Friday, March 30, 2012

Re-written first chapter

As I mentioned on Wednesday, I'm truly interested in your comments on my re-written first chapter of 'Brake Fluid, Blood & Body Bags'.

Everyone, please get your rolled-up newspapers and hit me for anything that tripped you up, big or small.

Anything is helpful, but if you stop reading at some point, out of boredom, confusion, or otherwise, please point that out. How's the voice? Consistent? Believable? Any lines that were so poorly written they gave you a migraine? 'Cause y'know I have problems with this.

If the comment box is too small, or you're hesitant to air your honest thoughts in such a public way, please send me an email. I will truly be grateful.

No matter what you say, I promise not to whine, cry, bite, or revenge-piddle on your kitchen floor :)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Hit the brakes

I haven't done much writing in the last couple months. There's been a lot going on in my personal life, the latest of which -> the husband and I are trying to sell the witch's hut. If we move before mid-June, that will make it 9 moves in 9 years.

I'm awful at multi-tasking, so I'm not the kind of person who can put down a couple hundred words every day. When I write, it's in an obsessive streak that takes over every speck of my brain-power and prevents me from concentrating on anything else. When I stop, I stop. Often in the middle of a scene, sometimes mid-way through a paragraph. But there are often times I write 15-30,000 words within a 2 week writing-spree.

But when I'm not writing, my brain kindof stews and simmers and churns all the half-processed ideas floating around in there.

I stopped working on 'Brake Fluid, Blood & Body Bags' (Project # 4) back in December. One reason was 'cause I needed a mental break from death. Another reason was I couldn't justify writing a nameless genderless character without a better reason than, 'it's fun and interesting.' I knew there was a reason why this character was the way he/she was. It wasn't a gimmick, it wasn't just for a challenge. There's always a why behind what I write, it's just that (as a pantser) often it takes me a while to figure it out.

And I think I finally have.

It's not a statement of gender roles/etc. It's not about being asexual, gay or transgendered.

I don't have any interest in imparting moral lessons or inserting my personal views into a story. If you know me at all, I don't like talking politics or religion 'cause mostly all those subjects do is divide people and get them angry. Sure, I'll rant (in person) to friends and family about things that annoy me, but that sort of thing has no place in my writing.

In fact, even though I have figured out the why behind this character, I don't even think it's my place to define it in concrete terms. Yes, as I finish and edit the story I'm going to work hard to drop clues/etc, but in the end, I'd rather the reader chose for themselves why, just like I'd rather they decided on their own what gender the main character is.

Because at the heart of it, the gender doesn't matter. Either way, it wouldn't change his/her relationship with Triss.

I know a lot of YA writers enjoy the genre 'cause it's all about 'firsts'. First loves, first kisses, first adventures on the cusp of adulthood and responsibility.

But what interests me more than all the 'firsts' is the deep struggle of self-identity.

It's the transition from the removed third-person-narration of childhood, where you follow along on the adventure, usually without the whys ever being fully explained, to the almost suffocating tunnel-vision of self-absorption that is first-person perspective, before finally growing up enough to have the wider/big-picture third-person perspective of understanding more than just the main character's struggle.

There's a reason MG, YA and adult fiction have such distinct *voices*.

Out of any other story I've written, this has the most stubborn main character when it comes to the struggle of self-identity. This character tries to avoid almost all thoughts of past (before Triss) or future (without Triss).

If you asked me to, I could define every character I've ever written in a single word. For example, Simon (from project #2) would be 'loyalty' and Hector would be 'noble'. These are the qualities I wanted to explore, both the good and bad sides of each.

In this particular story, 'avoidance' is the word that most completely describes the main character.

Which perhaps is why I am avoiding setting down any concrete details/explanations.

...does that sound... pretentious?

I don't mean it to.

Honestly, none of this matters beyond my own writing process. As long as the reader enjoys the story, I don't care if they skim-read the entire thing and never realize that the main character is never named or has a clearly defined gender.

Writing an enjoyable/interesting story is what I most care about.

I'm just incredibly analytical. A perfectionist. And for me, that means understanding the characters to the point when I won't ever betray them. Where I can stay true to the *truth* of these characters. I have to figure out how they work so I can take them apart and put them back together again.

I'm interested in the why behind it all. And now that I know the why of this character, I'm ready to work on this story again. On Friday I'm going to post the edited first scene of this story. Where my first draft of this quite obviously shows my lack of focus/understanding of the main character, I hope I have honed the wording enough to clarify why the main character behaves/thinks the way he/she does.

I also hope that, morally-bankrupt as these characters are, you can at least empathize with them enough to care what happens.

I'm very curious to hear your thoughts. Any/all comments are appreciated, especially ones that are critical/constructive in nature.

Nail me on anything, big or small :)

Monday, March 26, 2012

1 Picture = 1000 Words

It's time for Unicorn Bell's A Picture Paints 1000 Words Blogfest.

Here's the image I chose:

I chose the least fantasy-ish image, and since my laptop was dead or dying for the last 2 weeks, I didn't much time 'cause I only got it back Saturday afternoon and then had to install the OS, transfer all my data, etc, so please forgive the rough nature.

I decided 1,000 words was too long, so I stuck to exactly 500 words.

Into The Woods

On the way into the woods, James always took my hand and helped me down steep ravines, over fallen logs, and across meandering streams. When playtime was over, he walked far ahead and left me to stumble on my own. Behind his brother’s back, Alex shoved and poked me with sharp sticks. He’d bend saplings which would spring back and whip my face and hands. He’d spit and say I was a city-girl. That I was noisy and would scare the deer. That I should stick to sidewalks instead of crawling on animal trails through the thick underbrush. Alex reminded me how easy it was to get hurt in the woods.

He was right. My hair and dress would snag on twigs and my white shoes and stockings would be dyed black from wading through swamps of foul-smelling mud. My bare limbs would sting and bleed from flushing birds who had nested deep within briars or a tangle of nettles. But it was worth it.

When we’d get back to the farmhouse, James would bandage my scrapes and worry about my pretty clothes. He’d wash them clean before mother came to pick me up, and while they were drying on the clothesline, I’d be bundled in one of his huge, plaid shirts that tickled my nose with the smell of sunshine and warm grass.

I’d smell like James did before we went into the woods.

When we came out, he always smelled like blood.

Sometimes he carried an air rifle, sometimes a bow and quiver of arrows. He shot raccoons from the dark crooks of tall cedar trees and bright-eyed fawns in sun-dappled glens. When I’d flush nesting pheasants, James would dress my hair in their feathers while Alex thrashed the wild grass flat with a stick and hide tiny eggs in his shirt pocket. I watched as a coyote’s growls went silent and crouched close to see the final, twitching kicks of a tawny rabbit. We pulled quills from a dead porcupine one afternoon and ate blackberries until my hands were stained nearly as dark as James’ hands. He didn’t suck his fingers clean like I did.

Alex didn’t have to, but he always came with us into the woods. Though James never touched me on the way back, Alex became kinder. He’d hold back branches and point out gnarled roots I might trip over. He’d pick thorns from my skirt and mutter that he’d expect nothing less from a city-girl. That I was trouble, annoying, stupid. Gently, he’d untangle my hair and gather handfuls of wild dock to ease the stinging nettle welts on my bare skin.

Every time mother dropped me off, she’d ask what we were going to do, and I’d tell her that we would play in the woods.

She’d warn me to stay safe. To not get dirty.

I never knew how to explain how that was impossible. For James only took my hand on the way into the woods.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Statistics of minor interest/curiosity

No laptop yet, so again, this will be another short iPhone post :)

Well, my curiosity got the best of me and I actually used my phone to scroll through the results for the Public Slushpile Contest.

Surprisingly, 11 out of 58 commenters said YES to my very rough query.

What's interesting (to me) is that most of the NO votes basically said, "Don't write in 1st person".

I anticipated this (and was expecting a high ratio of NO votes), but it also makes me wonder... how many of those NO votes were simply because it was in 1st person?

The standard format of queries is 3rd person, so how many people mistake 'standard format' with 'iron-clad-don't-ever-do-this-rule'?

The other most common comment was people thought they were reading my first page (as in, I was an idiot and submitted the wrong text) because I didn't put a 'Dear Agent...' line at the beginning. That missing line combined with a 1st person query... duh, of course that would make it seem like the first page, so yes I was an idiot to not foresee that happening.

It makes me wonder if I had included the 'Dear Agent...' line, if the YES/NO ratio would be any different.

BUT, all-in-all, I'm surprised my non-standard query garnered slightly better than a 1/6 YES rate.

Pushing the boundaries of what is possible is one of my defining characteristics as a person. I wouldn't be writing/attempting to get published if that were not the case. Actually, I can safely say the majority of my life choices are because I want to push my own boundaries. Sure, this makes things harder on myself, but when you succeed... there's no better feeling.

While the ratio of YES/NO votes may discourage someone else and send them back to the drawing board to re-write their query in 3rd person, I'm actually encouraged by the results.* I was going to consider it a win if I had 1/10 YES vote.

I was also incredibly pleased to see some genuinely helpful comments which I will certainly make use of when I do get around to re-writing this rough query into something presentable.

Query writing is incredibly difficult, but I must admit, I actually kinda find it fun :)

Oh, and here are a few fabulous posts I was able to read (but didn't comment on)!

A look at the Thelma & Louise movie for showing character through action (it's long, but worth it)

If you aren't already following Guilie's helpful posts from her SFWC experience, here's another great post which sort of brilliantly compliments this next link, which is:

...a lesson on perfect lines from Calvin and Hobbes, a comic from which I've divined much inspiration ;)

*Incidentally, with only 25 entires, 12 entries had the same number of YES votes as mine or less. 9 of those had single digit YES votes, 2 of which had 0 YES votes.

...and yes, that took me over an hour of scrolling on my phone to count. Hey, I'm obsessive! I admit it!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Well, I might not have luck with technology...

Still no word on when my laptop with be back, but my number was drawn in Authoress' new 'Public Slushpile Contest'.

...I was the second-to-last number drawn (#24) so please drop by, give it a read, and leave any helpful criticism you might have. If you want to say more than the allowed 'one sentence' (see below), by all means, come back here and write me a novel in the comment form. I consider no comment too small or too picky :)

...and I am expecting a lot of 'No's because mine is in 1st person.

The rules for the Public Slushpile Contest are:

  • Each comment needs to begin with YES or NO (meaning, it hooked you or not), followed by one sentence (one!) explaining why.
  • One comment per reader.
  • Comments that do not begin with YES or NO will not be included in the final tally.  (Because I value my eyeballs.  I need to be able to skim through the comment boxes and make quick counts.)
  • The 5 queries with the most YES responses will be invited to submit their first 500 words.

I'm hoping I'll see some queries for projects (and writers) I recognize... but just in case, if anyone else is there, let me know your number and I'll make sure to leave comments for you :)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Yup, it's finally dead

Hard drive failure again... so, argh, I'm giving up and taking my laptop in today.

Incidentally, my favourite error message during the long, slow, week-long death was:

'The bless tool was unable to set the correct boot disk'

...and yes, it actually said that. I think an engineer somewhere didn't spell-check/edit properly ;)

Writing related news:

For the first time in nearly two months I opened my 'Brake Fluid' story and worked on it a little. I must thank Guille and Huntress again for tagging me 'cause that forced my brain back in that world, if only for a few minutes.

So thank you again, you two lovely ladies :)

Okay, technically I had the file open when I met with my writing group last weekend... but I really only deleted lines/words. The only new words were an extremely nerdy wine-related joke/misunderstanding which may be deleted at a later date 'cause I think I might be the only person who finds it funny.

Hopefully it won't take too long to get my laptop back.

Friday, March 16, 2012

A St. Paddy's Day project

So, I mentioned in my morning post that I had been enlisted to do a project...

My husband is having a party in his office with... conservatively 50 people. Honestly, he has no idea how many will show up, but he invited a ton of people, not just from work, but since he works in the financial sector, he knows a ton of people at banks, accounting firms, law firms, etc.

...around 5pm tonight, there'll be a limbo contest.

He asked me to pick up some kind of leprechaun prize for the winner, but I'm not the kind of person who can do things half way.

So... I made a trophy. And a limbo stick.
click to see at full size

I started by buying a fencepost cap from Home Depot. Since that was treated for outdoor use, I sanded off the top layer, then applied 2 coats of natural wood stain. When that was dry and sanded again, I applied 4 coats of Varathane diamond wood finish, so it's hard/shiny/protected. Then I drilled a 1/4" hole in the leprechaun figurine (who is holding a keg... brilliant find!), and another in the trophy base. I used wood glue to set the dowel in the base and crazy glue to stick the dowel to the figurine and the figurine to the base.

Then I drilled holes for the limbo rack, bent the wire so it would hold the pole, decorated the pole (paper-wrapped wire, used for flower decorations) with bands of sparkly glue (gold & green).

Finally, I got the brass plate made up and an engraving shop. I did everything but the plate yesterday/last night because the stain needed 2 hours between applications and the Varathane needed 4 hours between applications. Thank goodness I could speed up the process with a hair-dryer!

The plate (since you can't read it) says:

The 100% Unofficial
-husband's company name-
"How Low Can You Go?"
St. Paddy's Day Limbo Tournament

For the limbo pole, I used a hollow/metal shower curtain pole, put 4 strips of double-sided tape lengthwise, then wrapped it with ribbon and that sparkly wire with little shamrocks. After, I got gold and green ribbon (like you'd use to wrap presents), cut a ton of it, knotted it in the middle. Then I made 2 plugs out of Styrofoam, punched a hole down the centre and fed the ribbon through (so the knot is inside -> this way it won't fall out).

By the way, none of this was pre-planned. The husband asked me yesterday morning to pick up a prize and something to use as a limbo pole. I conceptualized, shopped and built everything yesterday except for the brass plate and decorating the limbo pole. you think I have too much time on my hands?

A jumble of many things

Well, my laptop is purring nicely after some circus-worthy-computer-fixing-skillz (seriously, Google is my friend... in addition to the number of online forums dedicated to weird glitches)

My cat is also purring nicely. Too bad it's while he repeatedly bites my arm. He's doing this 'cause he's on my lap and is angry that when I type, I slightly brush against one of his ears. He turns 8 in a couple weeks (April 2), so I'm putting it down to him turning into a cranky old man.

My hard drive seems to be running smoother and not as hot as it was before... so I'm just gonna be more careful with my backups and see how it goes... since I don't really want to get a new hard drive if I don't have to.

Onto more important things:

The Blood-Red Pencil had an awesome list of questions to give your beta-readers. I'm definitely bookmarking this one.

Veronica Roth had a great post on objective critique partners.

Janice Hardy had a good post on creating characters, which is similar to my style.

And Guilie Castillo shared the query-wisdom she gleaned from the San Francisco Writing Conference.

With my computer woes, I nearly forgot I signed up for the Unicorn Bell blogfest (still time to sign up I believe), so hopefully today I can bang out a first draft of whatever that will be.

AND, I'll have another small post going up later. I was enlisted to make 'something' for a St. Paddy's Day party, which is still missing one essential element.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Okay, short post... it's really hard to type on my phone.

The new hard-drive I got installed 6 months ago... just coughed up a hairball and died.

I'm probably going to be offline for a few days, not checking my email/etc.

I was always a little worried 'cause this new hard-drive seemed to run hotter than the old one, but luck seems to be with me since I did just backup everything in preparation for the clean Lion install, so it's a good time for things to break ;)

Silver-lining, right?

Any-hoo, I'm goin' dark. See ya soon.

Expanding taste in books

Perhaps due to the kind of books I grew up with, I never had much taste for sci-fi and fantasy.

When I was quite young (like 7-9), I did read books that could be classified under those genres. 'The Dark is Rising' series by Susan Cooper, 'The Hobbit', '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea', 'Frankenstein', 'Dracula', some short story collections by Poe and Kafka. I also liked 'Dr. Doolittle', 'Treasure Island', started into the Agatha Christie when I was around 10, then ate through all the Christopher Pike books available in the then-tiny Young Adult section of the bookstore.

But for some reason when I hit my teenage years, I got sucked into contemporary. Perhaps, in that stage of growing up, I was seeking something 'real' and felt it was necessary to throw off the silly fantasies of childhood. I was still pretty childish though. A 'late bloomer' if you will, so I never latched onto anything with romance as the main plot. Agatha Christie, Poe & Kafka had left me with a taste for murder and darkness, so I read Clive Barker and some of John Saul's books. I discovered Jostein Gaarder, Haruki Murakami, Banana Yoshimoto and a whole stream of authors who only ever wrote one or two books before fading away into obscurity... but each of them often had just a hint of something strange, something not quite 'real'.

I'd have to say that I didn't read anything that was strictly 'fantasy' until a couple years ago (I know, I was way behind in the game...) when I eventually (and somewhat begrudgingly) picked up the first couple Harry Potter books. They didn't suit my taste, so I didn't get beyond the third one (I think). I figured, since the books were so widely popular, that I have given the genre a fair chance, and went back to reading contemporary and non-fiction.

In this last year, I've made a decision to spread my reading-net. Since I'm pretty ignorant about other genres, I've been asking other people for the names of authors and books that they like.

Some have been absolute misses, where I can barely force myself to get through the pages (I always finish what I start), but there have been some surprising hits as well!

I just finished reading a sci-fi book by Mike Resnick called 'The Dark Lady' and absolutely loved it. Without someone recommending it to me (thanks, L!) I never would have picked up the 'Hunger Games' books. I read a classic YA fantastical trilogy by Garth Nix (Sabriel, etc), a sci-fi YA trilogy by Patrick Ness (The Knife of Never Letting Go, etc), and even a few books with reasonably prevalent romantic-subplots. A few were enjoyable, despite the grindingly obvious conclusions, one was disappointing as I had been quite excited about the author's reputation and the premise (which was nice and dark).

I'm still leery of the whole paranormal/romance genre, but I think I'm going to dabble a little more in the sci-fi genre and perhaps try a historical fiction or two. I know Laurie Halse Anderson has one about the yellow fever epidemic... so I might start there.

Any recommendations?

...I may even try a paranormal-type book if there's a good one without the standard love-triangle plot.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Lucky number 13... uh, I mean 7

Well, Lion is up and purring nicely and all my data is back where it should be... accessible at my fingertips instead of on a removable hard-drive.

And since it's still technically Monday, at least here on the west coast of Canada, I'm going to do a fun little post.

Huntress and Guile both tagged me for the Lucky 7 Meme. Too bad 13 is my lucky number ;)

According to the rules:

Go to page 77 of your current MS
Go to line 7
Copy down the next 7 lines - sentences or paragraphs - and post them as they're written.
No cheating/tweaking/polishing/rewriting

So, since I don't have 77 pages of my Inuit/Siberian-type story, I decided to use 7 lines from Brake Fluid, Blood & Body Bags. Since the text size is different, you'll just have to believe me that it's 7 lines 'cause I'm not obsessive enough to reformat them just for this blog. I'm a little irritated 'cause they give away something reasonably important... but I must obey :)

She runs her hand down my thigh and stops just before my knee. “But I never noticed this before. Not until last night.” She points to a grayish stain on the faded denim. The same place she’s been touching all day. 
I swallow hard. That’s what she’s been trying to bring up all day. That’s why there’s this weird tension between us.
“It’s a phone number, right?”
And I can feel my eyes tearing up, so I push her hand away, harder than I mean to. “Don’t touch me,” I whisper.

Now, Guile's tag didn't include questions, but Huntress' did, so here are my answers to her questions:

What is the title of your current WIP? Tell us about it.
Uhm, okay, here's my sad first attempt at writing a logline for BF, B & BB:

Six months after the party where a twisted bet sparked desire and revenge, one teen is dead and two others have to dump his body and clean up the mess before his parents get home.

...these are damn hard to write when the main character has no defined name or gender...

When did you start blogging and why?
My first post was April 4, 2011. The reason why I started is in that first post... long-story-short is I was interesting in meeting other people who like the same things I do.

If you could do anything tomorrow, what would you do?
Probably go for a run. Seems like a small boring wish, but I know it ain't gonna happen :(

Describe your happy place.
Running around like a crazy person outside whenever there's a storm. I love cold, wind & rain. Gets me totally hyper.

What was your first happy memory?
Technically not my first happy memory, but one that really stands out for me: It was a rainy day and since I was sick, I wasn't allowed to go outside and play at lunchtime so my 1st grade teacher, Ms. Morioka, taught me to speak a few sentences in Japanese and fed me bites of her lunch (dried seaweed on rice cakes and barbecued eel). I remember it being the first time I realized that a teacher was just 'a person' like I was, despite the age/hierarchy difference. One of those early epiphanies of growing up that changes how you view the world.

What was the scariest thing you've ever done?
Hmmm... scary to me? Or scary to other people? If it's scary to me, then public speaking of any kind. Scary to other people? Bridge/cliff-jumping maybe... I don't know. I'm a bit of an adrenaline junkie, so a lot of things that might scare other people just get me totally revved up.

Where is the strangest place you ever had an idea for a story?
Maybe not an idea for an actual, specific story, but often just random things people say will spark an idea for me.

Where do you write?
On the couch, at my desk, on the lawn, beach, airport, other people's houses, sitting in the parked car waiting for someone... doesn't matter, I can write anywhere as long as I have my laptop. I never write by hand 'cause my handwriting is completely illegible, even to me.

If you just won a ticket to anywhere in the world and you had to take me, where would you take me and why?
Well, half the places I'd love to go are too dangerous... so, I'd say let's island-hop in the South Pacific! I wanna live in a hut on the beach, scuba dive off every coast, see lots of sharks, eat fresh seafood and fruit... then, when we get bored of one island, jump a boat to the next one and do it all over again :)

And, I guess I'm supposed to tag 7 more people... but since it seems this meme is running rampant across the web right now, I'm betting most people have already been tagged.

So, how about we do it this way:

Any readers who wanna be tagged, put your name and link in the comments and answer away :) I promise to come visit everyone who participates :)


Hey, guys

I've been putting off upgrading my OS for months, so today I'll be offline getting Lion up and running on my laptop.

Well, after I back up my harddrive ;) That'll take a while since I've got over 120 Gigs of data on here.

So see you guys tomorrow or Wednesday :)

Friday, March 9, 2012

Is it good or bad?

Michael Haynes has a great post up right now on the difference between persistence and stubbornness.

I actually read it right before I went to bed last night... and then proceeded to toss and turn for about an hour thinking about it.

Y'know what I think about characters who are flat or too perfect?

The writer hasn't taken their good traits to the extreme.

Wait, what?

Yup. Any good trait becomes a bad one when you take it to the extreme.

As an example, let's take a character (or person) who is equally kind to everyone.

If that person is equally kind to everyone, it means that person will only have shallow relationships with those around them. Think about it. If your best friend or significant other treated you the same as they treated everyone else... sure, it's nice and admirable and that might be why you met in the first place, but wouldn't that get on your nerves? You would start to question, do they have the same strength of feelings towards me as I do towards them? And if they continued to treat everyone the same, no matter how you tried to build the relationship... you'd have to conclude that they don't want to do the same. You'd probable get frustrated and start to pull away from that person.

If a character is equally kind to everyone, they have no one *special* or have any deep relationships. Their kindness may even come across as false or condescending.

Someone who is really generous would have similar problems. Imagine you have a friend who always pays for you when you go out for lunch. It's really nice at first, but think of that over the long term. After a number of free lunches, wouldn't you feel like you owed that person in some way? You might end up feeling like you can never say 'no' when that person asks something of you, or you might just start making excuses and avoiding them. 'Cause even though we don't like admitting it, everyone keeps some kind of score-card in their heads. I'm not talking about being petty... I'm talking about the ingrained sense of what is right and wrong in whatever culture a person grows up in. As humans, we value those closest to us. If someone does something nice, we naturally want to be nice back, and it makes us feel bad if we can't.

So having your lunch paid for over and over again... that's going to start to make you feel really crappy after awhile. It's going to put a strain on your relationship, and if the problem doesn't get dealt with, the lopsidedness of the give-and-take will take its toll.

I often play with the good traits of my characters and find ways to have those be major stumbling blocks.

For example, Simon. He's 100% loyal and he puts Hector's life/happiness above his own, but this tendency to always put his brother first is almost always what makes their situation worse. He lies, he cheats, he steals, he almost kills someone... and that's just the beginning.

Loyalty is one of those traits that can be good/bad in a number of different ways. In fact, it's one of the reoccurring aspects in my writing. There's always at least one character who is brought down in some way by the strength of their bonds to someone else.

Sound depressing? Don't worry, I mostly have happy endings because one of the other reoccurring aspects in my writing is that there's always a silver-lining. Yes, that has its own problems when taken to the extreme... but I think I've written enough here.

Do you have a main character who is too perfect? Rather than try to make a list of bad qualities to patch on... why not take a closer look at all those good traits? Stress doesn't only kill, it inflates. Especially the strongest qualities that are inherent in people, or characters. It can take something wonderful like loyalty and twist it into obsession, and isn't that a heck of a lot more interesting to read about?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Walkies & a product review

Eva and I just got back from the beach.
click on the pics if you want to see at full size
 See that stuff she's walking on? The third picture is what it looks like when the tide's up. It's horribly slippery, as is the driftwood and the barnacle & seaweed coated rocks. If you look in the top two pictures, we walk all the way to the end of that point on the right... but the beach *ends* long before that. 90% of our beach-walk is clambering up and around steep, pointy, very slippery rocks.

My shoe-wear product of choice for our all-terrain walkies?

Vibram five-fingers. Sure they look a little goofy, but they don't slip and it doesn't matter if you step in water, sand, dirt, gravel, or mud. They're also great for running around on wet grass at the dog park 'cause you can dig your toes right in and get plenty of grip.

And yes, that is my little blue foot in the bottom picture, right before I hopped the 4 foot gap of water onto the next rock. I sure as hell wouldn't do it wearing running shoes...

By the way, don't I live in a beautiful part of the world?

...and today Eva's choice of random-indigestible-snack was a piece of sea-glass I had to wrestle out of her mouth. I swear, this dog is not the sharpest tool in the shed...

Non-writerly update

I always enjoy reading blog updates on what people are doing in their lives, so I thought I'd take a break from writerly-talk and check in with a few of the other things going on right now.

The husband and I have been considering, on and off, whether to sell the witch's hut and move since the house/property is entirely too witchy for me to fix on my own. We've had plumbers, electricians, landscapers, renovating companies, and builders all tromping through the house and yard over the last few weeks. We've also been checking out new homes/townhouses closer to downtown so the husband could possibly walk to work.

So far we have not made a final decision.

I have signed up for the Porcelain Artists of Canada convention in Ottawa, so if anyone out there is in/around Ottawa during the first week of May, let me know 'cause I'd love to chat/meet for coffee. I'm betting I'll be the youngest person there by a good 20-30 years (and if it's not clear, I mean the PAC convention, not Ottawa)

I also met a local painter who is interested in meeting/painting together after I have finished going through all my grandmother's stuff... which I've been picking away at. To give you an example of the job at hand, so far I've found close to 60 small bottles/containers of different kinds of oil. Most of these I am clueless as to their purpose. Apparently, depending how open/closed you want the paint to be, you can mix together many different ratios of these oils into the powdered paint. Frankly, it blows my mind how complex this art form is.

I'm also trying to figure out which corner of the house I can actually use to paint in... since the witch's hut is really small and all the materials are oil-based, so everything has a really strong smell and I'd rather the entire house didn't smell like turpentine.

The husband and I have also been going through all our books/dvds. Since we have moved 8 times in 8 years, we don't usually collect much *stuff*, but books and dvds seem to be the exception, so we're trying to purge anything we don't plan to re-read/re-watch. It's amazing what you find... especially since through most of our moves, we've never bothered to unpack everything, so some of these books I haven't seen since we got married (9 years ago this June).

A few people we know are moving, so we've been loaning out our pickup truck... leaving me housebound/vehicle-less, or (since one of the people moving is my sister), packing a bunch of stuff we're not using over to the mainland so she can use it in her new place.

To amuse myself, I have been pulling out large tracts of the horrible ivy that covers most of the witch's hut yard.

I've also been in Vancouver a number of times.

The husband and I decided to renew our Seahawks seasons tickets and we're pre-planning a trip to Seattle in June with a bunch of people to see a Mariner's baseball game together. Like, 30 people or more. It should be a lot of fun.

I moved all the bird-feeders behind a fence to hopefully prevent the deer cleaning them out... yet the deer simply put their legs up on the fence and lean on it while they take their time eating all the birdseed. It feels a bit like an exercise in futility, but at least I'm not rolling a rock up a hill...

The hummingbirds are coming back! I've cleaned out/filled all the hummingbird feeders in preparation. I've seen about a dozen or so in the last month as they slowly trickle back along their migration route.

Since the weather has been really nice, I've been taking Eva to the little beach that's only a couple blocks away. So far she has tried to eat many different kinds of kelp & seaweed, crab & oyster/clam shells, rocks, driftwood, weeds/plants, sticks, feathers, and she licked the garbage can at the beach entrance.

...Yup, she's a beagle. We joke that she was a goat in her previous life since she tries to lick/eat everything.

How about you guys? What's going on in your lives right now?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Two sides of the same coin

There has to be a balance between loving your work, and being critical of it.

...and I'm certainly not the best example.

I'm very critical of my own writing. Whenever I send it to someone to critique, my email usually includes the phrase, "shred it to pieces". And I never intend that line to be exaggeration for the sake of humour (thought I do poke fun at myself whenever possible).

I do mean it. I want my work to be shredded into itty-bitty pieces.

One of the best things about being dyslexic: I pretty much have an iron skin.

And truly, no shred-tacular critique from a fellow writer is going to be worse than my third grade teacher forcing me to re-write my work on the blackboard in front of the entire class so I would 'learn' not to fool around and would stop writing my letters backwards, while she lectured me the entire time about what a bad student I was.

Yup. I have an iron skin.

I know there are going to be errors no matter how many times I look over the same piece of writing.

What looked fine yesterday will look ridiculous tomorrow, and I'll ask myself, "Was I drunk when I checked that over? Nope? Okay, just dyslexic. Like an idiot, I should have seen those raisins."

The reason I'm super-critical is because I love writing and I want to get better.

Though I expect there to be mistakes, I want it to be perfect. I so badly want readers to 'get' the story I'm trying to tell, to love the characters the way I do, to see the world through my eyes. I don't want to waste my critique partner's time by tripping them up on weirdly worded sentences, white-room-syndrome, confusing character motivations, or pizza-popsicles.

So the more I love the story, the more critical I am.

Does that sound strange?

I do think these are two aspects of the same thing. Like the old saying about love and hate being two sides of the same coin. The opposite of love isn't hate, it's apathy. Similarly with writing, being enamoured and being critical of the same page of words... those are both strong emotions, which means you're invested in the story.

But when the two aren't balanced, that's when problems can occur. If you love it too much, you can't see the problems. Similarly, if you are too critical, you can't see the good.

Either way, you can't improve, and I definitely lean more naturally to the second one. Most of the time I'm so desperate to find and fix my mistakes before someone else sees them that I lose focus and don't spend the time I should to refine the parts of my writing that are good, but could be great if I worked on them with the same dedication I use to hunt/destroy the bad parts.

Which is why I have to jolt myself out of that tunnel-vision-mindset, make a mess and have fun once in a while.

I need to remind myself why I love a particular story and why I was willing to devote so much time and energy into it.

How about you guys? Which way do you tend to tilt, towards love or hate? Any words of wisdom in how to re-set your balance? How are you right now with your WIP's?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Rambling impulse

As a pantser, I never pass up breakfast. Or a chance to run a zig-zagging-tangent-rich-path through a new story.

It doesn't always turn out great, sometimes things go horribly wrong (or worse, boring), but tapping into that crazy part of my brain that wants to tear around like a hyperactive three-year-old and make a giant mess... well, that's when things start getting interesting.

'Cause here's the thing... to an adult, a multi-coloured scribble, a squished pancake of coloured Play-Doh or a clump of randomly stuck together Lego, well, they're kinda baffling. Especially if you are expected to guess what those are supposed to be.

To a child, it's obvious. And they have conviction that their representational creations are authentic. They're ready and willing to tell you you're wrong if you guess 'porcupine' after squinting at the vaguely octagonal brown smudge with purple lines sticking out every which way.

No, it's a giraffe. Or a space station.

It doesn't matter how inaccurate the execution, the vision behind it is clear.

Sure, it might look like a mess, but it's something.

And y'know, maybe that's all anyone else will see... an ugly, confusing mess on a page.

...but wouldn't it be the best feeling in the world to have someone look at that page and ask, "Is this a giraffe?"

...and you can say, "Yes!"

...because they get it.

Now, this will probably sound odd considering my last post was a self-reflection about personal taste, but I find my best ideas come from the most random and strange places. Usually they don't make sense. I squint at them on the page and all I can see are vaguely octagonal brown smudges with random purple lines... but somehow, later it makes sense. I can pick out a shape or a few lines that feel right, that look accurate, that imperfectly capture something that I didn't even know I was trying to say.

And I wouldn't have said it, if I tried to say it. When you're sketching, often the best lines are the ones you didn't mean to draw. They happen almost by accident when you're free and loose and having fun. The moment you start trying to put down a perfect line, your muscles lock down and you lose that flow of motion and your drawing comes out stilted, forced.

So never pass up the chance to make a mess, to be impulsive, to scribble all over the page and have fun with it.

I think... it's okay to give yourself permission to play around, to stretch your creative muscles, and not just with writing. The more experiences you have in life, the bigger the inner-resevoir you will have which you can tap into when you need it.

If you do the same things every day, you're only going to have a single, knotted rope of knowledge to climb on. Sure, it's easy to climb straight up to the ceiling on a rope like that, it's just one-hand-over-the-other, but wouldn't it be more fun to climb in every direction? The more varied the activities and experiences, the more ropes get added, and soon you can pull from a web of interconnecting knowledge instead of just the single knotted rope.

While I see the benefits of specialty knowledge, I think being a more rounded individual is healthier and more enjoyable, and part of new/different experiences is the way you do them.

Have conviction in what you do. But that doesn't mean you have to be serious about it.

Bowling competitively is a completely different experience than bowling blind-folded or backwards with a group of friends.

So make a mess, goof off, have fun, try something new.

...and speaking of ropes and messes, wow, that certainly was a rambling post, wasn't it?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

A Picture Paints 1000 Words Blogfest

I forgot to mention I've joined the A Picture Paints 1000 Words Blogfest currently being hosted by Unicorn Bell.

Here's how it will work:
1. Sign up in Mr. Linky below.
2. Tell your friends any way you want and send them over to sign up for the party.
3. Choose a picture to inspire your short story (the story can be about what you see in the picture, or just something that it sparked in your imagination.)
4. On Monday-Wednesday (March 26-28), post your story of 1000 words or less and go around to visit the other participants. You may want to post early, see below.
5. The four of us at UB will do the same and pick our four favorites to post links to on Wednesday night. 
6. On Thursday you get to read the four and vote for your favorite.
7. The winner will be announced on Friday. They will have a choice between a first chapter critique from those of us at UB, or a $20 gift card to Amazon (courtesy of me).

They have 10 pictures posted which you can use as inspiration, and I chose the very last one of the path through the woods.

Anyone else signed up for this?

I like that it's not until the end of March so I can have plenty of time to fit it in amongst everything else :)