Friday, September 30, 2011

The associated meaning of words

Today I'm doing a guest post at Wicked & Tricksy on the associated meaning of words (I know, I know... nerd-alert). Here's a taste of the article so, if you're interested, head on over to Wicked & Tricksy and read the whole thing.

EDIT: Since it appears the Wicked & Tricksy site is no longer up, I've reposted the entire thing here.

Description is often seen as something *dirty* in the writing world, on par with adverbs and clever dialogue tags. When description is done well, it can plunge a reader directly into a scene, but when done badly, a reader’s eyes will glaze over and start skimming.

“It was a dark and stormy night.”

...did you groan just then?

That’s a classic, yes I know how wonderful the book is, but to clarify my point, I'm going to use is as an example of a bad line of description. Its not bad in that it doesn’t make sense... it’s bad in that it’s boring. Of course it’s going to be dark when there’s a storm, ‘cause clouds are blocking out the sun. It’s also normal that it's dark at night, like so normal it isn't even worth mentioning.

That line of description is not only literal, it’s repetitive. Neither of which are food for the imagination.

It can be tempting to *fix* boring description by whipping out that thesaurus and hammering the reader with a string of words usually found in the vocabulary section of the SATs. This can lead to overly wordy sentences that will tangle up your tongue like a Cirque du Soleil contortionist if one ever tried to read the line out loud.

So here’s something to think about. Beyond their dry, dictionary definition, you can hunt up words to use based on their associated meanings. Think of it like baggage that each word is carting around.

Do you remember having to diagram brainstorm clouds in school? Like, if you were researching pandas, you’d write ‘Panda’ in the center of a piece of paper, then draw connecting lines to things associated with pandas, like China, bamboo, habitat, endangered animals, zoo, etc.

The same idea works when you’re trying to describe something.

Let’s pick something easy, like describing an evening sky. If it’s a *dark and stormy night* that you’re imagining, what are some of the associated meanings you could use to make it more interesting? Well, storm clouds are wet because they contain rain, which weighs them down. The rest of the sky would be blotted out, the air would feel moist and perhaps charged with electricity, which has elements of excitement and danger. The clouds and the rain would wash a layer of grey over the surrounding area and dull any vibrant colors.

So what tone are you seeking with your evening sky? If your character is depressed or has had a major set-back, then concentrating on the grey washing away color, or the thick moisture in the air which makes breathing difficult would be a place to start. Words like ‘smothering’, ‘heavy’, ‘drowning’, ‘faded’ are all visceral words that could be used to set your evening atmosphere. The surrounding noises could be ‘muted’ or ‘choked out’ by the sound of rain.

If your character is heading out on an adventure with danger lurking in the darkness, then maybe the wildness and destructive element of the storm is what you want to accentuate. ‘Spark’ and ‘crackle’ could describe the sounds of the storm, or the anxiety and excitement of the character. The idea of being ‘wrapped’ or ‘hidden’ by the clouds brings to mind camouflage, or words like ‘slink’,‘glide’, ‘creep’, and 'dart', which would normally be used to describe a person, can be used for their association of stealth.

Think of what your character is doing, what they are thinking, their state of mind, their deepest desires and their most terrifying fears.

On the other end of things, make sure the words you do choose mesh well with their associated meanings... for example, I’ve read lines describing teeth being squished together, or a bloated knife being stabbed into someone’s leg. Both ‘squished’ and ‘bloated’ are words that have no associated meaning with stiff, unyielding substances. Metal can’t be ‘inflated’ or ‘engorged’, teeth and bone can’t ‘bend’ or ‘twist’, scents don’t flutter across someone’s skin and a taste can’t 'ring' in one’s mouth.

Be wary of the baggage words drag around. If you’re careful, the layers of associated meaning will amplify your story and your descriptions, but used poorly, it will feel like you opened that thesaurus to a random page and started filling in the blanks.

I think the best description is when the associated meanings can be twisted and hit the reader in a way they don't expect. Normally positive words like 'cute' can be used as a vicious put-down, if, for example, it's being associated with a small animal/pet, something lower on the evolutionary scale, or perhaps the undeveloped reaction or stature of a child. It all depends if the associated meanings are positive or negative.

One example of amazing description was in 'Imaginary Girls' by Nova Ren Suma, which I read recently. In the first chapter, there's this description of the reservoir:

"Less dangerous would be the reservoir itself, too large to keep track of in the night - an oil spill instead of a mapped and measured ocean."

In a single line, you not only get an idea of what it looks like (black, slick and reflective), but you get the idea of how the narrator views this body of water: a man-made disaster that kills/destroys and is impossible to fully contain, or un-do.

...all that from describing it as 'an oil spill'.

Description doesn't have to mean pages of purple prose... more often than not, a single image that someone can visualize or relate to will be much more powerful.

Go through your favourite books, seek out the snippets of description and analyze them. What specific words were used and what other images/feelings/sensations could be associated with them?

...and maybe, just for fun, re-write the line, 'It was a dark and story night' with your character and your setting. See how much information you can layer in there, simply through a few choice words/images.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wigs for Kids

Well, I just got home and I feel a whole lot lighter...

Probably 'cause I just donated about 12 inches of hair to the Wigs for Kids BC organization.

This is the third time I've donated hair to this program, and I think it's great because it was started locally and works with the BC Children's Hospital to provide human hair wigs (FREE of charge) for children and teens with cancer.

Since the cost of wigs is pretty high (around the one-two thousand dollar mark), I think it's pretty awesome that kids from lower-income families don't have to go without.

Anyone out there with long hair that has not been chemically processed (colour, highlights, perms, etc), I encourage you to check online for similar local programs. Normally the minimums are 6-8".

It's such a small thing to get your hair cut... but for kids and teens undergoing cancer treatments, it's a priceless gift.


If anyone is interested in this program, but isn't local to Vancouver, you can mail the hair to Eva & Co. Wigs and clearly mark on the envelope it's for the Wigs for Kids program. Hair must be virgin (no chemicals), clean, dry and tied tightly with three elastic bands (one on either end, one in the middle). Minimum is 8" (for curly hair, pull straight to measure).

Unexpected voices

I've mentioned before that I'm more comfortable writing in 3rd person. Project #3 (with Alexander) is kind of a new thing for me, both writing in 1st person, and also writing in present tense., while I've been taking a few days *off* from my computer screen to rest my eyes/brain, out of nowhere, suddenly I've got this cocky, raw, unfamiliar voice keeping me awake at night...

I've got no idea where it's going (other than the obvious...) no idea who the main character is (I don't know the name or even the gender), but in a burst of effort to get this new voice out of my head (so I can sleep again), I spilled something out onto a freshly blank, electronic page. 1,190 words in one shot. It's totally normal for me to stop mid-scene... sometimes, mid-paragraph, so the abrupt ending is not, well, the actual end of the scene. This is first-draft material... so be warned, it's a little sketchy.

Tentatively, it's called, 'Brake Fluid, Blood & Body Bags', and I have the sneaking suspicion that 'Triss' is the *wrong* name, so that will probably change.

Go ahead... tell me what you think... it's different from what I normally write (well, different from the YA/MG stuff I've posted on this site) and at this point, I don't know if it's worth continuing or not. Maybe I'll play with it for NaNo and see where it goes :)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Reading out loud

This is an excellent post I agree with wholeheartedly.

...and this is the part that particularly resonates for me:

Does the story have velocity?  Do you change rhythm and tone?  Reading out loud will unlock the music in your language.  Are you using that music to its utmost, varying tempo, line length, chapter length?  A symphony written with only gorgeous legato lines will grow dull and begin to grate on the ear, no matter how lovely those lines are.  I think the same is true with language.

When I beta-read for others, or when I'm cleaning up  passage of my own writing, whenever I get stuck on a line or a paragraph that just feels awkward, I start reading out loud. Well, under my breath. I find it's easier to pinpoint the spots that don't work when you can hear your voice stumbling and stretching.

Try it :) I swear you'll be hooked ;)

Monday, September 26, 2011

A bit of a surprise...

So, it looks like someone likes 'Simon's Oath' (project #2 that I've been posting 6 sentences at a time for Six Sentence Sunday).

Thanks to the fun contests that Miss Snark's First Victim hosts, the agent Jenny Bent, of The Bent Agency is going to read the full manuscript.

Wow... honestly I'm a little blown away right now... not sure whether to be excited, terrified, or if I should pinch my own arm to see if I'm really awake.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday 15

Good morning all you SSS participants!

As always, I love it when you guys leave me comments (especially if you can point out mistakes I've made...) and, if you get lost, check out the 'Six Sentence Sunday' tab at the top to catch up.

Last time Hector watched (helplessly) as the madam hit Simon in the face and demanded to know what he had done to 'the girl'...

“I only tried to - ”
Before Simon could finish, she slapped him again.
Hector pushed his face into Simon’s back and squeezed his eyes shut, but he couldn’t escape the sound of the blow or the shuddering recoil of his brother’s body.
There was silence, and when Hector emerged, the madam was staring down at him, her rouged lips curled in bloody disgust. Across her left canine was a vivid curl of red stain and the flash of red on white was momentarily beautiful against her dark hair and golden skin.
“The two of you are useless,” the madam snarled, and the beauty was gone.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Something a little different 4

I've had a couple of really busy days (like, haven't-been-sleeping-busy)* and I haven't thought of a topic to blog on for today, so let me revert (aka bore you) by showing another project from my days of education...

This time, not from animation school.

This is from a class on architecture in university. We had to choose any building we wanted, past or present, and make a to-scale architectural model of it and write a research report.

(click on the photo to see it full size)

I chose the Villa Rotunda, a very famous Italian villa by the architect Palladio. It was very obviously based on the Pantheon in Rome, even down to things like how rainwater is channelled through the oculus and through a drain in the centre of the floor down into the basement. It is perfectly symmetrical on all four sides, which is the primary reason it caught my attention. Since I've moved a couple of times, many of the tiny statues (sculpted from Fimo, 5/8" tall, in seven different poses because there are seven statues for each of the four sides -> 28 total) have fallen off/broken and you can see the yellow remnants of the glue. You also can't see it very well, but each pediment is held up by six Ionic columns, and I even made the tops curl properly (seriously, I know I'm such an obsessive nerd...). The entire thing (other than the statues) is made from thin white cardboard and held together with regular white glue.

...anyways, projects like this are what my tuition was spent on, which was only slightly more useful in the real world when compared to animation school...

...but at least I had fun ;)

Okay, I swear you'll get a real post on Monday, so have a happy weekend!

*By the way, if you've noticed I haven't been keeping up with comments/etc, it's because when I'm tired like this, I can't read or write without getting a major migraine (dyslexia sucks)... I swear I'll catch up, but right now it's nearly impossible for me to comment on other people's sites when they have word verification turned on, so I'm still reading everyone's blogs... I'm just not commenting.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

From Pupa to Imago

The Second Campaign Challenge is to use four obscure words in a 200 word blog post.

I swear this Challenge is personal :) Asking a dyslexic person to re-type unfamiliar words is like searching blind through a miasma of letters that usually results in a killer migraine. Thank goodness for spellcheck ;)
I told someone recently that I don’t want others to expect less of me because of my disability. There is no reason to accept this disability as a lacuna, a gap in ability where I simply shrug my shoulders and say, ‘well, I can’t do better, so that’s good enough...’
My goal as a writer is not to be satisfied with the pupa stage, but rather to become that imago, that adult stage. I want to write so well that readers fall in love with my characters and are impressed by my writing style. Reaching that point where people would be shocked enough to oscitate (and I don’t mean ‘yawn’) when they later find out that I am dyslexic. That kind of staggering synchronicity.
What are the hurdles in your own writing? Do you get depressed or frustrated? Do you accept your limits, or do you fight against them?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Hook a Teen Blogfest

Here's the link to the contest... but basically it's a chance to have two teens look at YA material and give the 'yah' or 'nay' as to whether it would interest other teens. Pretty cool idea :)

...and here's the links of the two judges (you can hire them to be editors too!)

Kate Coursey


Now, the first 246 words:

Monday, September 19, 2011

Avast, yee matie

Today be International Talk Like A Pirate Day, so hoist the Jolly Roger all yee scurvy, swashbuckling swine and order up a shot 'o rum from yer local bar wench and sing a round of, '15 Men on a Deadman's Chest' with me.

...okay, I suck at talking like a pirate...

The point it, have fun :)

Monkey see, Monkey hear, Monkey write

How much attention do you pay to your surroundings?

I know a lot of writers who confess to stalking/eavesdropping on random people in public so they can listen to their conversations or jot down notes on body language, voice tone, etc.

I rarely do this. Well, I pay close attention when I'm interacting with people, but on my own in public, I'm pretty unaware. When I used to take the bus/skytrain for school, I would put headphones on to prevent people from talking to me, and when I shop, I never loiter. I get in and out as quickly as possible. I hate crowds, I hate having others push into my personal space and I especially can't stand breathing someone else's air (elevators are the worst).

If I'm thinking about something, I will totally walk right by someone I know while they are calling my name.

Rather than people, I notice other things... smells, the taste of the air, the cut and texture of shadows, plants, buildings and random signs/advertisements I find amusing. Quirky things, like several streets in Victoria have stone/brick and I will wonder how old the bricks are and check to see how many are broken or how badly the mortar is worn away. I look at old iron trim on building facades, at the designs, if there are words, if it's symmetrical across the building or if it's obvious that some store fronts have had their original trim stripped/updated. I like the shape of windows, if they have shutters or stone that protrudes. If there are different colour/shapes/patterns in the stone or brickwork.

I don't pay attention to people unless I'm actually talking to them, and then I'm not only listening/responding to what they are saying, I'm paying attention to body language like, how close they stand to me, how much eye contact they give if I'm the only one there, or if there is a group, if they are unequal in who they look at and for how long. I watch for ticks, like pushing back hair, fiddling with their hands, clothes, etc. In groups, I also watch the people who aren't talking... because it's interesting how you know some people want to break into a conversation, but just can't seem to interrupt, while others have no problem taking over.

I also notice odd things like whether people just talk, or if they are actually *interacting* with the others around them by asking questions, turning the conversation over to someone they know has something to say, or suggest another person tells a story that they have already heard. There is a lot of subtext in there that tells what the person is like on the inside, not just their social facade.

...but even after a half-hour conversation, if you asked me what they was wearing 5 minutes later, well, I might be able to guess the colour of their shirt, if that...

Things we notice or don't notice impact our writing... how aware or unaware, what senses we use to filter the information of the world around us and are the building blocks we use to recreate characters, scenes, settings, etc, and most certainly, the voice our writing/characters.

Because of what I do/do not notice, I'll describe characters interacting (and their body language), streets, buildings, etc, but rarely more than a brief sentence or two to describe what the surrounding people are like. Crowds of people may be mentioned, but nothing more than a few vague details. I'm also bad at describing clothes/shoes/accessories/hairstyles and things like that.

So, what are the things you notice? When the wind changes speed, is your attention snagged by the change in the sound, or the movement of the branches in the corner of your eye? Maybe a new scent always whips your head around? Or maybe you're a people watcher and can recognize someone you've only met once, or perhaps you notice things like designer bags, scuffed shoes or if someone is wearing clothes that have been tailored well to flatter their body type.

Are there things you know you need to pay more attention to? Are there certain areas of your writing where your CP's are always asking for *more*?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday 14

Another Sunday, another fabulous round of SSS!

(psst. For those who don't know what that is, click the link and read the FAQ if you want to play next week. Sign-ups start Tuesday evenings.)

Well, since everyone was kind enough to vote and tell me which story they wanted, here's the beginning of scene #2, and this time we're switching into Hector's viewpoint (the story alternates between the two brothers, but not every scene).

Hector followed Simon down the stairs and into the first lounge. As they approached the door to the salon, he could hear a number of tired, female voices bickering and gossiping. He hung back as Simon knocked on the half-open door, then followed his brother inside.

Amongst the red sofas, ladies were lounging, drinking and picking bite-sized delicacies from painted glass trays carried by small serving girls. Tall and furious, the madam strode over and hit Simon’s face with her open palm.
“What did you do to the girl?”

Friday, September 16, 2011

YA Confidential give-away

How fun does this look?

(click, click, you know you want to)

...since I recently re-wrote my blurb/query, a critique of that definitely tops my *wish* list, but 'Shatter Me' and 'The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer' are also two of the books on my TBR pile (which is actually my Amazon wish list, currently holding at 372 374 items).

Anyone else curious/interested?

A little bit of insecurity

I sent Project #2 to someone for editing/beta-reading July 27th, and have not yet received comments back... other than confirmation that the person received it.

Last week, I also sent Project #2 to a long-time writing buddy from NaNoWriMo (I use a different moniker on there). I've beta-read her projects many, many times, but this is the first time we're doing a full swap. MS for MS. I've already read two previous versions of the MS she just sent me, though she's never read even close to a full MS-sized piece of my own writing.

And I admit I'm feeling a little bit vulnerable right now.

Now, I'm not saying I don't trust either of the two people I've sent it to... the friend from NaNo, I think I've known for about six years, and having such an established relationship with an online beta-reader is an awesome thing, but it does take different *trust-muscles* than when you hand it over to a writing group you meet with in real life (which I do, and they shredded version 1.0 of Project #2 way back in February).

When you meet and have your work shredded in real life, you have the chance to talk, clear up any misunderstandings that may arise due to the MS itself, or to your CP's impressions/comments on it. Also, when meeting in real life, you have the chance to talk about your story before your partners actually read it... so they go into it with pre-formed ideas of what you were trying to accomplish, backstory that never made it onto the page, or even some of the twists and turns that would surprise an online CP without that prior knowledge.

When working exclusively online with someone, you don't get the benefit of asking them to clarify a comment that sounds completely wrong, or seems overly insulting/harsh. I think most people are aware of this and tend to err on the side of polite/vague when conversing through email. It's harder to feel out someone who asks you to be brutal and honest... so you juggle how brutal and honest to be, and sometimes they get angry and never even respond or thank you for your time and effort. The relationship and boundaries are such so much muddier online...

Now, I like this particular writing friend because she's about as ruthless about honesty as I am. She'll disagree, she'll argue, but she'll never get angry at someone for telling the truth, and I'm the same way. I know she'll point out every last thing she dislikes about my writing, not only the more objective/technical stuff, but her personal thoughts/feelings while reading it. And I appreciate getting that personal/reader reaction.

Whenever I read writing samples on people's sites, I am always honest. If something jumps out at me, good or bad, I'm going to point it out. I'll never post a generic, meaningless comment.

I think this may irritate some people, but I do it anyways, 'cause it's how I show my respect to their writing... by taking it seriously.

When I'm reading *good* writing, I forget that I am reading, which is why I will point anything that jumps out... if it jumps out, usually it's because there's something wrong... like a word repeated too often within a paragraph, an awkward sentence that may sound nice, but doesn't flow properly or has a word or two that feels clunky. I hope other people will be as ruthless with my own writing samples because that's how I'll learn to write better. No one's perfect, especially when evaluating their own writing. I can recognize many problems/habits in my own work, and that's only because someone has taken the time to point them out to me.

But it's still scary to have all your faults laid out in front of you like a collection of dead insects. Even butterflies are pretty gross if you get right down and look at them carefully... especially their mouths... you just don't realize how ugly the problems in your story are until someone sticks them under a microscope and points them out, one by one., while I am truly looking forward to the masochistic pleasure of having my work shredded by her, I'm also feeling insecure. How bad is the damage? Will she find something that's so huge I can't fix it? Is that the reason I haven't heard back from the person I sent it to on July 27? Did they also find something horrible but are holding back on telling me?

At least with this particular writer friend, I know she'll tell me if she finds anything major... in her email, she actually said, "Since I'm not going to show mercy, I don't expect any mercy on mine."

Do you guys feel insecure when you send off your own work to beta-readers? Do you feel the same for online CP's versus real life CP's? Are there any other things you stress about when sending work to out for people to read/evaluate?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

(belated) Blog Award thank-yous

...okay, I admit it, I'm so new to this whole blogging thing, this week is the first time I've ever heard of blog awards...

So I bow my head and ask forgiveness to all the wonderful people that offered me an award in the last week or so, and thank them for their patience since I have been slow at getting back to them all...

(I think I got everyone... if not, give me a slap)

Also, my Random Facts are here ...and no, I won't be putting up a YouTube video to demonstrate what double-jointed knees can do :) seriously freaks people out... then they always try to mimic/copy, and almost always end up falling over onto the floor.

Alrighty, here are all the lovely people who have given me a blog award/etc:

Jennifer Groepl offered me the Liebster Blog Award, and mentioned me for her #Four4Friday
elizabethanne offered me the Versatile Blogger Award
Karen deBlieck offered me the Versatile Blogger Award & Liebster Blog Award
Guilie offered me the Versatile Blogger Award
Cheryl Reif tagged me on her blog
kineticwriting/juliet offered me the Versatile Blogger Award
kelworthfiles offered me the Versatile Blogger Award
Angela Brown offered me both the Irresistibly Sweet Blogger Award & the Versatile Blogger Award
The Blogger Girlz offered me the Versatile Blogger Award offered me the Versatile Blogger Award
homecomingbook offered me the Liebster Blog Award
Jess offered me both the Versatile Blog & One Lovely Blog Awards
Nick Hight offered me the Versatile Blogger Award
Yvette Gonya offered me the Versatile Blogger Award (and probably the nicest compliment I've ever had in my life)
prerna pickett offered me both the One Lovely Blog & Blog on Fire Awards

Thank you all very much for your kind words and taking the time to think of me :) ...honestly, the fact that so many people think I have something interesting to say, that totally just blows my mind. Thank you :)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Light Reading

I've been reading a lot of books lately while taking a break from writing (three just last weekend!), but now my brain is starting to go, 'click, click, click...' again in preparation for new ideas, new scenes and new ways to screw with my characters. Thankfully, the clicking is less immediate/annoying than the *alarm clock in the box*...

I don't know about you guys, but I find it impossible to read books while writing. Even non-fiction, dry&boring reference material, etc. I find my attention span just shrivels up into a tiny, withered lump that restlessly rolls around inside my brain, refusing to stop and concentrate on any words other than the ones I *should be* putting down on the page myself.

...what I can (and love) to read while writing is comic books :)

So, today I placed an order online at The Book Depository for:

Koko be Good (Jen Wang)
Anya's Ghost (Vera Brosgol)
Gunnerkrigg Court Book III (Tom Siddell)
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (Catherynne M Valente)

...the last of which is not a comic book, but since I loved her 'Orphan's Tales' books (which also have several wonderful drawings throughout) I figured I should get a *real* copy of this rather than on my Kindle. Seeing illustrations on the Kindle just isn't quite the same...

...also, the main character's name is September, so how could I resist?

How about you guys? Can you read/write/edit all at the same time, or are there certain books you find difficult to read during either the editing or writing process? Maybe ones in the same genre you write?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

1st vs 3rd

This is a fabulous article on the up/downsides of 1st & 3rd person.

It's one I'm going to bookmark and read again and again.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Dirty little writing secrets

So, since last week I aired out my dirty little secret...

...wait, before you jump to any strange conclusions, what I mean is that I occasionally write some seriously creep-tastic stuff... now put down the phone. You don't need to call 911...

We good? Okay. now I'm interested to know how far you stray from the genre you usually write.

Granted, all my stuff has a slightly twisted flavour, but since I usually write YA/MG, it's pretty toned down compared to the 1st Challenge. Rarely though, I do write short stories which I find are a good way to stretch my muscles a little and enjoy sinking into a drastically different kind of perspective. It keeps me fresh 'cause I dump out all the overly-dark stuff in my head that wouldn't fit into my YA/MG stories.

...cause those are dark enough as it is...

Actually, short stories are where I started. I didn't do the whole emo-poetry phase as a teenager. I went straight to stories which usually involved murder of some kind. And often the main character was just slightly short on sanity, but like emo-teenage-poetry, some were pretty melodramatic and overwritten. Yup, I can admit that. One of the first stories I wrote as a teenager was for Social Studies class. We had to choose a partner and do a project that showed our deep knowledge of different political setups. Like, Communism, Socialism, Monarchy, Democracy, etc.

...I think ours was Communism, but honestly, it really didn't matter a whole lot.

My partner and I ended up writing a mini novelette about witch trials in Salam. Why? I'm sure we were just really overtired... It was probably between 10-15,000 words and the main character died at the end. We literally waited until the day before it was due, then I spent the night at her house and we made it up as we typed. We finished around 6am, fell asleep, then were up at 7am to catch the bus to school. We handed it in and, well, let's say the teacher was less than impressed. After all, we were supposed to show we knew all about Communism, right? ...not a story where the main character gets betrayed and burned at the stake.

...let's just say my BS skills were highly developed, even at age 14. Because he was ready to fail us for not doing the project correctly, I wrote a "How 'The Burning Cross*' Relates to Communism' essay, and we ended up getting one of the top marks in the class.

I'd probably turn purple with embarrassment if someone pulled that story out and waved it in front of my face right now... I've still got my copy, buried somewhere in my parents' storage room under the stairs... but I have no plans to dig for it anytime soon and it would probably go through its own trial-by-fire if I ever did find it...

But yeah, writing about witch burning is what started me off on this twisty dark path, so occasionally I go back to my roots and slip into the skin of a death-row inmate, an escaped murderer, or in the case of the 1st Challenge, a stalker who just wants to connect to the one he loves.

So what about you guys? Do you moonlight as a romance writer, tinker with steampunk, or draw goofy children's stories when you need a break from your usual genre? Maybe tap out a zombie comedy with slap-stick humour or a cozy murder mystery with a ghoul & ghost as the detective pair?

*see what I mean about melodramatic? I mean seriously! We thought that was a great title at the time...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday 13

Wo-hoo! 13 is my lucky number, so I guess I better make this one good...

Welcome back all you SSS participants! How's your first Sunday since school is back in session?

I'm in Vancouver today celebrating my birthday a couple days early with my beloved family (including my adorable 4 year old nephew), so I will start the SSS rounds first thing tomorrow morning :)

Last time, Hector started to get a little panicky about 'what the madam said' (and yes, it's that kind of madam).

And now, Simon cuts him off:

“What is it? What does she stare at every day?”
“Don’t be afraid, Hector.” Simon pushed away from the door and offered his brother a reassuring smile despite the waves of blood pounding through his head and heart. “I’ll think of something.”

And that's the end of the first scene :)

As always, you can click on the 'Six Sentence Sunday' tab at the top to read from the beginning if you're lost or need a refresher. you guys want me to continue on this story so you can meet the madam? Or would you like to read more of Project #3 with Alexander? Tell me which you want in the comments and I'll start posting whichever story has the most votes.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Weekend plans!

...I've got a great weekend all planned out!

Dinner out tonight with our ex-neighbours (before we moved to the witch's hut), tomorrow morning drop the pets off at jail (okay, it's an over-the-top kennel where they have couches, a fireplace and a tv for the dogs... and a huge half-acre run for them to play in), then catch The Clipper ferry to Seattle to watch the Mariners game!

Go, Ackley!

(in case you haven't guessed, he's #13)

Sunday I'll be having a barbecue at my parent's place (on the mainland) with my sister and my cute little nephew... I suspect most of the afternoon festivities will be spent tumbling around on the lawn pretending to be dinosaurs. This usually involves one of us playing the Anklyosaurous crawling around on all fours and the other playing the Tyrannosaurous Rex (both from the Cretaceous Period and from the same part of the world*) who tries to flip over the other while roaring and shouting, "let me bite your soft, white underbelly!!" accompanied by much tickling and giggling.

...we're a hit, I swear ;) No need for other entertainment when the two of us get together :)

What about you guys? Any fun weekend plans? When's the last time you got together with your family?

*Hey! Don't judge me... the facts have gotta be correct! ...and yes, I'm a total nerd, but since he's my little clone, it's all okay :)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

YOU, online

I've literally been trying to write this post for 3 days now...

Natalie Whipple has talked about this a bunch of times.

Nathan Bransford recently posted on it... well as the agent Rachelle Gardner.

I also touched on this subject in one of the first posts I ever wrote (which does includes a brief glimpse into the most cynical opinion on art you'll ever find...), but let's talk a little more about authenticity online.

I think most people, if you ask them, would say they are being themselves online/on their websites/blogs/etc, but others might come to the site and say, 'This person isn't authentic.'

Just like, if you meet someone new at a party or wherever, you may get the feeling they're putting on an act for you. Fake smile, overly polite, that tone of voice... you know what I'm talking about...

But we all put on acts. That's just part of social consideration.

Would you want to be around someone who said exactly what they were thinking every moment? Or a person who feels the weight of the world is on their shoulders and complains constantly. When someone asks you, 'How are you?' do you answer back, 'well, if these haemorrhoids would go away, that'd be just peachy.'

Just like with new people we meet in real life, we feel out our audience. Someone throwing too much personal information (or complaints) at you can be disconcerting and usually, it turns you off.

Also, what kind of person you meet and what kind of relationship you want with them will change how you present yourself. If you're meeting a blind date, you're going to act differently than if you bump into an 85 year old woman in the grocery store, or you meet your new boss for the first time, or if you have a job like a lawyer, doctor, etc and you run into one of your new clients/patients on the street.

I don't have a big online presence. I don't use Twitter, Facebook, etc. Other than this blog, I'm essentially invisible. Up until a few months ago, I rarely even read blogs or consistently followed websites, so I'm still trying to feel out the social rules of this new form of meeting people (give me a slap with a rolled-up newspaper if I do something wrong).

I thought long and hard before starting this blog... what did I want out of this online relationship? What do I want? Because it's inevitable that what we want will change over time.

So, if depending on the relationship affects the way we display ourselves, and that is normal social consideration, how does that affect this blog in particular?

I did address this a little in the first entry I ever posted, but (since it's a little ramble-y) to summarize, I decided to go online to meet other people with the same interests. Because I don't work a traditional job (I renovate the house we live in, then we sell it and I do it again, hence 'the witch's hut' I occasionally refer to), I don't interact with a lot of people, other than the customer service crew at the contractor desk in Rona/Home Depot and the occasional tradesman. Sure, I get out once in a while for dinners, see my writing group a couple times a month and catch the ferry to the mainland to see friends/family, but even those relationships require *social consideration* because (especially with family) having the same interests is a rarity. Especially the writing thing. Sure, my family and friends all read, but none of them write, so if they do read a book, they aren't interested in dissecting the story to find what worked well and what didn't work well. They either 'liked it' or 'didn't like it'.

I think the main reason this entry took 3 days to compose is because I value honestly over any other character trait. If someone asks for my opinion, sure, I might sugar-coat it a little once in a while, but I will always give a straight answer. Even if it's not what they want to hear. I figure, if someone values my opinion enough to ask, then I'm going to return that show of respect and be truthful.

Since my primary objective was to meet people with similar interests, I've intentionally shown that side of my online. My interests, the way I think, books and movies I like, my sense of humour, what I'm curious about... all that kind of stuff. Even things I hold back in real life relationships, like the fact I'm dyslexic or that I get voraciously obsessive about certain things.

The things I intentionally don't talk about always have to do with maintaining the privacy of people I know in real life. I try not to use their names, nor do I discuss the relationships I have with them. That also includes former jobs/etc. I also try not to discuss things I don't like because, just like in real life, I don't think there's any excuse for dumping complaints/rants online and subjecting other people to that. Negativity is like a cancer. And I'm not exaggerating... there are a ton of studies relating to health/etc. Besides, just because I don't like something, it doesn't mean someone else won't love it... and my opinion isn't worth any more than anyone else's. If I can have real life friends with different ethnic backgrounds, different religious, different political views, different sexual orientations, etc, then there's no excuse for not befriending all different kinds of people online.

I strongly believe that no difference is insurmountable as long as one person respects the other.*

So far, I'd say my little online adventure has been a success... I've met a few really nice people, occasionally correspond with them via e-mail (which is totally awesome!) and found some interesting blogs to follow/read.

What about you guys? Have you thought about why you are online and what kind of relationship you want with those you meet? If you have your own websites/blogs, do you have clear boundaries about what you talk about and what you don't?

*This is the main reason I hate war so much. Because it's when one group of people devalues another group of people. It's only when you consider someone less important or valuable that you can abuse them, take from them, kill them, etc. In any war, that's what the propaganda is about... making the 'enemy' less human than yourself.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


I mentioned 'The Knife of Never Letting Go' by Patrick Ness last week.

Well, last weekend while I was in Seattle for the Seahawks game, I read the other two books in the series.

...the ending?

Much more satisfying than 'The Hunger Games'.

I haven't hated and loved books like this for a very long time.

...does that make sense? When I say I hated and loved them?

I don't easily fall into stories told in first person. In this series, I fell hard. As I was reading, I'd argue, I'd shout, I'd scream at the characters... at their naivety, at the choices they made and didn't make, their decisions to trust or mistrust other characters. know I wasn't actually yelling out loud, right?

But I was getting all tense while reading. Well, *dread* might be a more accurate description of what I was feeling.

The most brilliant thing about 'The Hunger Games' was the pacing... how, every time Katniss would get a small break, one moment to relax, to catch her breath, something even worse would come crashing down.

This series is the same. Each time you'd think the characters had scored a small victory, they would get blindsided.

Let me say here that I hate books or movies about war. Especially *real* wars. Yes, I can understand the view that exposure to our history through media (not the dryness of traditional textbooks) can educate people about our own past mistakes. But I still hate it. I hate that it gets glorified in Hollywood movies, that people are making millions of dollars off something so disgusting and horrible. I actually feel physically sick when I watch/read about war.

This is one of the main reasons I write *quiet* stories... stories where it's not about saving the world. Sure, there may be greater things at play around the characters, but I'm more likely to touch on things like racism, mental disorders, superstition, abuse, etc than an entire group of people working their hardest to exterminate (or subjugate) another group of people. Because I feel that is very, very wrong.

...but please don't let this turn into a debate about which aspects are okay and not okay about war/etc...

The point in my bringing this up is, the fact that I fell so hard into this series of books on war (yes, yes, a fictional war, but still...) is kind of amazing for me. Which is also why I both loved and hated it.

What was interesting was, in the first book, the entire thing was from Todd's perspective. In the second, it swapped between Todd and Viola. In the third... another voice was added. Through this series of death and madness, you get to see three different characters wrecked in different ways by the same war. Unlike in 'The Hunger Games' where you only see it from one perspective, this was very... balanced, I guess, as odd as that sounds.

I think this is one of the reasons I fell so hard, and it wouldn't have worked if the first book had been split into more than one perspective. Because you get so entrenched in Todd's head, when the second book starts and you realize the two of them have been separated after everything they have gone through, you are as eager and desperate to find out about Viola as Todd is. And in that moment of relief when you slip into her head, you accept it. You've just read an entire book of Todd wanting to know Viola and what's in her head ('cause she ain't got no Noise), and then you get it. It's that small break, that moment of relaxation of catching your breath... and then something even worse comes crashing down...

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Writers' Platform Building Campaign First Challenge

Okay, it's not technically Monday yet, but this is counting as my Monday post.

Rules for Challenge #1:

Write a short story/flash fiction story in 200 words or less, excluding the title. It can be in any format, including a poem. Begin the story with the words, “The door swung open” These four words will be included in the word count.

If you want to give yourself an added challenge (optional), use the same beginning words and end with the words: "the door swung shut." (also included in the word count)

For those who want an even greater challenge, make your story 200 words EXACTLY!

So, for mine, I managed to make it exactly 200 words :)

By the way, this is loosely inspired by Haruki Murakami's short story On seeing the 100% perfect girl one beautiful April morning.

(Oh, and because no one commented on it, yes, I did intentionally write this in 2nd person perspective 
just to make it a little harder/different.)

The Girl You Like
The door swung open, and you see her, the girl you like. And you realize you’re staring, so you look away before she notices. It could be on a bus, at school, or in the park. The first time you see her, or the fiftieth. Something about her just catches your eye, the way she laughs, her hair skipping over her shoulder, or her hands fumbling with the knotted scarf around her neck. It’s never big. No flash of lightning. Just something small that you connect with. That makes you smile. But the girl you like looks past you, through you.
You’re so nervous when the girl you like is finally on your bed. She’s so perfect, so soft, but she’s crying and pushing and struggling against your hands, and all you want is for her to say your name. Say she loves you, but she can’t. You want to kiss her lips and hear her voice, but if you peel the tape from her mouth, she won’t say your name or say she loves you. She’ll scream. 
There’ll be other times, other loves, but in this moment, it’s just the two of you. Together with the girl you like.

Six Sentence Sunday 12

Wow, September already! The summer certainly flies by when you're out of town almost every single weekend... and it looks like that's not going to change anytime soon :)

Welcome back all you SSS participants!

For those who don't know what that is, go check out the link and read some more snippets. Warning: not every submission (or site) should be read by those under the age of 18.

Last time, Simon fled the room when he couldn't take anymore of Faith's screaming and pushed his brother out into the hallway.

Hector’s face was white, but Simon stood staring at the frosted, grey glass door, one hand braced against the metal rails. The echos of her shrieks were still ringing through his ears, cutting through the veins and shredding the meat of his brain. After five days he had yet to meet a person in that room, only an empty shell or a raging squall, and each time he was stunned at how quickly she swung between the two extremes.
“This isn’t working, Simon, she’s just getting worse. What will we do? The madam said - ”

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Roar of the Crowd the time this goes up, I'll be on my way to The Clipper (a ferry which sails from the Victoria, BC harbour to the Seattle, WA harbour)...

The reason?

The last Seahawks pre-season game is tonight!!

...I'm so excited

I've seen a lot of live baseball games, but only one NFL game... the San Diego Chargers first pre-season game, and that was a couple of years ago. I've never been to see the Seahawks play live before. In fact, I haven't really been following them at all since my favourite player retired a couple years ago (#97 Patrick Kerney).

I love going to sporting events. In fact, I'll be at the Mariner's baseball game next weekend (Sept. 10th), and I saw them play (and beat) the Blue Jays on August 15th.

My husband travels a fair bit for work, and I usually tag along. In every major city (that has a team) we try to make it to a game. I've seen the Toronto Blue Jays get stomped by the White Sox, the Washington Nationals squeeze in a victory over Philly, the Yankees lose against Boston during their last year in the old stadium, and lose again to them in their new stadium. I've watched both the Padres and the Mariners a couple of times, sometimes win, sometimes lose. But I enjoy every game.

Though I'm not a die-hard fan by any stretch of the imagination, I do have certain *allegiances* to West Coast teams (since I live on the West Coast), or teams I've seen play in their home stadiums.

Generally I have two rules about sporting events. The first is to always buy a hat and cheer loudly for the home team (whoever it is). The second is to always cheer extra loud for whoever is #13 (my favourite number). I try to learn #13's name on every home team I've seen play live, but don't quiz me :)

What I love is the atmosphere of the stadium. I love getting right in the middle of all the excitement, how the crowd feeds off the plays, then the players feed off the crowd. The shared disappointment of losing or winning unites thousands of people in a single moment. At music concerts, I can never get into the crowd atmosphere, even if it's an artist I am really into... but at a baseball game, I fall right into the energy.

If you're at the Seahawks game tonight, I'll be down at the 50 yard line wearing my Kerney jersey and screaming my fool-head off. Beer and hotdogs will also likely make an appearance...

10 Random Facts

Since there's a round of these going on amongst my fellow Platform Building Campaigners, I thought I'd throw this out real quick before I have to leave :)

1. When dining on my own in a city, I tend to eat like a 80 year old Japanese man (not my own words). I'll order hot sake (which is the cheapest sake), unagi (that's eel) on rice and a variety of appetizers like grilled quid with soy, etc.

2. I have probably 2 dozen baseball hats (conservative estimate). I'm not into souvenirs/dust collectors, so whenever I travel, I buy a hat.

3. My current black cat is the 4th black cat I've had in my life. I have had a weakness for them since learning that, statistically, they are the cats that get gassed 'cause no one will adopt them.

4. I'm the only one in my entire extended family whose hair stayed that childhood-blonde colour. Everyone else's turned brown before they hit the age of 10.

5. Since my hair is basically like a child's hair, I donate it every 2-3 years (when it gets long enough) to a program that makes wigs for children with cancer/etc and whose families can't afford to buy their child a wig.

6. One of the 2 reasons I quit university to do animation training is because one of my professors gave me a 'D' on a paper I worked incredibly hard on and actually said to my face that she thought I was too stupid to have written it. The reason? Being dyslexic can make teachers/professors easily misunderstand you.

7. I can milk a cow, ride a horse, build a rock wall, do plumbing, electrical work, drywall, etc and know my way around almost every power tool out there.

8. I had pet chickens as a kid that I trained to come, to fly up and land on my arm, and a few other tricks.

9. I met my husband in high-school. Yup, that's right.

10. I have double-jointed knees.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Pinch, Punch, First Day of the Month

...and no returns.

Do you have any quirky traditions that almost don't make sense anymore, but you continue to hold on?

The 'pinch punch' thing I've been doing since I was a little kid. I don't even remember who started it... but I remember doing it as early as 7 or 8 on a holiday when my family was with my aunt/uncle/cousin.

Basically, on the first day of the month, whoever remembers first is allowed to pinch and punch every person they meet... and as long as they remember to say, 'and no returns', no one is allowed to pinch/punch back. If the person forgets to say it, the victim can then pinch/punch back five times in retaliation.

Definitely sounds like a kid tradition, right? Little sociopaths, every last one :)

...and I am including myself in that definition. You do have to teach kids not to beat up on others, that there are social rules they must follow, sharing, patience, all that good stuff that ensures our society doesn't descend into anarchy.

...okay, it was probably my cousin who started it.

But back to my original question... why keep this tradition when I am no longer a kid? I don't even live in the same city as my family... and I'm not going to run up to random strangers in the street and pinch/punch them (again, good stuff, no anarchy, etc, etc).

This tradition lapsed in our family for many years, and I was the one to bring it back. Though now we do it via e-mail or texting.

(my mom won this morning, emailing me at 6:54am PST, then called on the phone an hour later to gloat)

Traditions often remind us of our warm, fuzzy childhood memories when everything was safe and exciting. The old rose-coloured-glasses of the past where we forget the daily tensions and petty fights of reality.

I re-started the tradition about seven years ago when I moved from British Columbia to Alberta.

Our family (including aunts/uncles/cousins/grandparents) has always been pretty close. even after my sister got married (she's the oldest of the cousins), everyone would still all get together for every single cousin's birthday.

And after I moved, I missed out. I only saw my parents a couple times a year and my extended family I only saw at Christmas.

Re-starting the first day of the month tradition was partially a way to re-connect, enjoy the goofy memories of childhood, but it was also a way to ensure I would contact them every month. Like sending a 'Thinking of you' card in the mail (or an e-card online), sometimes it's nice to lightly remind someone that you still exist without the big conversation to *catch-up*.

I think since humans develop their world-views through their experiences and memories, that having those tiny glimpses of warm, fuzzy traditions is an awesome thing to include, so they always seem to slip into my characters. Like best friends will often have certain phrases or words they use together that touch back to shared experiences, siblings and other family members will also have those secret habits or traditions that make them smile, or will defuse a tension-riddled moment. Simon & Hector (Project #2) have a couple... as do other characters in my stories.

Do you have any traditions like that? What about your characters?