entering?

NaNo, Day 1

So why am I not writing?

For one very good reason :)

I still haven't sent my full MS to Jenny Bent.

I have been waiting (since the end of July) to receive a specific set of comments from someone.

A published author who agreed to edit my work.

I was just informed on Friday that, due to a number of circumstances, that author won't be able to send me comments*.

That was the main reason I had not yet sent off my MS. Now there's no point waiting any longer, so I will clean up the MS as best as I can using the feedback from a couple new beta-readers I tried out and send it away.

If I do that, then I can completely focus on November and my new stories. And hopefully prevent myself from twisting into knots of anxiety knowing an actual agent is reading one of my stories.

So, all day today I'm going to be editing (and fixing the ending a little), and hopefully I can send it off to her tomorrow after I have one grammar-nazi that I trust give my re-written areas a quick check.

To all you NaNo-ers out there, good luck on your first day of writing! Hopefully I will join your ranks tomorrow afternoon :)

*Nothing to do with my story. I fully understand the reasons the author said, 'sorry' and had to bow out of the commitment. I'm disappointed (obviously), but there are no hard feelings.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Last bite before NaNo starts...

Happy Halloween! You get one last nibble of this story before all my words start counting towards NaNo. Last bite was here, I repeated the final crumbs from that to transition/lead you back in.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday 19

Happy Halloween-eve and welcome back all you SSSers! Thank you for all your well-wishings and condolences regarding my grandmother's passing...

Last time, just as he was about to get hit again, Simon reminded the madam that she bought him from the dredge-line to solve the problem she couldn't.

The madam’s hand dropped to her side. “If I could have kept this within my own house, I would have.” She glanced at a couple girls who dropped their heads as though guilty or afraid. “I’ve headed off most of the gossip by keeping her shut up inside, but folks can smell a rumor like a dead fish in the sun, and I’m running out of time and ideas.” The madam drew a thin roll of dried black seaweed from her skirt pocket and stuck it between her teeth. “Since that girl is always staring out the window, I supposed she was watching you kids drag muck outta the river since there’s nothing else to look at, but maybe I was wrong.”

Friday, October 28, 2011

Stalking on NaNo

...just in case anyone who stalks me here wants to stalk me on NaNo, here I am.'ll notice a familiar *author* picture, but red instead of black :)

So drop by, give me a nudge, a poke or a slap :)

Come to me if you want spin*

You can tell the same truth a hundred different ways, it all depends on how you spin it.

As someone who claims to be an honest person, would you think differently of me if I told you that's my personal motto?**

Actually, my dad told me some version of that when I went for my very first job interview.

So here's the thought process behind it: There's never one single reason behind any decision, action, or inaction, (I wrote a very nerdy post about this before) but usually it gets boiled down to one when you're explaining yourself to another person.

So, here's a hypothetical situation:

I quit my job because...

I was being verbally abused by my manager
I hate getting up early and driving in rush hour traffic
I don't like talking to people on the phone, but that's 80% of the job
The cafeteria lady is creepy
The work they assign me is boring
My co-worker has this really annoying laugh and smells like BO

Let's pretend all of those things contributed to the final decision to quit, but I bet (if it were you), you'd tell different people a separate reason for quitting. You wouldn't tell the HR director you're quitting 'cause the cafeteria lady's lazy eye creeps you out... nor, when you're interviewing for a new job, would you tell them you quit your last job 'cause the work was boring or you hated getting up early. In a professional setting, you would never think to badmouth your previous manager... for a whole slew of legitimate reasons, but you might tell your best friend, spouse or significant other.

And out of all the potential people asking, 'why?' you probably wouldn't unload every reason you quit on a single person... 'cause then it'd just sound like you're excessively negative and they might not take you seriously or want to hear about your problems in the future.

Spin is important. It's something we learn to do in our society, just like we learn to smile and be patient and polite instead of throwing a temper tantrum when the line at the grocery store is a mile long and the person at the counter just whipped out a ziplock baggie filled with spare change to pay for their $87.42 purchase.***

We learn to read people's body language (even though most of us aren't aware we're doing it) and change what we say and how we act based on our audience.

So, is it possible to spin the truth yet still be honest?

I believe so. But then I'm a hopeless optimist. Every time something bad happens, I look for what good may come of it. That's a form of spin, too, but for my own sake.

But what about our characters? In our heads (as writers), our character may have a dozen reasons for cheating on his wife, but does the reader really want slug through all of them? Where is the line between building a complex, realistic character and boring the reader to death with extraneous details?

One of the reasons I like unreliable narrators so much is the fact that, as a reader, we can see the spin... as an objective outsider, we can recognize that what's happening around the character doesn't mesh with what the character thinks is happening, or says is happening.

Right now, the newest story I'm working on (Project #4) has an unreliable narrator. I'm finding it difficult to walk that thin line of showing a disconnect between reality and what's in the MC's head, yet not confusing the reader by making them *believe* the MC and thinking I've messed up as a writer.

Have you thought much about your characters? How do they spin their reality for the people around them, and for the reader? Has anyone else worked on an unreliable narrator? Was it hard? Any suggestions for me?

* I have re-written many a resume for friends and family...
** Okay, my REAL personal motto is, "Try new things at least twice" because you might hate something the first time, but love it the second time.
*** Based on an actual story, but I was the cashier at a garden centre. Seriously... a baggie full of pennies, nickels and dimes. Not even quarters. That's one of many reasons I quit working retail.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Protecting what you love

No, this isn't a campaign against the (brilliant) advice to kill your darlings...

I think, especially for writers who have never had their work torn apart by CP's or beta-readers, this topic is important.

There's a difference between killing your darlings and killing what you love about your story. A 'darling' is when you love a specific string of words on the page. What 'you love about your story' is the heart of it, why you wrote it, the *idea* behind it, the parts that get your excited/passionate about the story and the characters.

I've written about my thoughts on beta-reading before.

The key point of that post was to suggest that beta-readers keep three things in mind:

1) what they, as a reader, want
2) what the author wants
3) what the story wants

...and this is especially true if you, as a beta-reader, are suggesting significant changes, or, as a writer, your CP or beta-reader has suggested big changes.

Let's use my own writing as an example. Project #1, which no one (other than my writing group) is familiar with.

It's on hold for the moment because my group suggested I re-write the entire first 1/3 of the story. Well, they were more detailed than that... essentially, there were a number of problems:

- I was *telling* them at the beginning that Jess behaves like 'A', but on the page, she was behaving like 'B' the entire time (so, no transition)
- Because of this, it made no logical sense for Jess to bring Roan into the group
- Jess also had little-to-no power within the group dynamic (which contradicted some plot points)
- So it made much more sense for a different character, Ray, to bring Roan in
- But Ray's backstory/etc would then need to change, and that would change later plot points as well as other character dynamics... which then snowballed...

...and that's why it's been set aside for now :)

When you actually get down to it, probably about 1/2 the story will have to be re-written. But that's what the story wants. I, the writer, didn't necessarily want it... and my writing group disagreed strongly (with each other) how to handle the problems they uncovered... one suggested I keep the plot as-is, but re-write/re-imagine Jess so she was 'B' the entire time. That was what she, as a reader, wanted. And though that would have worked and could have been what the story wanted, it wasn't what I, the writer, wanted.

Jess's transformation from 'A' to 'B' was one of the major things I loved about the story, and I was (am?) willing to re-write half the book to make that happen.

Jess's character arc through the story is not a 'darling'. It's at the heart of what's important. I may love a lot of the scenes with her in them, but I'm willing to dump/delete/re-write them without a second-thought. Even huge parts of the plot can be discarded/changed because staying true to the characters is far more important to me.

As a writer, and as a beta-reader, you must be aware of the story's *heart*.

As a beta-reader, you may uncover a huge problem, but be careful how to point it out and suggest solutions. If you don't understand the *heart* of the story, ask questions. Don't assume you know the writer's intention because, without meaning to, you might destroy what they love about their story or make them feel it is not worth pursuing/re-writing. That's not your judgement to make.

As a writer, think about what you are willing to change, but more importantly, think about what you're not willing to change. Usually the *heart* of the story is emotional and has to do with how you perceive a character, or a certain relationship between two (or more) characters. If your CP or beta-reader tells you it's not working, don't shut them down, and don't just rewrite it like they suggest. Talk to them. Tell them your intention and find out what actually worked and what didn't.

As a writer, the entire story is in your head, but a lot of it may not have made it onto the page. Often, it's what you didn't write that's the problem.

Don't get attached to your words and dig your heels in. It's far more important to get attached to the *heart* of the story, for that is what readers will remember, not a clever turn-of-phrase on page 187.