Friday, June 29, 2012


...and the first draft is DONE!

And it's a good thing 'cause I've got to get up at 6am tomorrow to get ready, ship the pets off to jail, pick up 3 people, and get all our butts to the ferry terminal on time...

...'cause we're got a MARINERS game tomorrow!!


I'm looking forward to this weekend, not only 'cause of the game, but because we're taking a different ferry than usual. Normally, when we leave Vancouver Island, we take the BC Ferries route over to Vancouver (well, technically Tsawassen), but this time we're taking a Washington State ferry which drops us off at Anacortes.

The ferry trip is longer, but it'll be fun 'cause there'll be about 10 of us on the ferry together.

...and I REALLY didn't want to be packing my laptop and hiding away somewhere trying to finish this first draft...

By the way, I know a bunch of people have asked to beta-read 'Brake Fluid', and sorry, I can't remember all who... except for the couple people who have begged harassed threatened asked me a number of times recently, so if you were one of those interested parties, send me an email, don't trust me to remember.

I'm shooting for mid-to-end of July for having my first editing pass done, and I'm not looking for anything too hard-core/fancy since that one pass is all I'll be doing before handing it over.

Just point out where things are confusing, what makes you roll your eyes, and where you want to smack the characters upside the head. Since it won't be in a polished state, no need to worry about grammar/etc unless you just really like finding those, then feel free, 'cause I never turn down good advice ;)

And yes, feel free to use those terms :) I'm a little slow sometimes, so dead-straight-honestly is the best way for me not to get confused. Just keep the four-letter words to a minimum ;), I better turn off this computer and pack my bag for tomorrow...

Since I'll be in transit on July 1st... Happy Early Canada Day to all my fellow Canadians out there!!!

Getting away with it

As I'm struggling through the final scenes of the 'Brake Fluid' first draft, a thought has occurred to me.

Do you guys (as readers) want the two main characters to get away with it?

The 'it' of course being, the stealthy disposal of Jackson's body.

And I suppose I'm putting this out to any followers who have read chunks of the story, or those who have read the *blurb* on my 'what I'm writing' page.

The line that put this thought into my brain is this:

So what happens when everyone’s at fault, but no one’s at fault?

The ending for this story was always very clear in my mind (which is unusual), but I think that's 'cause I recognized Jackson's death for what it is. A catalyst. But at the same time, it's the end result of another catalyst: the original bet at the party six months earlier.

Sure, half the plot is the slow reveal of what actually happened on those two past nights, but the other half of the story is the journey to dispose of the body.

It's essentially an exercise in dealing with consequences and guilt, not just for Triss & the MC, but everyone involved, including Jackson.

Hence that particular line about 'fault'.

I think this is a particularly tricky question when we're talking about YA.

'Cause when I think back to what I was like at that age... I was involved in a hell-of-a-lot of stupid stuff. Some I got caught for, and some I still feel guilty about even now. Consequences and guilt were things I thought about a lot at that age, not only in weighing choices, but in figuring the angles on how to get out of potential trouble depending on which path I took.

You can rationalize a lot with only a split second to think.

Which is why when I was writing this story, I wanted to muddy up the reader's desires... to make it difficult to say for sure whether Triss & the MC should get caught, or get away with it.

Can you think of any books where you've equally wanted the main character to 'get away with it', yet also want them to get caught and punished?

How much emphasis (or thought) do you put into the consequences/guilt of a character's choices?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Nearly there...

I'm about.... 500-800 words away from finishing my first draft of 'Brake Fluid'.

I'm rushing 'cause I've got a funeral to go to today in less than 1 1/2 hours and I still need to eat lunch and get ready.

...but I'm almost done :)

Favourite gross-out line of the day?

The trunk smells like... well, I can see why Eric thought a cat got cooked on the engine.

Favourite subtexty-description of the day?

Back in the trees, the chill wind has died down, as if the storm that almost-was is now rethinking where it wants to fall.
But unlike the rain, my mind is set. I’m going to do what I need to do. No more wussing out.

My word-count at this moment is 43,243. Low, but I know there's a lot of things that need clarifying during the editing process. I'm betting the first draft will come in very close to 44,000 words and with editing, I'm guess-timating it'll end up around 55,000 total.

I've already got a small mental list of consistency issues too... like changing all the mentions of Cherry Coke to Wild Cherry Pepsi, having Triss smoke throughout the entire story, Jackson's deck of cards needs to be shown earlier, and I have to weave more music stuff in places where I simply skipped over it to get to the next scene.

...and also I have to make sure the MC isn't strongly skewed towards either gender.

I also have a... quite disgusting *reference* question I need to ask a member of my writing group who, even if he doesn't directly have the answer, knows someone who will.

alcar...I'm lookin' at you ;)

How about you guys? Are you close to making your end-of-the-month-goals?

How about everyone doing NaNo June Camp?

Okay, time to shove something edible down my throat and get changed.

...there's been way too many funerals this past year...

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Learn something new

Today, the husband and I, along with a bunch of people our age from work, are taking the Canadian Firearms Safety course. We're doing the rifle course, which you have to take before taking the restricted firearm course -> aka, handguns.

I'm not sure what to expect, but it should be fun, interesting, and I'm certain I'll learn new things which I can incorporate into later stories :)

...any new adventures this summer?

EDIT: the course was fun! ...despite the fact it could have been shortened from a 10 hour 1-day course to about a 4 hour course if the instructor had limited the number of hunting/moose-killing stories.

Also, I got 100% of my written and 99% of my practical ;) top mark ;)

We're going back tonight for the restricted (handgun) course which *promises* to be shorter and almost entirely practical.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Argh. Details.

My dear husband politely informed me last night that Triss' favourite drink (Dr. Pepper & Cherry Coke mixed 50/50) would be impossible to get at a fast food restaurant since they carry Pepsi OR Coke products... not both.

And Dr. Pepper is a Pepsi product.


Details, smetails.


...I suppose I should make a mental note to correct that during the editing process. Hmmmmm I wonder else would mix well with Dr. Pepper... maybe vanilla Pepsi?

Any funny little consistency hiccups in your own WIP's?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A little light, but done

Chapter 17 is a little light, (just shy of 2,000 words) but I've already passed my 1,000-word-a-day goal and hit 41,214 on 'Brake Fluid'.

And it's only 1pm local time.

Surprisingly enough (...or maybe not at all for those who know me), I haven't written anything new for the present-timeline today, but have been working backwards from where I ended yesterday to fill in all the missing 'Jackson dies timeline' scenes.

...which twisted off in a direction I hadn't foreseen, but now makes perfect sense.

Favourite new line in Chapter 17?

“Shit, charity-case, you really are slow.”

Virtual high-five for whoever can guess the speaker of that nasty line...

Anyways, I'm pleased with my progress and I think I'm on schedule to finish this first draft before the end of the month, taking into account I'm not home either weekend.

Time to break for lunch ;)

Anyone else have any end-of-the-month goals?


I'm notoriously bad about remembering things.

So much so that, about a month ago, I wrote a huge, long email describing this awesome character I want to include in 'Project #5' (the northern fairytale), and promptly forgot about it until that person replied to the email a couple days ago. And that character wasn't just a 'throw-away' one, it was going to play a huge part in the story...

Since I don't write notes, those kind of things are common, but I figure any really good idea will hang around in my brain and will come back eventually, when I need it. All the lame ideas will be weeded out/forgotten and replaced by better ideas.

I don't mind this. I don't intend to start writing notes, or planning, or plotting.

Because it's fun being surprised.

As a lesser example of my own forgetfulness, this morning I stumbled onto a line I forgot I wrote.

...and it's probably one of my favourite descriptive lines in 'Brake Fluid'.

The leaf-covered ground has been torn up by tire tracks, the deep gouges bleeding clay-red at the center.

I know for a fact it came out exactly like this (first-draft-format), that it's never been edited, and that I'm going to leave it exactly as is.

You may recall I get frustrated by description, but I also love it.

When your brain tangles words on a regular basis, it feels miraculous when a line comes out clearly, precisely, and tangible.

Lines like that one remind me that, even if my skills are still under development, even if grammar rules give me a migraine, that once in a while I can still pull off the right aesthetics in rhythm, wording, and imagery, purely on instinct.

Sure, some of my more carefully crafted (and heavily edited) lines of description may be more memorable, but this one certainly means more to me personally.

Which might be why I forgot about it in the first place.

'Cause I wanted to be surprised by it again. Not just by the line, but by what it means to me.

Do you have any particular lines in your own WIPs that have special meaning, or you're just really happy with the way they turned out? Feel free to post in the comments! I love getting tastes of other people's work!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

I hit my goal

...for today and crossed the 40,000 word threshold.

I also typed a four-letter-word I never thought would end up in this story.

I'll give you a hint. It starts with 'L'.

A final goodbye to Microsoft

What's lowercase, black & white, and died by heron?

No, this isn't the lead-up to a joke, it's my *secret question* for an old email account I haven't used in sometime and was updating profile information.

Until very recently, I had too many email accounts. Like, waaaaaaaay too many... and almost all of them were automatically forwarding to other email accounts, so I never actually needed to login to most of them.

Then hotmail had some kind of breach of security and I got locked out of all three of my hotmail accounts.

...which sucks because most of my email addresses were automatically forwarding emails to one of those three addresses. They also had the info for every single online account I've ever signed up for, from my Amazon account, to a YA Fantasy writer's community/forum I'm a member of.

So, bye-bye to those (other than Amazon and a select few accounts I use all the time and remember my passwords for).

I've still got my gmail one (linked to this blog), my *personal* email address (which I give to very, very few people to avoid spam/etc, and use to send queries), a graffiti account (which was going to hotmail), my address from university (also going to hotmail), and a yahoo account (also going to hotmail).

Yup, too many email addresses. The graffiti & university ones I can't remember my passwords to, and I can't retrieve them because the profile info holds a hotmail address as the secondary/backup email address to send it to... and the yahoo one, I can't even remember my login name.

So back to what sounds like the lead-up to a joke...

I always use a combination of names, numbers and upper/lowercase letters when I set passwords. Since they're pretty complicated, I always have a little trick to remember them... like, sometimes they rhyme (like my password for the 1000th.monkey gmail account), sometimes it's a pattern on the keyboard (or number pad), so my secret questions are always a little strange.

Thankfully, this was an easy one :)

All lowercase letters, black & white, died by heron.

It's a koi from my parent's pond. Or was. Since, y'know, it died by heron.

The trick to this is, whenever I use this particular name, I also always use one of two different sets of four numbers at the end.

So, it seems complicated, but my secret question (and strange password system) ensures I will get the right answer in maximum 2 guesses.

Every name I use has a unique/limited set of numbers at the end, again, ensuring I will figure out the answer within 2 guesses.

Perfect system... until hotmail decided to completely lock me out... And destroyed my rigorously organized email-forwarding-empire.

Amusingly, those hotmail addresses were my last, lingering link to any Microsoft branded product.

So... good riddance?

...although I know my technology-addicted husband is eying this new toy.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Just broke 39,000 words!

I'd love to write a little more tonight, but my eyes and brain are fried.*

Some newly written lines I like? Yeah, they're not perfect, but I like the flavour of them.

I open the door carefully, but that annoying bell jangles anyway. I hate them. Like a starter’s gun, the damn things are a signal to run.

It’s funny how walking alone in unfamiliar territory can peel the scabs off past experiences that you thought were healed and forgotten.

I peer up at the sky. The trees are so tall, there’s only a pulsing vein of grey cloud directly above where they scraped away the green so they could roll hot asphalt from one dead-ass town in the middle of nowhere to another. 

Each breath I suck in is stale and damp with this moldy aftertaste, like it’s waiting for a good storm to blow it all away.

As she twists the key, the engine gives a pneumonic, gasping whirr and gives up.

For those who have read first-draft tidbits, I'm just about to rework the creepy Megadeath-hoodie-guy scene ;)

...for those who have more patience than me... I think I posted it for a 'Near Kiss' blogfest a while back.

EDIT: Okay, since procrastination is more a lifestyle choice than a hobby, I dug up the link for that creepy-Megadeath-hoodie-guy scene.

*clearly evident by the number of missing scenes all labeled 'JACKSON DIES SCENE HERE'. So far, I think I'm up to five or six skipped scenes... since I'm waiting to write those after I finish writing the present-timeline.

Re-grouping, kicking down writer's block, and feral cats

After a few weeks of stutter-start work on 'Brake Fluid', I'm back at it again today.

I've been thinking a little about my recent post on description and a little about writer's block.

Usually I stop writing mid-scene because it seems to be easier to start back up again the next day. Often if I finish off a scene, then stop, the next time I sit down to write, it's like I've lost the momentum of the story and it sometimes takes up to a few days to get back in the head-space necessary to continue on.

Something I discovered though... I find it way easier to get back in the scene if I stop after a line of *good* description, OR, just before a place that needs a line like that.

And I think that's all about that necessary head-space, getting sucked into the mood/voice of the story, re-syncing with someone that's nothing like yourself.

Last time I stopped, I had a partially written scene. For explanation purposes, let's split that scene into four parts. The beginning, the escalation, the downturn, and the ending. I only had part of the downturn and part of the ending written. No beginning, no escalation, the downturn needed to be transitioned into the ending, and the ending itself needed a few more lines to finish it off.

Confusing? Yeah... I write like this a lot. Every scene is like a mini-story where I try to play with the pacing and transition between the different pieces.

The 'downturn' started with a horribly overwritten line I knew had to be dumped/re-done, but I wanted to preserve the intention behind it:

Triss gives her normal, teasing smile and pats my head. “I’ve tamed you. You don’t bite anymore.”

The ending 'ended' with the line:

I toss the butt out of the car and roll up the window. “Yeah. Let’s get this over with.”

The scene before this (well, the scene in the 'present time-line') ends mid-way through a phone-call, so I knew the beginning of this half-written scene had to finish off that plot-point, but the line it ended with (though an excellent line to end on) didn't necessarily inspire me into the right frame of mind to write.

So, I went back a couple of lines until I found this:

I nearly stutter out an apology, but Triss isn't clawing at my arm anymore. She leans back, away from the hand that’s keeping her at bay, and she wraps her fingers around mine.
She smiles. Not her genuinely real Triss smile, but something softer.

...and I re-wrote it into this:

I nearly stutter out an apology, but then Triss stops clawing at my arm. It’s not the lack of pain that shakes me back, it’s the loss of her warmth against my bare skin. She leans back, away from my outstretched hand that’s keeping her at bay, and she wraps her fingers around mine.
She smiles. Not her genuinely real Triss smile, but something softer. She curls my flared hand into a loose fist and presses it against her cheek, and I can’t look away from her eyes.

Sure, the re-write needs work still (like deleting the pesky repeated word 'back'), but it fulfilled the necessary job of syncing my brain with the MC again, and I knew how to finish off the phone plot-point and link up the disjointed pieces of the half-written scene.

Something that is really key to this particular character is how much Triss affects his/her view of the world, especially through physical stimuli.

An image I always had for this character is that of a feral animal, hence that horribly overwritten line that needed to be dumped/rewritten*.

Another thing I always keep in mind is an interesting book I once skimmed through... wow, too long ago to even suggest an accurate number of years... called 'The Five Love Languages', by Gary Chapman. I remember it being mentioned on a writing blog and I looked through it at someone's house once, but don't own it (though I keep thinking I should buy it since it was an interesting reference).

Essentially, the theory behind the book is that each person predominantly sees/views/uses one method of communication over all the others. The 'languages' are, words of affirmation, gifts, quality time, acts of service, and physical touch. If two people in a relationship are speaking different languages, they aren't getting what they need from their partner and will, most likely, feel unfulfilled and break up. Like, if one person thinks gifts show their love, and if their partner never gives them gifts because they feel quality time together is the best thing that shows their love, there's going to be resentment/conflict because they're both 'giving' but not 'receiving' what they view as most important.

The idea of physical touch being a 'language' really intrigued me, possibly because I had a feral cat as a pet at the time I skimmed through the book. This cat would sit on the doorstep looking through the glass sliding door every day for hours, but if you opened the door, she would run away. If you left the door open and walked away, she would occasionally sneak into the kitchen and, if you were sneaky, you could close the door and trap her inside. Yes, the kitchen closed off completely from the rest of the house.

Over a period of years (yes, I'm stubborn), I got to a place with this cat where we had a routine. I'd get her in the kitchen, I'd chase/trap her under the table, pick her up (her body would go completely rigid, like she was scared stiff), sit in one particular chair, and I would hold/pet her.

Does that sound mean? Maybe... but as soon as she was on my lap, she would relax. She'd even purr, rub her face against my hand, stand up and rub my face, and eventually she even loved to be brushed. She would sit there for hours if I didn't move, but as soon as I did, she'd remember she was 'wild', dash somewhere I couldn't catch her, eyes wide, body tense, and wait for me to open the door so she could escape.

But the next day she'd be sitting right on the doorstep again... waiting to be let in, trapped, and held.

After I left home, she still would sit on the doorstep and occasionally my parents would take pity on her and let her in. She'd run under the table and hop onto the chair we always sat on together... and happily stay there for hours. Only on that chair though. And even if the door shutting the kitchen from the rest of the house was open, she wouldn't venture further into the house, and she would never let anyone else touch her.

Whenever I'd come home for a visit, she'd fall back into our 'routine' like I'd never left. Unfortunately, she died two years ago. Her name was Sims (like the snowboard brand) and I still miss her.

So, all these ideas coiled together into the mental image of the main character for 'Brake Fluid'.

I think this is why description helps me re-sync with the character, because it links me to his/her world view where physical contact with Triss is such an unsettling, yet important part of their relationship. I wanted that wild/heightened focus to come out in the character, so the descriptions are always extremely lopsided when it comes to touch versus the other senses, though 'sight' also plays a large part. visceral descriptions are really important, not only to the story, but to my writing process. The stronger the image, the stronger the link to the 'voice'.

Realizing exactly what it is that allows me to sync myself with this character was a bit of an epiphany, but as I think back to other writing days, other characters, other stories, I see a very clear pattern.

How about you? Do you you think much about how/why you can sync some days, and other days you get struck with brutal writer's block? Have you figured out your patterns and how to kick-start your writing when you've been stuck?

...I'm sorry if my tendency to overanalyze freaks you out a little ;)

*YES, this got re-written! And it's WAAAAAAAY better. Seriously, you know I'm not afraid of getting laughed at when I post crappy first-draft lines like that...

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Genre, and more about comparison

Do you always write in the same genre?

Do you usually read the same genre, or are you the type of person where, as long as there are words, you're going to read them?

One further thought I had on my post from yesterday is how comparison to other writers can also help find your way in what you want to write.

I admit, I'm still on the search to figure out what genre I write it. Sure, the stuff posted/mentioned on this blog all tends to fall into the YA (and one MG) category, but what I used to write was for adults, not teens. But let's lay that aside for the moment.

So far, (in chronological order) I've got:

1) one YA fantasy (the one currently on near-permanent hold) with actual magic/etc

2) something... best described as a YA non-fantasy fantasy (seriously, what the heck IS 'Simon's Oath'??) where it takes place in a fantastical/not-our-world-based city with no magic whatsoever, but it has a historical/dystopian feel

3) a MG magical realism

4) a YA contemporary murder/mystery-ish

5) a full-out YA fairytale (with actual romantic elements!)

I think (and only my long-suffering CP's/writing group could confirm for sure) that all my stories, no matter what they're about, all have a similar flavour, a distinct voice which makes them *mine*, but I really feel like an amateur when someone asks, 'what do you write?', and I can't confidently whip off a single genre.

I don't write dystopian. I don't write mysteries. I don't write contemporary. I don't write fantasy. I don't write fairytales. I don't write romance.

I kind of write a little of everything*.

My reading habits are incredibly eclectic as well. And that might be part of the problem.

Normally, when you find an author you like, and you buy up their new books, it's because that author sticks to a style and type of story that you enjoy, so you expect their next book to be similar.

Sometimes (when I'm feeling negative) I think flailing around in different genres is simply a mark that I can't settle on anything. I've mentioned before that I always want to try new things, that I get bored doing the same thing and always throw myself into things I know nothing about with a kind of masochistic do-or-die attitude.

But other times, I think all this flailing around might be a good thing. If I only read/wrote in the same genre, I'd never get the chance to find out if I'm good at telling other kinds of stories. Or if I'd even like to tell other kinds of stories.

I think it's important to challenge yourself in different areas, not only the ones you feel comfortable in.

After all, you never know if you can succeed unless you try.

If I had stuck with the same thing, I'd still be writing incredibly disturbing short stories where someone almost always dies, and usually not in a pretty way**. So, jumping from that into YA was a huge flailing leap in and of itself.

I told someone recently that whenever I start a new story, it's always something that I think I'm not good at. And it's true. I've even joked about it on this blog before a couple of times.

Reading and writing widely certainly gives you a broader scope for comparison, but the question is, is it better to have a narrower range for more accurate comparison?

In this past year, I've been reading a lot of YA. So far, 68 books on my Kindle and a few paperbacks. This has certainly narrowed my book-purchasing-scope, but I've been doing it on purpose so (hopefully) I can compare an apple with another apple, instead of comparing that apple to an orange or a banana.

In all those books, I found one (that's right, only one) which is even remotely comparable to 'Simon's Oath' (which is still out with a few agents from my initial query batch of ten that I sent out in November). 

And I only read this single, comparable book two weeks ago, so obviously it wasn't mentioned in my query. 68 books, shouldn't it have been more likely to find more than one book that is similar?***

Quirky, hard-to-categorize books are certainly out there... but the odds of an agent taking a chance on one of them is pretty slim.

Which makes me ask myself if I'm looking at the right comparisons or if I'm totally off the mark? Sure, I may say I'm writing YA, but if they're nothing like the YA on the market... then either it's awesome that I've found a gap to fill, or I'm completely delusional.****

So what are your thoughts? 

Is this kind of attitude setting me up for writing-suicide/failure? Or do you see a certain merit in all this flailing around?

At this point, I have no idea :)

* Well, I'm working on it ;) I know there's a ton of genres I haven't even scratched. Though I think it's safe to say I'll skip erotica and super-gory-horror.

**You may have already gotten a hint if you've read the couple pieces of short fiction posted for various blog-fests.

*** Okay, I could probably squeeze out a half-comparison to two others... but still...

**** Anyone want to lay some odds? I'm not sure about the spread, but some days I'm definitely leaning towards 'delusional'

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Do you compare your writing to others, both published and unpublished?

I think it's impossible to not compare, at least at some level.

But is comparing a bad thing or a good thing?

I know there are a number of bad reasons to compare... like, it can discourage you about your own writing, or it can frustrate you to see a book in print that (comparatively) isn't all that well written.

Also, it's not like comparing an apple to an apple, there's no way to find a story where every aspect can directly be compared to your own.

If you take the bad comparisons too far, I think a writer's own voice can become stunted if they try to emulate another writer's work that they consider *better* than their own. Or, they will become bitter about the entire process/business and quit writing.

But what are the good aspects of comparing one's literary work to others?

I think it's the only true way to determine where your limits are.

If you're writing in a vacuum, you'll have no sense whether what you're working on is good, bad, overwritten, sparse, poorly paced, etc. You'll never know where your strengths and weaknesses lie.

Comparing is the only true way to better understand your own writing, and (hopefully), set the baseline from which to lay out new goals, figure out where you can improve, and not just take your strengths for granted.

What do I mean by that last bit?

Well, I think it's part of giving back, especially in the online community and within your own writing groups.

Understanding your own strengths is a great way to help others when they are weak in those areas. If queries come really easily to you, it's a wonderful thing to be able to lend a hand to someone who tears out their hair, but you won't be any help at all if you don't understand why you can write good queries.

We learn best from each other, and I think that's an awesome thing.

Analyzing your strengths is just as important as analyzing your weaknesses. And any strength can still be improved upon.

Personally, I know I compare my writing to my writing group/CP's more than I compare to published work. I think this is because I know them, I know their processes, and I can often recognize the intention/force that drives their storytelling.

With a published author, I get none of that behind-the-scenes information.

One big thing I totally envy about the other members of my writing group is they always seem to have so much more plot than I do! (yes, BOTH of you...)

As a pantser, one worry that always hangs close is that I'm going to run out of plot. Somehow, things always seem to work out in the end, but when I've written to the point where I don't know anything else... oh yeah, that's when the voice of doubt starts whispering...

Like right now... as I'm trying to write the night that Jackson died... and have gotten as far as Triss & the MC walking in the door. I (obviously) know how it ends... but my word count is just under 40,000 words at this point. Even if that night takes 10,000 words to tell, that's still a very slim story.

So yes, right now I'm comparing, envying, analyzing my weaknesses, and striving to improve.

Oh! And I've just started to train my body to run in the Vibram five-fingers! This is exciting 'cause, as a teenager, I was told by a very famous sports doctor* that I was not allowed to run, ever (or use a bicycle) because I have zero cartilage in my knees.

BUT, the Vibrams? So far, I can run/jog/walk my dog for an hour without being crippled in pain afterwards, so, YEAH! stamina sucks though :p

*He took care of professional athletes, including a couple of the Vancouver Canucks... don't ask me how in the world I ended up getting to see a specialist of that caliber... I think my family doctor must have had good blackmail on the guy ;)

Monday, June 11, 2012

First times?

Okay, I admit that's a spicy subject title...

...but I'm cooking Indian food tonight for the first time!, still spicy but in a different way.

I normally cook a lot of Indonesian-Chinese, Italian, British Isles, and fusion sort of foods, so I'm looking forward to trying something different, but I fully admit this meal could be entirely hit-or-miss...

I'm going with:

a kale & chickpea recipe

daal/dahl/dal (a food I could probably eat every day of my life and never get tired of it)

and two different cauliflower recipes, one which is essential aloo gobi (but I'm not including the potatoes), and one where you bake the whole head of cauliflower and pour a tomato-based sauce on just before serving.

...and yes, somehow my menu turned out vegetarian.

That was entirely coincidental.

Have you tried anything new lately for the very first time?

UPDATE: including prep time, 1 1/2 hours until complete. In case you're curious, I'm updating to include the linked recipes.

As for hit-or-miss?

The daal was the perfect flavour that I was going for, which was surprising since there seems to be a billion different daal recipes online and I ended up just choosing the easiest one to make, but since I used dried lentils instead of canned, it was a little drier (texture-wise) than it should have been. It was an easy fix to just stir in a bit of extra water at the end.

The kale/chickpea thing was surprisingly good and it was a nice non-spicy flavour to balance out the rest of the meal.

The cauliflower aloo gobi... since I didn't put potatoes in and instead just added more cauliflower, the ratios were a little off. Next time, I'm going to use 3/4 head instead of the entire thing.

The baked cauliflower dish was really good, again, a nice contrast to the spicy aloo gobi and daal, but unfortunately it didn't cook entirely through so the centre was crunchy. Next time I think quartering it before baking would be better, even though it won't look quite as cool presentation-wise.

Real life = great ideas

Considering writing is such a solitary endeavour, there are many times when I just want to unplug the phone and not have to go anywhere, or see anybody.

...but I swear, every time I throw off my antisocial tendencies, I end up with fabulous new ideas.

I was at someone's house watching the fourth Stanley Cup final game (not that I'm really a hockey fan... yeah, I know... blasphemy coming from a Canadian... get over it) and overheard someone tell a story of something... I never knew was physically possible.

...and since it's both hilarious and alcohol related, it's SOOOOOOOOOO ending up in 'Brake Fluid'!

Those of you who have been hanging around a while and reading first draft tidbits of 'Brake Fluid', might remember a scene with a 'one year older than dead' joke. Coincidentally enough, from a party at the exact same residence as the other night. Different person though ;)

As much as I think it's important to read, watch movies, listen to music, get outside, hike, run, try new things, etc. (because they both re-fill the creative reservoir and give the mind/body a much needed break) I think I often forget the importance of getting involved in social situations.

I'm not a wallflower, I'm not especially timid around new people, or get nervous, but I do find groups of people to be somewhat exhausting. I function better on a one-to-one basis. Quality over quantity.

...but you do miss something... a whole other dimension that isn't possible to experience when you compare a one-on-one hang-out to a crowd of people all laughing, telling stories and jokes, intermingling, etc. It's a vibrancy, an energy, and I think, especially for writing 'Brake Fluid', that I need a reminder to throw myself in a little more, drink in the chaotic noise, revel in it, and above all, remember it.

Because so much of 'Brake Fluid' happens at a crazy party...

Do you find it's difficult to capture the energy of different social situations in your writing? Any tips on tapping in/recreating all the different highs and lows that are running wild within the same space/time?

Which do you find easier, writing scenes with a limited number of characters, or those big battle-like crazy-energy scenes with a ton of things/people?

Any writers you can think of who are particularly masterful at recreating that kind of energy?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Slow & steady

Another 1,000 words today so far, and I'm hoping to make another 1,000 before the husband comes home, but that might be too optimistic a goal...

...I may have mentioned I'm dog-sitting this week?

She's a real sweetie, only about 8-9 months old. She's a mutt with a german shepherd-ish body and gait, but she's mostly black in colour with solid patches of brown and white, almost like my beagle's colouring. She also has one white foot with grey polka-dots.

Very cute... but very playful, to the point where my beagle keeps trying to take refuge on my lap (which makes it hard to type), and she's very interested in the cat... too interested. The first couple days, the dog avoided the cat, but the longer she's here, the braver she's getting and there's been two or three near-incidents already today.

Let me remind you, this cat once chased/cornered a 120 lb golden lab...

He's territorial, even in a house that's not his own.

At least the dog I'm pet-sitting is female, otherwise blood would have spilled on the very first day... the cat relentlessly hunts down any male animal (like the aforementioned golden lab) until they turn tail/submit.

So, even though I've spent the entire day puttering around doing inside-chores and writing... it's been a little difficult to concentrate with a growling, spitting black cat and a hyper dog who just wants to run around and play.

If it wasn't pouring rain out there... I'd take her for a long walk, while it wouldn't solve the problem, it would at least defuse the situation.

Ah, well, she's going home tomorrow so it's not too much longer :)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Whew! Chapter 14 done!

Okay, that chapter took a lot of reworking, but now I'm up to 36,247 words!

...over 1,200 words so far and it's only 8:00pm!

How are your WIP's doing?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Visceral description

...and not the good kind ;)

I don't just like beautiful description... I like any kind, as long as it's visceral.

By that, I mean it hits you deep down. Like, any *good* vomit reference should make the reader feel a little queazy.

Okay, my CP's know this already... but there's always at least one vomit reference in the stories I write.*

'Brake Fluid' has... oh, more than a few. One of my favourites is:

Another crumpled twenty went in Triss’ pocket when Jaymin didn’t make it to the sink and yakked a swirl of vodka and cheesies into an ugly potted fern.

...the word 'swirl' really sells this line for me... especially since cheesies have such an amazing chemical-orange-vibrancy. The precision of the image is what I like... the visual of a chemical-orange-liquid-swirl.

But it's not just vomit references that I take the time to choose a perfect concoction of words. So far, Chapter 14 has a few lines like this:

The words boil out in a liquid blubber

Only the high pitched laugh that scratched out of my chest like a spooked alley-cat.

I knuckle away the tears, shove my nose into my shoulder and wipe my face clean of snot and drool.

...well, there are more, but they're too spoiler-ish to post. Obviously they still need tweaking... but I like the bones of them, the precise combinations of words.

Honestly, I think I take more pleasure in writing lines like these... ones that hit the 'ick' button, rather than the flowing, perfectly crafted lines that are beautiful to read.

...and I think it's probably a very good thing that I don't write love/sex scenes.

What kinds of description do you enjoy writing? Do you find some kinds are harder than others?

*Don't ask me why, I swear, it's not even on purpose... it's like they just slink in there when my brain is occupied elsewhere...

Characteristics of *Character*

On Saturday, I had the pleasure of meeting up with my local writing group for the first time in... months, I think.

...And, amid the sporadic bursts of actual writing and chatting about random things, we touched a bit on why we like to write.

For me, it's always about *character*.

What is it about some characters that feel real, where others feel like cardboard clones?

And I don't have a good answer for that. No one does, I think, 'cause it's subjective. Even if two people like the same story with the same character, I'd be willing to bet money that, even if they connected to the same character, both readers would connect in different ways.

I connect to every character I write. Even if I disagree with their thoughts, emotions, needs, desires, etc... I still connect. I understand them.

Even awful characters like Jackson.

...despite the fact that no one is sad about his death (and rightly so), I still get him. I understand that sense of entitlement that drives his decisions.

The trick now, is honing my writing in such a way that readers understand it... and by that, I don't mean I necessarily want readers to empathize with him, 'cause even I'm glad he's dead. I suppose what I mean is that I want the complexity of his character to be evident. For him to feel *real*.

...and sometimes, it's really fun to read about a truly irredeemable character.

Have you ever heard of/watched a tv show called 'It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia'?

The people who developed the show essentially wanted to explore all the horrible things people joke about doing (or secretly want to do)... and make a tv show about characters doing these things.

Here's a description from wikipedia of the main characters:

They are often dishonest, petty, egotistical, selfish, greedy, unethical, lazy, manipulative, deceitful, hypocritical, self-centered, vain, disloyal, unremorseful, hasty, overly competitive, immature, vengeful, and arrogant. Episodes usually find them hatching elaborate schemes, conspiring against one another and others for personal gain, vengeance, or simply for the entertainment of watching one another's downfall. They inflict physical and psychological pain. They regularly use blackmail to manipulate one another and others outside of the group.
Their unity is not solid; any of them would quickly dump the others for quick profit or personal gain regardless of the consequences. Almost everything they do results in competition among themselves and a considerable amount of the show's dialogue revolves around the characters arguing or yelling over one another. Despite their lack of worldly success, the Gang generally maintain high opinions of themselves and display an often obsessive interest in their own reputations and public images. Despite this high sense of self worth, the Gang often have little sense of shame when attempting to get what they want and will often engage in activities which others would find humiliating, disgusting, or even preposterous, such as smoking crack cocaine in order to qualify for welfare, seducing a priest, or hiding naked inside a leather couch in order to spy on someone.

Yes, this show goes way over the top in believability, but the characters... oh, even though they're all so horrible, you get them. It's like every horrible person you've ever met in real life, all rolled up into 5 main characters. They feel real, you're happy when they get what's coming to them, and you love watching them self-destruct/fail.

Bad things happening to bad people.

Let me clearly state that I have never been tempted to write a 'Mary Sue character', essentially a literary version of myself in which to explore every wish I could ever hope for.

...there's a very good reason for this.

I am not all that interested in myself.

Really, whenever I have read a book where a character is similar to myself... I either get bored or irritated. Usually the latter.

The best part of writing (and reading) is the ability to explore a character who is NOT me. Who likes things I do not, who makes assumptions I would not make, who chooses paths I would most certainly avoid. 

This is probably part of the reason I prefer to write male characters -> because I'm female .

I'm sure this can be considered a form of escapism, but instead of wanting to escape into a fantastical world of amazing things... I just want to escape into someone else's head for a while. And not be me. Even when they are horrible characters.

...which is probably why I'm doing this whole writing thing in the first place...

And if I want to escape, it's got to be believable, which is why it all comes back to characters.

Whenever I encounter a character that feels like a cardboard clone, I wonder how real that character was to the author. Did they have a visual image? Could they hear the tone of the voice clearly? See the body language/mannerisms/ticks? Was the failure to connect just a disconnect between me (the reader), or was it a failure of the author in their ability to transmit essential character-building-information?

Do you think about why you connect with certain characters over others? Do you find they are similar to yourself, or not? What about the ones you write compared to the ones you connect to when you read? How clearly can you imagine the characters you connect with versus the ones that feel like cardboard?

Saturday, June 2, 2012

35,000 words

Chapter 13 ends with:

And we all ran like fucking rabbits while Jackson died alone on the linoleum floor.

Chapter 14 starts with:

The beast is stalled dead in the middle of ass-up-nowhere while French lyrics I can’t understand are pouring through the speakers with a maddeningly upbeat tempo.

...what do you think... am I managing to keep the *voice* of this character consistent?

...though I think that last sentence might be missing some punctuation... grammar check, anyone?