Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I can't quite do it

1/2 way through the final chapter... and I just can't stare at the screen any longer.

I've worked fast and hard for three solid days, but my tank is empty.

I need to re-charge. Hopefully I'll be able to come back to this later tonight and get through the last 1900 words.

If not, I'll be plugged-in on the ferry tomorrow morning as we head for Seattle.

I'm hoping for a Seahawks win to celebrate a completed round of edits ;)

I'll probably be offline (or near-offline) until Monday.

Take care and happy Labour Day Weekend, for those of you who get Monday off ;)

Winding down

For the three hours, I haven't been able to sit in my chair for longer than 15 minutes.

I keep getting up for more water, to crack the window open or closed a fraction more, to double-check that the dog doesn't have to tinkle, that the cat isn't nibbling on my newly sprouted papaya plants, and that deer aren't gobbling up my gladiolas or cleaning out the bird feeders.

I can't sit still 'cause I'm winding down. I'm on chapter 23 of 'Brake Fluid' edits and I know I can finish today.

I'm at the lake with Jackson's body.

...and I'm damn close to my guestimated post-edit-word-count of 55,000

(I'm at 53,298 and have one and a half lean chapters to go)

It's 3pm PST, and I know I've got at least two hours before the husband comes home.

Maybe an hour before the dog decides it's time to go outside, run around, and make a lawn sculpture.

Ten minutes before I need another glass of ice-cold water.

So why can't I stay in my chair and concentrate?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Chapter 19

Wow, I'd forgotten how tangled and messy this story gets... I've spent all day working and only just got into chapter 19.

There's the three different timelines, right? Well, through most of the story, it's just switching between two of them: the present where they're trying to get rid of the body, and the party six months earlier.

There are very few mentions/hints about the third timeline (the night Jackson died) until chapter 17, and the timeline with the party (6 months earlier) doesn't end until midway through chapter 18.

Which is why my fast & furious progress yesterday suddenly got jerked from third gear into first, 'cause for two entire chapters, I've had all three timelines to deal with, and they have to flow together, yet each one also has to be easily recognizable from the other two.

I'm on page 87/114 (single spaced), and my word count has inched up to 52,350.

Even though it's been a slow day, I'm happy with the progress I've made. Especially that I made it into chapter 19 where we're back to just two timelines.

You may not believe me, but from here on, the story gets much simpler.

...and with this post, I've probably terrified all the wonderful people who have agreed to read/critique when I'm done this major round of edits...

Sorry, guys... but at least I'm giving you a taste of what you've gotten yourself into...

...and seriously, someone whack me with a rolled up newspaper if I ever mention it might be fun to write another multiple-timeline-story.

Actually, scratch the newspaper idea. Make it a Louisville Slugger ;)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Fast and furious I speed along

It's been a good day :)

Now I'm on chapter 16 (page 71/113 single spaced) and my word-count has bumped over 51,150.

Before I completely stalled out last week, I had been fighting with a scene in the middle of chapter 12 where it seemed like every change I made was making it worse.

Today, to fully re-start my brain, I went back to the very beginning of the story and skim-read all the way through, making a few small changes as I went, but more just trying to get back into the flow of the story, to re-discover the voice of the MC.

...and it was just what I needed.

I find that, whenever I've taken a break from writing or editing, it's difficult to pop myself back into the character's heads, and the scene I had been fighting with includes a marked change in thought within the MC's brain. Like a minor epiphany that starts the ball rolling.

Which is why I was probably fighting with the scene, since I hadn't been working on it consistently with all the travel/funerals/etc that's been going on. I had lost my connection to the MC.

I'm heading to Seattle this Thursday morning for the last pre-season Seahawks game (did you hear they cut Owens?), and I'm hoping to spend the next two days solidly working through 'Brake Fluid'.

Ideally, I'd like to get this round of editing completed and send it to CP's/readers early, but that might be too optimistic a deadline.

I'm also seriously thinking of changing the title...  I know I've mentioned this before as a possibility, but I've almost convinced myself to *do the deed*

Currently the tile is:

Brake Fluid, Blood & Body Bags

I'm thinking of changing it to:

Butter-knives, Brake Fluid & Body Bags

What do you guys think? Say them both out loud. Which one sounds better to your ear? Which one looks better visually? Do you think one is harder to remember than the other?

Any thoughts/comments, I'd certainly appreciate it :)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Things I went back and added today

Editing-wise, I'm on chapter 13 of "Brake Fluid", page 54/112 (single spaced), and I finally crossed the 50,100 word mark. I also keep hopping around through the entire story so I can add-in, or double-check the consistency of a few things.

Things I added in today:

The Jack of Clubs

Smelling food before eating it

White bread instead of multi-grain

Eric Clapton, Louis Armstrong, Simon & Garfunkel, Miranda Lambert, Dierks Bentley, Little Big Town, Travis Tritt, White Town

Birch trees

A simile involving a refrigerator and the phrase "badly-Botoxed-wrinkle"

Many references to karma

A tall-boy beer can

3am, November, a pair of boxers, an old t-shirt & a chipped tooth

A few more 'unspoken rules of riding shotgun' and making sure I haven't repeated any

Making sure the term "charity-case" is sprinkled throughout one character's dialogue

I'm also trying to remember to hyphenate terms like, 'deliciously-evil-Triss-smile', though I know I'll end up doing a search/replace eventually to be 100% sure I've caught them all.

Oh, are there any music-nerds out there? Can you figure out what playlist I'm talking about here? As in,  every artist listed here each has one song with the same common factor.

Any guesses what that common factor is? I'll give you a hint, it's weather related:

I lurch forward and grab her phone off the console. It scares Triss enough that she pulls her hand off my knee. I scroll through the playlists. Different ones for different moods, and right now I want to just wash away the dead air in this car.
One playlist leaps out at me, and I choose it without thinking. One with hundreds of songs. I pick the first title, and hit play, but a few bars in, I click to the next song, ‘cause it’s not quite right. I can’t find what I’m looking for. Garbage, Billie Meyers, Counting Crows, Taylor Swift, Matchbox 20, Collective Soul, Creedence Clearwater, Pink, James Morrison, The Rolling Stones, Eminem, John Mayer, Fat Joe, Dianna Krall, Ashanti, Bif Naked, Mary J Blidge, Dire Straits, Ace of Base, Billy Joel, Dave Mathews. Finally I land on Guns N’ Roses. This one. This will do. It will blast the awkward weight away so I can breathe again.
Triss turns the volume down as soon as the first string of notes from the familiar song scratch through the old speakers.

Sometimes *breaking* is a good thing

Have you ever opened the box for an IKEA bookshelf, or a new BBQ, ceiling fan, or something else you have to build yourself and realized it's missing the set of instructions?

So, you end up standing there with a picture on the box of the final product, a heap of random parts, a rubber mallet, a screwdriver and a set of pliers in your hands, and you have no idea what to do first.

I've had a lot of things on my brain lately, almost all to do with writing.

And I'm a self-admitted failure when it comes to multi-tasking.

Too much thinking means I'm not doing anything, I'm just standing there with my brain going around in circles*

A few night ago, when I should have been fast asleep, my single-geared-brain was stuttering away over this post about how to fix "Simon's Oath".

Thanks to all your wonderful comments, I took the time to cut/paste all the agent feedback into a single Pages** file and moved all the pieces around so I could see the big picture. Then I shoved it in the back of my head to stew for a while.

...and proceeded to stall-out on my "Brake Fluid" edits because "SO" was still sucking down too much fuel.

...and yes, Simon's character arc at the end still doesn't work for YA, but I discovered a deeper flaw in the story.

Narrative style.

It's too distant.

When I analyze all the separate comments, that is the overarching problem.

I've been stuck with a heap of parts and no set of instructions, but suddenly, everything clicked together and I could see the order in which it needed to be assembled.

Too bad I'm going to have to smash the hell out of it with a rubber mallet so I can take it apart and put it back together correctly.

No, I'm not changing the POV from 3rd to 1st, though I certainly did toy with the idea. I'm also not going to stop the alternating viewpoints between Simon & Hector. What I'm going to do is re-write about half the scenes from the opposite character's viewpoint, then tighten the entire story so the narrative is a closer 3rd person POV.

BUT, now that my brain has solved the "SO" problem and is running again properly, I'm back to working hard (and single-mindedly) on my "Brake Fluid" edits. "SO" can wait, at least until "BF" is cleaned up, and I've already decided that I'm going to devote this year's NaNo time/energy to writing the first draft of "Afraid of the Dark" (which still needs a new title) 'cause I've got a character in my head that's just dying to peck it's way out*** ;)

I think after that point, I'll have enough distance from "SO" that I'll be able to smash it up with precision rather than haphazardly whack it to bits out of pure frustration. After all, it takes just as much skill to take something apart as it does to put it back together.

And I still do believe in this story. I think it's worth saving, even if I end up having to re-write most of it. I don't mind making big or scary changes as long as the heart of the story remains intact.

...and from all the car references in here, you can tell I'm completely back in "BF" mode...

Yup, my simple brain can only do one thing at once.

Thanks everyone :) All your comments really helped re-energize me.

* this would be an excellent time for a couple of dumb-blonde-jokes ;)
** no more evil Microsoft on my computer
*** pun intentional. You have permission to smack me with a rolled up newspaper.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


I'm not a book blogger. I don't like the politics involved in definitively saying a book is good/bad because everyone's tastes are different.

Occasionally I will mention a book I have particularly enjoyed, but for the first time, I'm going to talk about a book that isn't out yet, one that I'm excited to read when it does come out on September 18th.

"TEN", by Gretchen McNeil.

And not just 'cause it comes out a few days after my birthday (which it does).

I'm looking forward to this because it's loosely based on an Agatha Christie book.

Why does this matter? Well, between the ages of eight and eleven, I spent a week of every summer at my grandparent's house slowly working my way through every single Agatha Christie book.

Yup, I've read 'em all. Even the books she wrote under a pseudonym. I've also seen the play 'Ten Little Indians' six times, and a couple of other Christie books set on stage.

So, I've been deadly curious to see how this story has been re-envisioned since I heard about it.

For those of you who love blogging about books, and those motivated by awesome prize packs, Gretchen McNeil has set up a unique system to promote this book. I hope you all pass the word around. Video about it is here.

As a writer, I highly respect the effort McNeil has gone to to increase her online presence. Not only does she have an active website, she is one of the founding members of a YA writer's vlog (video blog) channel/group that's been running for... 2 years? Maybe longer... called YA Rebels which I've been following, on and off, for well over a year. In fact, I almost quit being an anonymous/faceless blogger by auditioning to be a member when they had a call out last summer.

Too bad I was at the family cabin the week it was announced. Normally I love being forced to give up internet for a week (a nice way to re-set ones priorities), but unfortunately, being away meant I found out about the call for auditions after it was already over.

Besides, I think you'd rather look at the cute-cartoony-black-cat-face than my own mug-shot ;) Especially after I donated (nearly) all my hair last September.

Anyways, I seriously hope you guys spread the word.

Since Twitter scares the hell out of dyslexic folk such as myself, I'm not eligible to win any prizes, so this post is about all I can do, other than pre-order "TEN" on my Kindle :) So you know I'm being 100% genuine in posting/promoting this. I really hope the books sells well.

Now, SERIOUSLY, I will hide in the other room and work on 'Brake Fluid' edits... argh. Too many excellent distractions... and two not so good ones in the form of: a) a blue heron eyeing my koi pond, and b) a deer emptying out our bird feeder again... sigh. At least Eva-the-beagle gets a kick out of chasing them away...

...and back to normal

I've been a little more out of touch recently 'cause, just this past Sunday, we hosted a birthday BBQ for 4 people who were all turning the same age within four weeks of each other. I was included in that count even though my birthday isn't until September.

I've spent the last couple of weeks furiously de-witching the yard so there would be enough clean areas for almost 40 people to park their cars, wander around, sit, eat, drink, and be merry.

...of course the lawnmover had to break the day before the party (the start cord ripped right out) and a  few other little incidents which (fortunately?) meant a few less people showed up than we were expecting. We were planning for 45 ish, though more than 60 were originally invited.

It was a blast. No rain, no heat-wave (like they had been predicting), it was a nice, cool west-coast summer day, partially overcast with sun in the afternoon/evening. We had music going from 11am onward, had a giant fire around 8pm, and just hung out, chatted and had a wonderful time.

I think the best part about it is, we've been invited over to a lot of people's houses this summer and last summer, and were unable to reciprocate due to the witchy-ness of our house/yard. Also, our BBQ was natural gas up until Friday evening... the party was finally a big enough excuse for me to get on the phone and call around to see who could convert it to propane. It's pretty hard to BBQ without a BBQ...

Also, a few family members braved the ferry to spend the day, including my sister and cute nephew, my husband's parents, and two of his cousins, all of whom have never been to this house before.

My husband's brother and his wife also came over the night before and stayed with us, thus helping with the set-up, which was awesome. They're a super fun high-energy couple, so we always enjoy spending time with them.

Now that the party-of-the-summer is over, and the cleaning up is done (yesterday), today I am sequestering myself on the sofa with the (borrowed) laptop so I won't be distracted by email/internet/comics/etc and I'm going to bust my butt getting 'Brake Fluid' edits done.

I want to have it out to readers by the end of the month, and I know there's still a lot to go :)

...but first, I know there is email building up in my inbox that I've been ignoring for over a week... first things first ;)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Closing in on 50,000

'Brake Fluid' edits are going pretty well. I've been having... probably an unhealthy amount of fun adding music references/lines into this story.

I know I had a post about this before, about how music has kindof taken over this story, even though I'm not hugely into music.

I did play classical piano when I was young (even in a few competitions), I played clarinet during grades 6-8, I even tried learning the guitar once, but quickly gave up. I found it a very frustrating instrument. Bass would have been better, probably, since a good bass line will quickly convert me from a passive listener into an active one.

But even with all that, music was never something I was really passionate about. I enjoyed it, I had a lot of fun playing certain kinds of music (Bach and Chopin, oh how I loved you) but I didn't live and breathe it. I wouldn't die without it.

I think this works well, in the terms of writing this story, because Triss is obsessed with music and the MC is not. I can tap into the part of my brain that felt the freedom and joy of expertly flinging out wild runs across the keyboard, but also the 'meh' attitude of simply enjoying music as background noise.

Certain songs I'm referencing are very important to me, certain artists or bands that trigger an emotional response no matter how often I listen to them, trigger memories of times, places, and people they're associated with... but a lot of other songs are simply referenced because 'they sound good' and that sound suits the mood of the scene.

I also don't want to overdo it, but there are a few songs littered throughout the story that are specifically there to hint at Triss' emotional/mental state of mind (since the MC is a clueless moron). Like, "Last Kiss", the version by Pearl Jam, and a (slightly) obscure song called "Breakfast at Tiffany's", which has been covered by a ton of different bands. "Everything" by Bif Naked is another one, which slid nicely into one of my favourite scenes for a couple of different reasons,"November Rain" by Guns 'n Roses, and Stabbing Westward's "Save Yourself" are also pivotal where/when they show up.

Truly, I don't think I've ever put as much thought into the emotional triggers music can produce since I was a kid, where I could pour all my sorrows and triumphs out through the keyboard. Before I learned how much more fulfilling writing could be.

Right now I'm about halfway through the story. I think, based on what still needs to be filled in, moved, & re-written, it will be around 55,000 when this first/major editing pass is complete.

How is everyone else's progress?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Go Ahead Take a Compliment

I found it amusing that someone sent me this link the other day...

And it's completely true, I suck at taking compliments.

This particular bit of the article rang especially true for me:

Years of feeling “not enough” can be powerful fuel for self-improvement, for drive, for success, and for power. “Not enough” actually can be massive fuel for our ambitions. If we take away that fuel, will we lose our drive, our direction, our ambition? If we can’t be a victim of “less than” anymore, what are we now exactly?

We have to create a new self-definition, a new way to look at ourselves. We have to find new fuel. 

That’s why compliments can be so scary.

Because "not enough" is the fuel that got me through school and pursuing writing in the first place.

Knowing my dyslexia is an obstacle I will continue to trip over for the entirety of my life... well, yeah, it's no wonder I don't talk about writing to almost anyone in real life and find it very difficult to show my writing to others.

I'm not sure if, in the back of my head, I'm visualizing writing like climbing a mountain and, at some sweet moment in the future, I'll no longer be fighting tooth-and-nail for every clearly written sentence. Certainly, I know it's a fallacy to believe that there is a certain hierarchy in skill where suddenly a writer is *good enough* to deserve being published, but at the same time, writing is a skill, so obviously there is a learning curve.

But at this point, with this mindset, I certainly don't believe I am worthy of the nice things people have said about my writing.

And I know that's wrong of me. I know blowing off/deflecting a compliment is like a slap in the face of the person giving it.

So I'm trying, actually, I have been trying, to uproot this noxious ingrained belief of "not enough", even though I am terrified that, without that horrible voice in my head whipping me forward with ego-deflating insults, I'll flail around and eventually drown in mediocrity and failure.

As a masochistic exercise to beat back this crippling insecurity, I joined a writing group. I started this blog. I posted pieces of first-draft writing. I joined writing competitions. I submitted queries to actual agents.

And maybe, because writing is such a subjective thing, what I'm really looking for is factual confirmation. Like a math equation where either you're right, or you're wrong, I want that binary, black-n-white assurance that my best is "enough". That my hard work is producing the correct results.

I'm not quite sure what that will look like though.

I do know that always looking for the bad will get you nowhere. You have to look for the good, be able to recognize it, to find your voice, what you do best as a writer, which you can only do if you start listening to the compliments, not just brushing them off and thinking, "not enough".

How are you are taking compliments, for your writing, or for anything else?

Are there certain situations where you find it easier to believe the words are true and not simply a kindness?

Do you have any kind of line-in-the-mud goals that, when you cross them, you will firmly believe that it's "enough"?

And do you have any idea on what your next source of fuel would be?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Any other Canadians hanging their heads in shame?

...after witnessing the god-awful "Canadian Tuxedos" worn at the Olympics closing ceremony...

Seriously HBC*, what the hell were you thinking? I mean, I know Canadians are known for being good natured and don't mind poking fun at ourselves**, but how about we don't add to the list of complete falsehoods like:

1) we drink maple syrup right out of the tree
2) we all live in igloos, hunt moose, and ride dog sleds
3) we're all hockey-crazed lunatics
4) wool socks with sandals... need I say more?
5) as soon as you cross the border from the USA into Canada, the temperature drops 40 degrees

...and those are just a few actual things I've been asked about by a certain unmentionable person I once met from Colorado. Seriously, the guy thought when you crossed the border, all the roads would be unpaved and he actually packed a feather-down jacket when he visited us in Vancouver. In June.

I have never once in my entire life worn, or ever met another Canadian who has worn, "the Canadian Tuxedo".

From what I understand, the jean jacket was originally made/sold by HBC, so I think they're promoting themselves/their own history more than anything else.

* The company that designed all the athletes clothing for the Olympics
** I mean, hey, just google videos of the closing Olympics for Vancouver 2010... no one is better at mocking Canadians than Canadians

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Opening game!

Oh yah, guess what happens tonight at 7pm PST??????


So excited :D

Hope you all have a great weekend!

Friday, August 10, 2012

A word on dragons and sequels

A couple days ago, Michael Offutt posted about the tv series based off the move, 'How To Train Your Dragon'.

...sorry this is going to get a little nerdy...

But you guys know I used to work in animation, right?

Let me start by saying, I enjoyed watching the first two episodes of the new tv series.

Sequels, almost as a rule, suck. And I am talking primarily about animated movies.

Almost always they're capitalizing off the success of the first one, and they never really get there. Often they're downright disappointing. In animation, sequels to hit movies (like Disney) are never made by the same studio as the original. They are farmed out to small studios. Interestingly enough, Canada used to be the cheap place where 'Return of Jafar' and all such hastily made sequels were pumped out, along with the pc games (based on the movies) that were stuffed as prizes into kids cereal boxes. In the last ten to fifteen years, big companies like Disney realized Korean animators work for even less than Canadians.

It's too bad 'cause most of the small studios in Vancouver were already shut down before I finished my animation program... (hence the sideways move into the video game industry), but until that point, fresh-outta-school-animation students got to test out their skills (and be employed!) over 16 hour work days + minimum wage. Oh yeah, it was the dream. Even if all you were doing was digital ink work...

So, sequels... most often rushed through on the coat-tails of the successful first movie, worked on by incredibly green students...

Taking that into account, I was actually pretty impressed with the tv series. Sure, the models were highly simplified, the sizes tweaked, facial expressions are minimal at best, but the animation is clean, there are no obvious weighting problems, popping limbs, mushy walking cycles... all in all, it was pretty good.

But I swear, whoever did the lighting should be fired, or had better QA.

The thing with 3-d animation is that lighting is a major pain when you're not all that familiar with it. Like a tax accountant, big studios have specialists who only do that, but in smaller studios, everyone kind of pitches in.

There's always this big temptation to make sure all the texture is visible, 'cause you've worked so darn hard on the wrap, the luminosity & bump maps, you want people to really see it... you overlight it...

...which makes everything look bleached out, which ruins the entire point of this medium... too much light flattens the image, which means there's less depth, which means there's really no freaking point in making it 3-d with all the pretty textures and animation if it ends up looking like 'Southpark'.

The only scenes that looked somewhat decent were the indoor/night scenes, and even some of those were pretty cringe-worthy... like where Hiccup is holding the torch outside Gobber's house in the second episode... I mean, really? It's supposed to be lit by a small fire, not a lightbulb. And Toothless' eyes should not look like spotlights! Reflected light is your friend, creating a separate/independent light source to fully illuminate the eyes is the enemy. Bad lighting-techy, bad!

As an unpublished writer, the notion of writing a sequel is purely a hypothetical mind-game, but from following writers online, it seems just as hard as I imagine it to be.

Sometimes I wonder if, not even writing a sequel, if I am falling prey to the trip-falls normally associated with sequels.

When you have success, even just a taste of it, it boosts your confidence. It makes you want to repeat the experience, to speed up your process, to get it written in six months instead of eight, to edit it in a single pass, instead of four.

Having confidence is good, being excited is good, wanting to succeed is good... but don't go too fast. Don't send out a project that really should have had another run through QA, another close check on that lip syncing, a careful analysis to make sure the joints aren't popping and the weighting is correct.

And above all... don't overlight it.

...and by that, I'm talking about overwriting, where you just want to reader to see how clever you are, your skillful use of wrapping words into a shiny, deeply-textured sentence. Or maybe that long passage of text explaining some nuance in your incredibly-well-thought-out world.

I know how tempting it is, but remember... it will really stands out, and not in a good way, to anyone who knows what a professional product should look like.

I've been tempted many times with 'Brake Fluid' to use more description, 'cause I love writing it, I love reading it... but in this story, it would certainly stand out as a bad thing.

I want readers to forget they're reading a story, just like an animator wants viewers to suspend their disbelief and believe in their hand-drawn or computer modelled characters.

Lighting is the last thing that's done before rendering. The goal of proper lighting is to showcase depth and realism. So, when I'm editing, or re-thinking parts to cut-rewrite, those are the thoughts I focus on. Do I necessarily need a spotlight on this line, or is it better, within the scope of the story, to let it drift mid-distance?

Sorry I'm such an over thinking nerd ;)

...and damn, talking about this really makes me miss 3-d modelling... and, just in case there are any questions about it, I'm still going to watch the tv series :)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Emotional Intelligence in writing

One thing I think I can do fairly well is write emotionally complicated characters. When I'm critiquing other people's writing, I also focus primarily on the characters emotional/psychological arc and whether or not it's effectively coming across to the reader.

Only recently have I been given a term which (probably) describes why this is so, and I've been thinking about it a lot in context of myself, and my writing.

A few months back, I posted a link to Unicorn Bell when they had a call for submissions about gifts. Here's the link to mine.

While in Ottawa for the Porcelain Artists of Canada convention, I reconnected with a friend of my grandmother who had recently retired from a long career as a nurse. She not only worked in many hospitals in the Greater Vancouver area, she taught nursing at a local college and was very involved in many other aspects of the profession, including childhood development.

Somehow over dinner one night, the topic of early childhood memories came up and, since the Unicorn Bell submission was reasonably fresh in my mind, I related it, 'cause I think it's a funny memory.

Apparently, age 3 is an abnormally early age to consider the feelings of others, especially to put the feelings of another person before your own and intentionally lie to make the other person feel better.

She told me that I must have an unusually high emotional intelligence and, being a retired teacher, told me to educate myself. Ha Ha.

So I did.

Here's a good relatively in-depth article about it, but there are 5 Characteristics that I pulled from here I wanted to talk about.

Characteristics of Emotional Intelligence
Daniel Goleman, an American psychologist, developed a framework of five elements that define emotional intelligence:
  1. Self-Awareness – People with high emotional intelligence are usually very self-aware. They understand their emotions, and because of this, they don't let their feelings rule them. They're confident – because they trust their intuition and don't let their emotions get out of control.

    They're also willing to take an honest look at themselves. They know their strengths and weaknesses, and they work on these areas so they can perform better. Many people believe that this self-awareness is the most important part of emotional intelligence.
  2. Self-Regulation – This is the ability to control emotions and impulses. People who self-regulate typically don't allow themselves to become too angry or jealous, and they don't make impulsive, careless decisions. They think before they act. Characteristics of self-regulation are thoughtfulness, comfort with change, integrity, and the ability to say no.
  3. Motivation – People with a high degree of emotional intelligence are usually motivated. They're willing to defer immediate results for long-term success. They're highly productive, love a challenge, and are very effective in whatever they do.
  4. Empathy – This is perhaps the second-most important element of emotional intelligence. Empathy is the ability to identify with and understand the wants, needs, and viewpoints of those around you. People with empathy are good at recognizing the feelings of others, even when those feelings may not be obvious. As a result, empathetic people are usually excellent at managing relationships, listening, and relating to others. They avoid stereotyping and judging too quickly, and they live their lives in a very open, honest way.
  5. Social Skills – It's usually easy to talk to and like people with good social skills, another sign of high emotional intelligence. Those with strong social skills are typically team players. Rather than focus on their own success first, they help others develop and shine. They can manage disputes, are excellent communicators, and are masters at building and maintaining relationships.

Yes, I found this interesting as a deeper look into my own ingrained behaviour (like standing further away from short people so visual cues are easier to give/receive), but immediately I found this to be a useful list to think about while writing, but also, while reading/critiquing.

One of the things that especially bothers me in the YA genre is the 'cheerleader-best-friend' character type. As in, the one that only shows up whenever the MC is feeling upset and/or needs advice, yet other than those times, pretty much never appears in the story at all and often has little-to-no problems of their own, because that might distract from the MC's problems/arc.

Whenever I come across one of these, either in a draft I'm critiquing, or in a published work (yup, they show up a lot, even there), it has always really bothered me, enough that I won't buy an author's next book.

The reason? It deeply disturbs me when one character is so self-involved that they completely neglect/abuse the people around them.

It's why I can't watch 'Family Guy' because Peter Griffin is that type, yet his friends/family treat it like it's perfectly acceptable, therefore enabling his selfishness.

I think, to write more realistic, complex characters, it's important to keep in mind their level of emotional intelligence. It's the core of who they are, how they make decisions, what they expect from other people, and how they interact with those around them.

Are they self-aware or self-absorbed? That will affect all their relationships, but also the level of growth that character will go through. A super self-absorbed character won't suddenly sacrifice themselves to save the world. Major leaps in growth will come across as unbelievable, or worse, simply shovelled in because the plot needs to move forward. Knowing their level of self-awareness is key to keeping characters consistent/on-model.

How well can they control their emotions/impulses? This is something that comes up in YA quite frequently, on a number of different levels, and ties in quite nicely to motivation.

Empathy is very characteristic of that 'cheerleader-best-friend' character type, but rarely defines the MC, unless it's over-done in a Mary-Sue kind of way (and, for anyone familiar with Japanese animation/comic stereotypes, that's the main reason I don't read/watch most of the mainstream stuff.) People will also naturally empathize with those closest to them, and rarely with those they consider enemies, which is great fodder for assumptions/misunderstandings, but also when making choices that will affect the people around them.

What is the character like socially? In YA, the MC usually hangs out on the fringes and the antagonists are often the popular kids. I'm not saying this is bad thing, but it's often a stereotype that can quickly slide into lazy writing, like the mousy-girl-gets-a-makeover-and-attracts-the-hot-guy trope. Personally, I find interactions within the same social group to be far more interesting, and it's one of the things I wanted to explore in 'Brake Fluid'.

By the way, Veronica Roth had an interesting post which prompted me to write about this subject in the first place. Her description of the Erudite's good points reminded me of the EI characteristics and made me think about what things I try to work out through my writing...and then I felt a little embarrassed how often I focus on trust/loyalty as a theme.

Just like getting frustrated with imaginary characters like Peter Griffin and self-absorbed YA MC's who take their friends for granted, in real life I get easily frustrated by the same kinds of people, who seem to think there's a sliding scale of importance and that they have a right to sit up top.

How about you guys? Is emotional intelligence a new concept to you, and how much thought do you put into your characters EI levels, not only the MC's, but the secondary ones as well? Can you think of any books/characters that were either done really well, or really badly?

How about in real life? How closely do you empathize with the people around you? Immediate family? Close friends? Work acquaintances? Strangers on the street? People you've never met from a different social/economic circle? Someone from another country across the globe? How does this affect the choices you make on a daily basis? As a small example, do you buy 'Fair Trade' products even though they're more expensive?

Do you think your own level of EI impacts your ability to write characters?

Also, what things do you work out in your own writing? Are there certain themes you often revisit?

...and sorry this is so nerdy, but it has been a while since I went over-analytical all over a blog post.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Creeping success

Well, I'm on the ferry home from Vancouver and am picking away at my 'Brake Fluid' edits.

...and my word count just crept over 48,000 words.

I always keep my files single-spaced, so I'm currently on page 43 of 107, near the end of chapter 10.

Here are a few new lines that were added in during my edits today and yesterday, I'm sure some don't make a lot of sense out of context.

No matter how quickly she could identify a song from just the first few notes, no matter how bad her relationship was with her parents, the electric hum of incoming violence was one sound she had no reason to recognize.

Triss snorts. “I swear, they all deserve the Darwin award. Celery and alcohol, what they hell are they thinking?”

“I’ve got fucking JD leaking out of my eyes!”

Like I said, it’s the price of a warm meal, warm shower, and a warm place to sleep.

"...stop wearing clothes that look like they were stolen off a dead hobo.”

In the shower, hot water striping the filth from my skin, I can’t clean away the feel of Fay’s mouth on mine. I bow my head under the spray and try not to be sick, try not to let the muscles shake me into submission and let my knees buckle.

So, if she didn’t feel safe drinking around them, then I didn’t trust being within twenty feet when they were dead-ass sober.

‘Cause what my instincts are screaming right now is that really bad shit is gonna happen the moment I leave Triss. And for once, that voice is louder than the one that’s telling me to get the hell outta her room, the familiar voice that never fails to save my skin. The one I should listen to, but I don’t.

Which is why I came back. Which is why I turned the lie into truth.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

300th post - life/love/koi

With so much death in my family (6 deaths in the last 12 months) and numerous friends/acquaintances also passing away, the husband and I have been trying to celebrate life as best we can.

Today I went shopping. The best kind of shopping. Koi shopping. I brought home four beautiful additions to our pond.

Koi have long been associated with life/love/etc because they are very hardy, can adapt well in harsh conditions, and live long lives (if kept in good water conditions, checked for sickness/parasites and safe from predators obviously). The longest living koi on record was over 200 years old. They can also grow to almost three feet in length.

Koi mature when they are about 2 years old, around 15" in length. Before that, it's impossible to tell what gender they are. Even when they are mature, it's difficult to know unless a) they are spawning (so the females are very round in the middle) or b) you touch their cheeks, as the males have rough-textured cheeks.

Their colours also don't stabilize until they're about 2-3 years old. Red/white stays true, but darker colours, especially black, have an annoying habit of disappearing/reappearing when koi are young. Colours always darken first on the head, then slowly work their way down to the tail.

So, here are the new additions to the pond. I got a 16" male Hi Utsuri ('hi' means red) for the husband. He's a two year old, newly mature (his cheeks are nice and rough) and is pretty friendly. Within half an hour of putting him in, he had already ventured up to the surface several times.

 Here he is when they scooped him up from the tank

Here he is at the surface in amongst the lily pads, floating hearts (what look like mini lily pads) and duckweed (the tiny green stuff). Since this is the biggest fish in the pond, he really isn't sticking with the other koi. Big fish, little pond (haha). Sorry the quality is bad... zooming in with my iPhone :p

The other three are still immature. They are only 1 year old (notice how different they are in size) so I had no way of knowing what gender they are.

Here they are in the bag since I forgot to get a picture of them being scooped, and when they were in the water, they would only come within 2' of the surface so I couldn't get a good shot. Since they are smaller, they have schooled with the koi already in the pond and seem quite happy.

The biggest one here is a Ki Shusui (Ki is yellow, Shusui is a scaleless breed except for the row of blue scales down its spine). This one is about 12" long, so it might mature by September, or for sure in the spring. The row of blue scales on its back will become darker/more pronounced as it gets bigger.

The big Ki Utsuri is for my husband, but this one is for me. I have a special fondness for scaleless koi. When you pet them (yes, they are very affectionate), their skin is like soft velvet.

The yellow/black specked one is a Ki Bekko, essentially a yellow (ki) koi with black markings. This one is about 9" in length.

The smallest one in the bag is the rarest kind of koi I have. It's a Goshiki koi, which translates to 5-coloured koi (meaning it has red, white, black, light blue & dark blue/purple). Goshiki koi are further split up into light/dark, so technically, he's a Kuro Goshiki, 'cause he's dark. This little guy is small, only around 6-7", but it will be absolutely gorgeous when it gets larger. If you click on the picture to view it full sized, look closer at the scales how they're edged with a darker colour and you can see patches of red starting to come through under the dark blue/black. You can really see how the colours are more set/clear on the head, and as it gets bigger, the rest of the colours will become more vibrant. Here's a picture of a mature Kuro Goshiki so you can get a better idea what this one will look like as an adult.

With these four additions, we now have 16 new lives to celebrate in our pond.

Sorry my 300th post was purely personal.

Thank you everyone for your well-wishing's about my husband's grandmother. She really meant a lot to me and I'm taking this death about as hard as when my grandmother passed away in October.