Saturday, December 30, 2006

On all four wheels

As I’ve mentioned before, vacation doesn’t agree with my husband, so we took a day trip yesterday. Aside from getting lost at one point, it was a great day, but as we headed home, it suddenly sounded like a helicopter was hanging over our car. As I looked at the night sky like an idiot, my husband pulled over into the shoulder. Our tire had blown up.

I really mean exploded—I’ve never seen a tire in such bad shape. Of course, the tire needed to be replaced and we both knew that.

I waved goodbye to the hubcap as it rolled onto the interstate before our car had even pulled to a full stop, but my husband’s comment was something about how much hubcaps cost. Miraculously, neither of them got hit by a car when he ran after it.

After fretting over the fact our road side assistance had expired 500miles back, my husband managed to HeMan the wheel off and get the spare on. Now a spare is supposed to be good for 70miles or so, but we were still over an hour from home, with at least 70 miles of interstate left, and this wasn’t our first time using the spare. What choice did we really have though? It was too late to take it somewhere so we either had to stop at a hotel or try to make it home. We chose to go home—the fur-babies were waiting for us and they tend to expect things like dinner.

So, going 55 in a 70, we made our slow way home. Stretches of silence were broken by tense jokes as we both waited for the spare to give out. We joked about how the cars passing us traveled in packs, but since we were the gimpy ones, we were obviously lion food. We also stared at the abandoned cars on the side of the freeway, discussing which had tires that would fit our car. Finally, we made it home, relieved to be through with the little adventure.

So what has everyone else been doing with their between holiday time?

Friday, December 29, 2006

What I'm Reading

In a post earlier this month (hard to believe that was only a couple weeks ago) I wrote about an (unammed) book that kept throwing me, and blamed the reason on the fact it was written in present tense. Well, reality loves to make a liar out of me, and I just finished an absolutely amazing book, that just happened to be written in present tense.

Vacation doesn’t agree with my husband. While I am accustomed to hours on end locked up in a little room working on a single task, such activity makes him stir crazy. So, he has been dragging me out as often as he can, and one of the few places close by that we both agree to waste away hours is the bookstore. On yesterdays trip, I was wandering through the stacks and Brother to Dragons, Companion to Owls by Jane Lindskold grabbed my attention. Might have been the name, or the striking cover, but something possessed me to pick it up and read the back. My first thought was that it would either be a really good book, or horrid, but the premise didn’t sound like something the author could just squeeze by with—she had to nail it. I picked up two other choices, just in case, and settled down in the cafĂ©.

After the first chapter, I was hooked.

The worries I had upon reading the back flap proved to be nothing more than what usually plagues back flap-blurbs—too much and not enough information rolled into one with a bit of oversimplification. Written from the perspective of an autistic woman who can only communicate in quotes, (think Shakespeare, Chaucer, the Bible, ext..) Ms. Lindskold has created a masterpiece. Set in a world only slightly more advanced than ours, the reader spends a chapter or two wondering just how insane the main character is because her toy dragon speaks to her, and if the back flap hadn’t told us walls talk to her (which starts much later in the book) I think this would have been an even stronger effect. Of course, if the back cover didn’t say anything about that, buyers might not realize it was a fantasy novel. (They say hindsight is 20/20, but really it isn’t, I don’t know if the elements that almost scared me off from opening the book were removed from the description if I would have still picked it up--then it might not have sounded interesting enough. *shrugs*)

When a voice announced over the loudspeaker that the store was closing, I knew I couldn’t stop reading and had to take the book home with me (thank you gift cards.) Starting back up in my living room was actually the first time I really noticed the book was in present tense, so I guess when done well, present tense doesn’t throw me after all.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Broken, and it's my fault

I'm not sure, but I think my cat had a seizure last night.

She is just over a year old, and we were playing with one of her Christmas gifts, a mouse on a string. She is a ball of energy and a bit of a spaz, so she was jumping around and running in circles after the toy. After a couple minutes, she suddenly crawled onto a blanket, and for a second I thought she was humping it before I realized something was seriously wrong. I wasn't sure what was happening, her mouth was open like she was coughing or choking, but no sound came out, and she pulled her legs and arms tight to her body and seemed to shake. I picked her up and pulled off her collar, thinking it might be hurting her, and then I just rubbed her while she shook. Her heart was racing, and since she'd been playing so hard, it might have been a heart attack, but I've never seen a heart attack or a seizure in a cat, so I don't know.

After maybe half a minute or a minute, she stilled and let out a pitiful moan, then jumped out of my arms and ran into the other room. When we dragged her out of her hiding spot, she had bubbles around her mouth and it smelled like she'd thrown up (though we never found where if she did.) Her bowels didn't release, though I think her anal glands did. (she smelled very bad.) After all that, she calmed and seemed to be all right. She sprawled on the bathroom floor for about twenty minutes, panting, then got up and investigated the room like she'd never seen it before. My husband gave her a treat, which she swallowed without chewing, then she investigated his hand for more and bit his finger hard (which she has never done before.) When my dog walked in, she arched her back and puffed up her tail like she didn't know him, and typically she loves the dog more than she loves my husband or me. That's when we realized she might have brain damage. We went through the night routine of feeding the animals (though they had already eaten, the cat constantly begs for more food.) She didn't react to the sight of her food bag, or even to the sight of the food scoop, but she did eat when we put the bowl in front of her (though she had trouble and didn't chew.)

This morning she is acting more like herself, I woke with her sitting on my back, purring because we slept through feeding time. She ran right to the kitchen when I opened the bedroom door and asked for her food like normal. I guess time will tell if there has been permanent damage.

Is anyone reading this familiar with cat seizures? Was this a seizure, or something else? Could it have been an isolated incident from the extended play, or was it inevitable and this just triggered it. I'm scheduling a vet appointment, but I don't know how we will afford any expensive tests. If anyone can share advice, it will be greatly appreciated.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Good Impressions

My poor little brother.

He met his girlfriend’s family for the first time over Thanksgiving and was invited back for Christmas. She goes to school out of state, but her parents live instate, only about an hour away from my brother, so he picked her up from the airport with the intention of taking her home after they did a little Christmas shopping together. Apparently one member of her family (an uncle, I think) had a birthday yesterday, which they needed to attend. So, trying to make a good impression, my brother made cupcakes.

He isn't really a baking kind of guy (though he can cook amazing meals) and he definitely isn't a cake-decorating kind of guy. So, to make things easy, he bought cupcake mix, canned frosting, and colored gel with decorating tips. There were two different gel color tubes side-by-side at the store, one with pastel colors and one with darker colors; my brother chose the darker.

Maybe around noon yesterday, I got a call from him because he was making 'lava' cupcakes (with gooey chocolate filling) and he had messed up and the 'lava' ended up all on top of the cupcakes and not inside them. I told him just to let them cool and frost them the best he could, and I assured him they would still taste fine. Well, he did that, and he and his girlfriend wrote 'happy birthday' on all the cupcakes. She must not bake often either, because neither of them realized anything was wrong when all the colors came out nearly black instead of green, blue, or red.

Late last night I got another call. People were enjoying the cupcakes, but no one could figure out why everyone's mouths were changing colors---It wasn't decorating gel, the tubes (though they externally resembled decorating gel) contained straight food coloring! Someone eventually pinpointed the cupcakes as the culprit for the color changing lips and teeth. (And for those of you who don't know, food coloring stains. Only days away from Christmas, they may still have blue teeth and lips for the holidays)

I'll end this the way I started it. My poor little brother. All he wanted to do was make a good impression.

Friday, December 22, 2006

the encroaching holiday (rant)

I feel like I have been knitting and knitting and knitting constantly, with the only interruptions being sleep and baking cookies. I haven't even opened a word document since Saturday (well, except to spellcheck these short blogs. I couldn't spell my way out of a hat.)

The next time I decide it's a great idea to knit gifts for Christmas but wait until only a week ahead of time to begin said knitting, someone kick me.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A story from Christmas shopping

My husband wanted me to share this story:

So, the other day while we were out at the village doing our shopping, I stopped in front of the Bath and Body Works window, looked at my hubbie, and asked "Do you think your mom would like something from here?" Just as the last word left my mouth, a child of maybe three ran up to the other side (inside) of the window, did a temper-dance-all jerky arms and stomping feet-and then pointed at us. Well, that was a enough of a sign for both of us. We walked on without going inside and found the perfect gift for her a few stores later.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Weekend Art Update

I think I will try to make a weekend art update every week, that will give me a push to actually paint. (A habit I've been lacking since graduating college.)

If you remember from the first post on this subject, I began two paintings last week. (Scroll down a couple days if you would like to see the paintings) I did not get around to working on 'Fire Faerie' but I did a good bit of work on 'untitled'

Well, it's starting to look like a painting at least. I worked on rendering the flat forms today and blocking in the faces and hands (*gripe* Did you know portrait painters in the 17th and 18th century charged extra if you wanted the painting to include your hands because hands are freaking hard!) My palette consisted of: White lead, burnt sienna, raw sienna, burnt umber, raw umber, red ochre, terre verte, and cerulean. The only medium I’m using currently is Liquin, and any mixing is done on the canvas (very rare for me!) This painting is out of my comfort zone because of the method I’m using to paint it. I usually work monochromatic in the initial stages of a painting (which is how I’m working the other painting, so I’ll show some examples of that next week.) This painting is forcing me to be much more intuitive with the paint, but so far I like where it’s going.

Well, that’s all for this week. Check back next weekend to see the painting progress.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Weather Roulette and Christmas shopping

My hubby and I did all our Christmas shopping today (except for gifts for each other.) We went to the new 'mall' (it's called the village and it's actually out doors so not really a mall) and I was very comfortable wearing a spaghetti-strap top. It’s a strange thing to be wandering the streets laden with shopping bags full of Christmas gifts, looking into windows with decorative snow, and everyone around you is decked out in summer clothes. But then again, that is just mid-December in my hometown. Not that it never gets cold, mind you. Last week it dropped down to 17 degrees, but a few days earlier, while the majority of the country got snow, it was nearly 80 degrees here. Up and down, up and down, welcome to weather roulette, now do I need my winter coat today or can I get by with a tee-shirt? I’m told this is cold/flu weather because the body never knows what to expect. I’m not sure how true that is, but it does mean I never box up out of season clothes. That may sound great, but one day I would like to move north and get to know a real winter, and hopefully see some snow.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A productive day

I finally had a day I felt was really productive. I needed one. It had been a while.

I tackled a huge chunk of revisions for DH today. I hope to have this edit finished soon so I can sit on it and reread it before sending it to my agent. This is the first edit I’ve done where I ended up adding more words than I deleted. It’s sort of weird, but by far not a bad feeling. I’ve been thinking about the scenes (decided on based on responses from editors) I’m adding for over a month now, letting them work themselves out, and I think it is flowing together nicely. I’ll see how much I like the additions next week. That’s usually a good indicator. Hopefully I’ll have one of those (very few and far between) moments where I go “I wrote this? Wow, I don’t remember it working out quite this well.” Usually I just look at anything I do and go “OMG someone get the defibrillator because this baby is crashing!” (I know I’m not the only one who does that, right? *looks around*)

I also dropped a short story in the box today. I’ve never submitted to a magazine before, but I’ve been sitting on several stories recently that I thought were, you know, okay. I suppose now I need to forget it’s out there. I hear magazines are far slower with their rejection slips than agents.

I have one other short story (okay, not that short, like 9k, but it needs editing…) sitting around that I keep saying I’m going to look at. I wrote it over a year ago now, looked at it for the first time maybe six months ago, cringed, and put it back in the drawer. It’s not that it is a bad story, I actually love the story, it came straight from a dream and is the closest I come to rainbows and fuzzy bunnies. But, I never spent anytime letting the dream mature, I just wrote it as soon as I woke up. (It actually took me the better part of two days to write because it was 13k originally and 6k is about my limit even if I’m on fire and fall asleep at my keyboard..) So the first edit only fixed the obnoxious language that must have sounded really cool to my muse while she was having a dream-high. I didn’t actually fix any of the other problems the story is plagued with. One day I really will drag it out of the drawer.

But I digress, I was talking about the story that I actually worked on. I’m excited. It’s the UF short that I wrote before nano and then the main character kept showing up and kicking me because she wanted a whole novel. I hope someone somewhere likes it. That might give me some encouragement to figure out what her (novel length) story actually would be about. (That pesky plot thing always gets in my way.)

So all and all, a good day spent in front of my computer. I really do feel better about myself when I’m productive. You would think that would be rewarding enough to make it happen everyday.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Mistral's Kiss

If I had to point a finger, I would say Hamilton was the biggest forerunner in the blooming Urban Fantasy subgenre as it is today. There are variations out there on what people call UF, but the largest emerging trends in the genre include:
• First person, smart ass, female characters who kick butt. (there are several great UFs from the male pov, but the majority seems to be female)
• Modern or futuristic-modern settings
• Some preternatural or supernatural characters/occurrences

Hamilton may not have been the first to combine these things, but on my bookshelf, Anita Blake was one of a kind for years. Hamiltion’s work definitely has had an effect on my own reading and writing habits. I read only high fantasy before I stumbled on her books, anything remotely modern was an instant deal breaker. (Boy how that has changed…) I think I picked up my first Anita Blake book when I was 14 or 15. I quickly grabbed up everything that was out thus far, and since then have picked up the new novels the morning they hit stores. I remember this one time in college, I went to the bookstore before my first class, but I had a test that afternoon and I knew I’d miss class if I started reading. I carried the book in my bag until after the test. I don’t even think I bothered driving home; I just scurried to my studio (on campus) and stayed there (all night) until I had read the book cover to cover.

I guess I’m a little bit of a fangirl. And this devotion (and habit) makes it difficult to judge her novels the same way I do most books I pick up because I am both an avid fan and judging it on the merit of the whole series. I was disappointed with the last Anita book though (Danse Macabre) I usually try not to say anything bad about books online, and only mention the ones I would recommend, so this post may disappear. But as I was saying, I was sorely disappointed with DM, the plot was flimsy at best and (what I feel is) one of the staples of the Anita books was missing, a murder mystery. I really felt 90% of the book was sex, and I’m someone who usually only skims sex scenes to start with. I also wasn’t thrilled with Incubus Dreams (though it was much better than DM) so, I promised myself I wouldn’t rush out and buy the next book the day it hit the shelves.

So, I rented Mistral’s Kiss from the local library. (And I’m obsessive enough to have been waiting for them to put it in the catalogue as ‘on order’ so I was 2nd in a reservation queue of 50 or so) I’m more lenient in accepting all the sex and random partners that Merry (the main character in this series) has than I am with Anita. I’m not sure if it is because this series started that way, or because the sex seems to have more plot following on its coat tails. MK is very short, (only 212) but stuff happens and things are accomplished. (Though I’m annoyed that the characters still haven’t made it to the event they were planning on going to in the second book and this is the fifth. I think maybe 1 full day and a night has passed in the last three books.) But, I closed the book and actually felt like something happened within it’s pages… though I could have wished for more. (Well, I almost always want more at the end of a book in a series, that’s what makes people buy the next one, but what I mean is I wanted a little more meat.) I enjoyed the read though.

The jury is still out on whether I will go out and buy the book now, or wait for the paperback. If I wait for paper, it will be the only book of hers (except Nightseer and Micah) that I don’t own in hardcover. The collector in me wars with the dirt-broke part of me, and I’m at the point I don’t think I can honestly judge Hamiliton’s books (the fan in me wants them all to be masterpieces.)

Friday, December 08, 2006

Painting day 1

I started two paintings today and I thought I would post the preliminary stages. *shrugs* Maybe someone will be interested in seeing the process I go through with a painting.

The first painting (currently untitled) is the largest piece I’ve ever tackled at 36x40in. In fact, it didn’t fit on the easel I typically use and I had to improvise. The second piece (“fire faerie”, FF) is only 5x7in and is very small for an oil painting. Okay, that’s a pretty diverse little pair, so on to the first step I used in starting these paintings:

-inspiration. Eons ago I decided I wanted to paint a faerie for all four elements. Water is finished (you see part of her up there in my title image) but I never got around to the rest. It seemed like time to fix that and fire was the next element that called to me. As for the untitled image…well my mother made a comment a couple weeks ago that got me thinking, and the idea simmered under my skin all through nano, so it was ready to burst out by now.

-Bodies. What…bodies? Yes. I have enough trouble with proportions and anatomy when I’m staring at it, you don’t want to see what happens when I go straight from memory. So, I have to go in search of bodies. Stock photos, magazines, friends, and the mirror are the more common sources. A live model is best, but I’m poor. The mirror is my best friend while painting, even if I take the proportions from a photo graph, the mirror tends to end up solving issues I couldn’t figure out otherwise.

-The sketch. Ah finally something people would consider art…well maybe not this time. With some paintings I do very elaborate concept sketches, but not always. I did some very basic thumbnails to figure out placement for the untitled piece, and I didn’t do any sketching for FF. (click pic for larger image)

-Ground. Time to pull out the paint. For both pieces I started by putting down a ground. (a solid color over the entire canvas.) For untitled I used sap green and for FF I used Alizarin. I’ve never actually used either of these colors as a ground before. Typically I use an earth color as a ground (I count indigo as an earth color, and it is my favorite ground though a more traditional would be sienna.) Both paints I used today are typically used to glaze with (so they are far more translucent than earth colors.)

-Blocking. With a dry paintbrush, I lifted paint away from the canvas to block in my image. I immediately noticed a problem. When using an earth color for a ground I can usually pull paint away enough to make a very rough rendering of form. With untitled, the sap green was too light to get much value difference. So much so that I could barely see what I’d wiped away and what I hadn’t. I don’t like working wet on wet, but I was desperate to block in more values, so I pulled out raw sienna to put in some of the darker of the darks in the foreground. I quickly remembered why I dislike working wet when the sienna pulled the green up in some places and not in others. Needless to say, that stopped the painting for the day. FF worked out a little better. The alizarin was dark enough to show some good contrast, but it was also too loose to blend well. So at the end of day, I only got the most basic of blocking done for both paintings. Untitled should be good to go again by tomorrow, but alizarin tends to dry slower in my experience. I cut it with a good deal of liquin so we will see.


Images: Day one. (click for larger view)



  



Not very pretty huh? Never are at this stage. This is not a point I usually show anyone, but here it is for the world to see....

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Present Tense

I almost gave up on the book I read yesterday.

Not because it was a bad book. For the most part the story was very interesting (though by the middle of it I found myself skimming the large sections of history and back story that cropped up every other break and interrupted the action.) Over all, I was intrigued by the premise and interested in the characters. No, the problem, my problem, was that the book was written in present tense and I kept being thrown by that.

I’m sure I haven’t always had issues with present tense. In fact, my first noveling attempt, back when I was maybe eleven, was in present tense. So what changed in the last thirteen or so years to make present tense such a deal breaker?

I honestly don’t know.

Other writing styles don’t throw me as much. For instance, my current preference is 1st person pov, but I easily get immersed in books written in 3rd person pov and will accept a certain amount of head hoping without it distracting me. Most of what I read and everything I write is past tense these days, so it could be a familiarity thing. Maybe if I read more books in present tense it wouldn’t surprise me with every sentence.

Question: What throws you out of a story?

Monday, December 04, 2006

What I've been reading

Well, I read far too many books during November. (I think my final count was around 10 books… yes, that is one of the reasons I didn’t meet my 95k word goal.) Out of those books, I want to point out a couple of my favorites:

I’ve been really impressed with the LUNA publishing line, they’ve been putting out some real winners. Poison Study and Magic Study by Maria Snyder are probably my favorite books read this month. It’s been a while since I read a high fantasy novel I couldn’t get enough of. I think the magic of these books are that she combines what I love from UF (first person, kick ass female character) with traditional fantasy elements (roughly medieval setting and magic.) I highly recommend Ms Snyder’s books to any fantasy lover!

I’m a huge fan of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum novels, so when I heard she released a book on writing, I had to pick it up. How I write was fun to read and filled with great advice, but if you’ve read other writing books, you probably won’t find anything new. I enjoyed reading about Ms Evanovich’s process in writing the books and her comments on the excepts she chose to use as examples. If you love the Plum novels, you’ll probably enjoy this book.

Sometimes books I’m really looking forward to reading get lost in my TBR pile. That was definitely the case with my copy of Don’t Look Down. I had the wonderful opportunity to see a panel about the book by Jennifer Cruise and Bob Mayer last February and scored the book shortly after. Both writers were hysterical in the panel and I left really excited about the book, but by the time I picked it up, other things got in the way of my reading it. I forgot I owned it until the middle of last month. This book was as funny as the panel indicated, and I couldn’t believe how well their voices complimented one another. In my experience, consistency is a problem in co-authored books, but these two pulled it off wonderfully. Having heard them talk about the book before reading it made the experience even more fun.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

NaNoWriMo Wrap-up

I know, I disappeared. No, Nano didn't eat my soul, but life got a little hectic and I decided any free seconds needed to be spent writing. For that reason, I am way behind on my own blogging and have a lot of catching up to do on the blogs that I usually visit.

It's almost 7pm on November 30th and here is my Nano word count:
Zokutou word meter
50,112 / 50,000
(100.2%)


So, now it's time to do a happy dance because I finished, but at the same time hang my head because my wordcount is only half my goal for the month. Also, I finished almost a week later than I did last year. *shame*

Really, it's all my fault that 50k took me this long. Everything that could get in my way this month did (which was mostly myself) and I'll add updates about some of it later.

After a couple days down, I plan to edit the mess, and will probably lose around 10k. Eeps, does that still mean I wrote as much? This story has been fighting me every step of the way, it's going to be something to actually finish it... but I will. Who wants to have our own mini Nano in January?

Well, now to dance around my living room over finishing and indulge in some down time, food, and maybe a movie with the hubby. Hope everyone else out there doing well.

Goodbye November!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Can you see?

I swear I never saw anything until I began painting.

I remember always being in awe of nature, but I never really noticed it. I never saw the beauty of the one pale bare tree next to her sisters still wearing reds, yellows, and greens. I never noticed how the sunset glowed through the trees, splashing the sky in all shades of orange, alizarin, violet, and blue while the trees were only shadows against it. I swear I never realized how rich a green the leaves turned before a thunderstorm or the way a person’s iris is shot through with a dozen flecks of color.

Someone had to teach me to look.

Not how to look, but that I needed to look.

I wonder sometimes if most people walk through life never really seeing any details; that if no one tells them to actually look at things, they never see more than a second long picture of the world. I was twenty-two before I took my first painting class and actually started to look at things. I remember walking across campus one day and stopping to stare at this dandelion who miraculously survived the landscapers. Studying the light playing over that little flower’s leaves and seeing the shadows fall around it was the first time I realized I had never looked at anything before.

Since that day, I’ve taken much more time to stop and see things. But, I wonder what else I’m walking past, not realizing that there is something I don’t notice.

Monday, November 13, 2006

A lesson from Nano

This was a bad writing weekend. Real life just kept bidding for all my time (don't you hate when that happens.)

I only wrote 1k the entire weekend, and that was at (surprise surprise, you guessed it,) a write in. On that note, I did host a successful write-in on Sunday, and everyone who attended left with a decent wordcount for that short block of time. What made this one work when the others didn't? I have no clue. Maybe it was that I had a different set of people, or the fact I worked really hard on keeping my mouth shut.

So, to make up for the busy weekend, I chained myself to the computer today. Doing so would probably be more productive if I didn't have the internet to distract me, but I actually managed to keep the surfing to a minimum as I tried to work. I broke thirty thousand, which was the minimum goal I set for myself today, but that's only 4k words, and I really did work all day.

The sad part? The first 1k or so of today’s word count was like pulling teeth and took me about four hours. The last 3k I pounded out in about the same amount of time. I guess I needed to cross that first 1k I was struggling with to reach the downhill ride of inspiration.

If nothing else, today was a lesson to myself in pounding it out. In the past, if my muse fought me this hard, I sentenced myself to one full hour chained to the computer, and if it didn’t get better, I left it for the day. This habit, I reasoned, was much more productive than waiting for inspiration to hit like I did in college. Nano teaches me something new each year. Last year it taught me that writing everyday kept me excited about a project and got it finished. This year (so far) I’ve learned that sometimes one hour isn’t enough if I really want to get past writers-block fast.

Are you Nano’ing? (Or noveling?) Have you learned anything important about yourself and your writing needs in the process?


Current Progress:

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
30,131 / 95,000
(31.7%)

Friday, November 10, 2006

Refueling

Well, I passed the halfway point for Nano and the quarter point for my own personal goal today. I know some people write faster, but I'm pretty happy with making 25k in 10 days. The last few days I have been slowing down though. Not only have I not met my 3k a day goal in the last two days, but my words per hour have dropped as well.

The problem with Nano and trying to write in such a tight deadline is that I don't get a lot of time to take care of my muse. Ten days stuck in my head without any outside release has started to get to her, so I stopped by the bookstore and picked up Jenna Black's Watchers in the Night.

I discovered Jenna's website before the book came out and read the first chapter online, so I've been looking forward to its release. More recently I learned that she is a member of the local RWA chapter I intend to join, so now I'm doubly excited about reading it. I lack self control when it comes to reading, and typically finish a book in a single sitting, so my current wordcount is probably it for today.

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
25,130 / 95,000
(26.5%)


Off to refuel now!

UPDATE:
I finished the book and it was awesome. She set it up for a sequel and I can't wait to read more!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Write-ins

The first week of Nano has passed, and during that time, I’ve hosted a kick-off party and two write-ins. That means I have three more weeks of write-ins and a TGIO party still to go.

The concept behind a write-in is both intriguing and confounding. Writing, at least in my experience, is a very solitary endeavor, so from a practical stand point, a write-in doesn’t seem efficient or practical. I admit that some of my lowest word counts are during the hours I spend with other nano’ers at B&N or ABC. Put me alone in the same situation and I accomplish a good deal typically, so I can’t blame my surroundings. The problem is the pressure to socialize.

It is awkward to sit at a table with semi-strangers and work.

I tried to start a freewriting/ writing prompt exercise at the kick-off, but it didn’t take off. The idea of doing a couple page critique came to mind, but that’s not the point of Nano. Besides, I wouldn’t be comfortable showing my very rough first drafts to people, why would I expect anyone else to be? I’m pretty much out of ideas after that.

Has anyone participated in a productive/enjoyable write-in, or attended a write-in at all? What helped? What did you like? Hate?

Thanks!

Current progress on CW:

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
22,891 / 95,000
(24.1%)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Wine and Pizza

What a combination, huh? But that's how I celebrate.

What am I celebrating? Well, I’d love to tell you some exciting news about my book, but what I’m actually celebrating is my hubby’s new job!

After several months of searching, he received an offer Monday. (He wouldn’t let me post about it until the papers were signed.) I’m so excited for him and for us. This is going to be quite a lifestyle change. He has been working third-shift since we got married, which was especially hard when I was working days full time. This job is not only better in the monetary way, but it is during the day! We can finally both adjust to a normal schedule with the rest of the waking world!!

Okay, I could go on and on about that, but really I’d be repeating the same things in different ways. Let’s just say we danced around our living room for awhile and two weeks from now you probably won’t find me hanging around online at 5am in the morning…

A quick Nano update:

Current progress:

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
19,671 / 95,000
(20.7%)


I haven’t started my writing yet for today (I know, it’s almost midnight, but this is when I have time to work.)
Family obligations and a visit to the doctor took up a good deal of my time, but I’m about to start writing again now. I’m 6k or so behind where I want to be, but as long as I don’t fall further behind, I should be able to catch up eventually!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Please take a seat

If you’ve been following this blog the last few weeks, you probably remember that I was working on a project called MG until a subplot spiraled out of control and I decided there was a book between DH (the story my agent has) and MG. I outlined this new book, tentatively titled CW, and then put it to the side because Nanowrimo was weeks away from starting.
During those two weeks, a new character walked up and said “hey, while you wait, here’s my story.” Then proceeded to tell me about how dark and twisty she was. She was also kick ass and a great main character, so I wrote a short story for her set in the world of my novels but with none of the usual characters. Great, that was fun, and I finished just in time to start nano.

Now she won’t shut up, and she brought another friend who is also begging for her own story.

For awhile now I have been afraid if DH doesn’t sell, that will be the end. All my energy and thoughts have been tied up with that main character and I have a rough idea where I want the story to be as far as five or so books from now. If no one wants the first book, I can’t sell the rest, and what if I never have another good story idea again? (I have a file full of story ideas, but nothing novel length or really eye catching.)

Maybe these new characters are my subconscious’s form of encouragement… It could have picked a better time. Now my main character, the one I’m actually writing about, won’t talk to me. I keep trying to tempt her with chocolate, but she has clamed up. I think she realizes I’ve lost faith in her story. Which isn’t completely true; I think it can be fixed, I’m just not sure how.

So I’ve decided, once I finish CW (and I will finish CW, I refuse not to) it, DH, and the outline for MG are going in the drawer to be reevaluated at a later date. Okay, so I can’t really put DH in a drawer as it is still being shopped by editors, but unless I get some good critique advice on it, I’m not going to edit it anymore for awhile. After I have a complete first draft for CW, then I plan to start a new story with one of the new characters.

Until then, I would very much like to say to these two kick ass ladies (and any other perspective new main characters) “Please take a seat. I will get to you in due time.”

Saturday, November 04, 2006

CRW

I managed to drag myself to the CRW meeting today and I am so glad I did.
I enjoyed the LRWA when I attended their meeting, but the CRW meeting just blew me away. I will definitely be joining their chapter.

What helped me make the choice?
Well,
-CRW has a larger group with a much more diverse set of writers including other fantasy writers.
-CRW has two workshops every month at the meeting as opposed to LRWA’s one
-and CRW has a critique group.

I was happy with both meetings I attended, and everyone I talked to was wonderfully nice, but right now I think CRW can offer me more of what I need at this point in my career. (hah…like I have a writing career…) The only thing I’m a little afraid of with CRW is that since it is such a large group, there might be ‘cliques’ of writers. I’ve noticed that happens when you get more than a handful of people. But we will see. All that is left this year is the Christmas party, which I probably won’t attend, but I can’t wait for meetings to start up in January so I can officially join. (I need to go ahead and join the RWA now too.)

Oh on a side note… not so much on the Nano progress today. My hubby and I had to leave the house at 9 something this morning to make the 11:30 meeting. CRW wrapped up by 3pm, but Hubby and I decided to hit the mall since we were in a major city so by the time we did that, ate some dinner, and drove back home it was already 8pm. Not so conducive to writing massive amounts.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Quick update: Day 3

Well day three of Nano is coming to an end.

To be on target with my personal goal I needed to be at 9k tonight, I still have a couple hours left, but I'm not sure I'll make it. I will probably get close though.

Current word count:
7457/95000

I'm feeling a little better today, and I'm hoping I will be up to going to CRW tomorrow. I won't be able to drive if I take the pain pills the doc gave me, and though my husband has offered to drive me, I probably won't go if I have to face all those new people drugged up. So, if I'm not hurting too bad, I plan to go, but I don't know how good a first impression I'll make as I look like someone punched me in the jaw.

We will see.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Day two of Nano—Post Surgery

Well today has been an interesting day two of Nano. As the title indicates, my surgery was this morning, and I won’t go into all the bloody details (I had surgery on my jaw and they had to cut and peel down a section of my gums, oh yeah, that was a blast) but let’s just say I could have had a better day. I slept a lot, but I did get some writing done.

When I finally got around to writing, I read over what I wrote yesterday and decided it all blew chunks and I needed to trash it. Since I am on lots of fuzzy pain pills, I decided that might be a little rash, so it went to a scrap folder instead of getting the permanent vacation. Currently I’m under the impression my new opening is much better, we will see how that holds up once they take the codeine away.

I made the official statement at last nights kick-off that I’m setting my personal goal at 95k for the month (that’s only 3k a day, right?) so maybe it would be best if I keep the codeine…. So far I’m right on track for Nano’s goal, but falling behind for my own. Word counters everywhere seem to be melting down (probably from massive overuse, hopefully they will be back soon.) Here is my wordcount a la old fashioned text:

3702/95000

According to excel if I keep working at my current pace I’ll finish December 21(personal goal)…which is missing it by a month. Hopefully I’ll be more cognizant tomorrow (and less nauseated) so will be able to pick it up a notch.

Oh I almost forgot. I joined Rachel Caine’s Nano group. Check it out .

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

How strange

I don't know if this is happening to everyone else, but on my computer, the words in my "halloween" post keep disappearing. My progress meter is also not working correctly... something I'll have to look into later as my internet went on the fritz (great timing) so me and my computer are at the library and the connection is painfully slow.

I guess I could look at this as a blessing... no 'net means way less distractions, but as I'm supposed to be moderating a forum...I see it leading to a problem. Hopefully it will be fixed soon.

If I have a connection tonight, I'll post on how the kick-off goes. Other wise I guess I might be a little silent.

Here is my current progress:


Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
1,151 / 50,000
(2.3%)

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween

Here is my hubby dressed up as the amazing melting man....



Well, unfortunately we couldn't catch him as the melting was happening, so here he is post melt.

The Eve of Madness

No, this post has nothing to do with Halloween.

Tonight, at midnight, Nano officially begins.

I feel like I was much more prepared for it two weeks ago than today. Two weeks ago I had just worked out an outline so it was fresh in my mind and I was excited to get working on it. Of course, I then decided to wait so I could start a new project for Nano. In the interim I’ve been editing DH (which I’m not done with [the editing, that is]) and working on other things, including a short story I’m in the middle of and need to finish today and not put off until December.

Life also decided to throw me a couple curves over the last few days. The car breaking down was expensive; the part it needed was only like 20$ but the labor was several hundred. *grumbles* This Thursday I’m having surgery (nothing serious as long as I don’t put it off.) So on the second day of Nano, I will be out of it-- not a good way to start the month. Between the car and the surgery, the bills are starting to get out of hand, and the tightrope that was letting me work only limited hours is swaying really close to the crocodiles below, so I might need to go back to work full time. *sigh* That’s life, and when it comes to working, I was pulling over-time at work last year during Nano some weeks and still made the goal.
All and all, my pre-nano stress has very little to do with jitters about writing and more with everything else.

Wow, this has turned into a whiney post. Sorry.

On the upside, I am looking forward to the kick-off party tomorrow night. I probably mentioned it before, but I’m co-ML for my area this year, and the other Ml and I have planned some fun things for our fellow nano’ers. I will be heading up several write-ins over November, so I’m hoping doing that will help me get over some of my shyness while helping other nano’ers meet their word goal. I won’t know how I want to structure the write-ins until I talk to the writers who plan to attend, but I’ve been getting material ready incase people want to start the session with writing exercises or talk about outlining/plotting/character development. (And yes, I’m taking things from the net and books, not coming up with it on my own because I’m definitely not an expert on the subjects.)

Well, good luck to any of you out there who are also Nano’ing this year! Just a few more hours…

Sunday, October 29, 2006

LRWA

Life sometimes makes a point of scaring me.

Thursday my car broke down, which is a really big deal as it is the car my husband and I share and public transport in my city is a joke. The shop said the car wouldn’t even be looked at until Monday, so my chance to attend the LRWA meeting basically evaporated. Luckily, both our parents helped us out in getting where we had to go around town, but getting to Charleston still seemed like an impossibility. Then in a change of fortune, the shop called back and told us we could pick the car up Friday night and I ended up being able to go after all.

I was really nervous walking in the room, but everyone was really friendly. I wasn’t even the only guest visiting. Apparently lots of members were missing at this meeting because there is a writing retreat next week, but there were still probably 13 or so people present. It was a good mix: a couple published authors, several with works looking for representation, and a handful still working on their first book. We talked a little about what each of us was working on and things we had heard about the industry (a who’s looking for what moment.) Then there was the workshop about writing thrillers which was informative, and while I never plan to write a straight thriller, I’m sure I can incorporate some of what I learned in my own work. The meeting wrapped up with a discussion about making your name a brand (for advertising purposes.) As I have nothing to compare it to, I couldn’t tell you how well the meeting went, but I had a good time. It will be interesting to compare it to the CRW meeting next weekend.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Plot, what plot?

Plotting really isn’t very high on my skill list. Isn’t that a terrible thing to admit as writer? But, it is true. I struggle with plots endlessly and that’s the reason an outline is a must for me. (I’m very bad at planning almost anything else in my life and tend towards the spontaneous, but if I don’t outline, I don’t finish a story.)

What is a story without a plot? Well, probably not much of anything, but plot isn’t what comes to me when I dream up a new story. First shadows of characters show up and eventually meet each other and start talking. (Yes dialogue is one of the first things that comes to me and is one of the few things I’m confident about when I read over my work) As the characters develop I start figuring out their world, which is one of my favorite things. (My roots as a reader and early writings are high fantasy, so even now world building is a special joy. I do less of it in urban fantasy, but I still slip it in as much as possible.) Once I have my characters and my world, I need to figure out what they are going to do.
That sounds simple, but it is the part of the process that makes me want to set my hair on fire. (Thank you miss snark for that wonderful expression)

My characters have personal motivations and small plans for what they want to do: Ch A wants everyone to leave her alone so she doesn’t have to face her past or responsibilities, Ch B wants Ch A to come home…yadda yadda yadda. Nothing big, all encompassing, or with enough momentum to move a whole story forward. The mcguffin, the quest, the mystery, whatever is moving the story, is painfully extracted from the depths of my brain and sewn into the threads of possibility. Some days I feel like plot is something I force on my characters just so they have something to do while they work out those smaller subplots centering on their personal motivations.

Does anyone else feel that way about their work? How do stories form for you? Is plot something that easily forms, or do you fight with it?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A new look

You probably noticed the blog got (yet another) face lift. This is probably the happiest I’ve been with the blog’s appearance, and ironically, I changed it specifically so I could give the template to a fellow blogger who is really frustrated with the template she is using. I never intended to keep it, but I think I like it and it will stay this way a while.

It’s funny, I have made a good chunk of change over the years doing freelance web design, but this template kicked my butt. Maybe I should take a refresher course in xml and such, but it’s only been maybe three years since my last java/html course. It’s amazing how fast such things become dated and near obsolete.

If you have ever stopped by my gallery site you might recognize the faerie in my banner. If you don’t, she is from an oil painting I did about two years ago. (She has of course been modified in photoshop as she appears in the banner) I always meant to do a series of faeries, but got side tracked. I should go back and revisit that idea. Of course I say this now, only seven days before Nano starts, which means there isn’t a chance in the world of me painting much until at least December.

Monday, October 23, 2006

To join a writing group

Recently Rachel Vincent devoted a post to finding/picking critique partners, which was a topic I definitely benefited from. (BTW if you haven’t stopped by her blog recently, the cover for Stray is up. Go look!) She suggested looking for a CP through local chapter meetings of RWA (and other writing groups) or online. That was the part where I hit myself on the head and said “Yeah, I should have thought of that.”

Of course, I have thought of it before, but remember I’m shy about admitting to being a writer, so I’ve avoided writing groups. It’s clearly time to kick that bad habit. (Especially since I just volunteered to be CO-Municipal Liaison for my regional Nano)

There are two local chapters of RWA within reasonable driving distance, both have published and unpublished authors represented, workshops at the monthly meetings, published writer/agent speakers, and allotted time for network/socializing. That all sounds great (especially the workshops) but I’m not a romance writer, so I'm not completely sure RWA will be a good fit. Worried about that fact, I did a quick search of my favorite urban fantasy writers and learned that many of them are in the RWA. I wrote my agent to get her opinion, and she thought joining would be a good move.

After contacting both chapters, I learned that I can sit in on a meeting before I join, so I've decided to attend the next meeting for both groups. Why both, why not pick one? Well, one (LRWA) is around 2-21/2 hours away, but I have a friend local to the area so I can visit her after the meeting. The other (CWA) is only an hour away, so closer, but no friend. Besides that, since I do have the choice of two, it seems wise to allow myself to decide which chapter has members I mesh with better.

I’m nervous, but excited. The LRWA meeting is this weekend (the 28th) and the CWA is the following (the 4th). I’m hoping to learn a lot and meet a lot of interesting people. I’m sure I’ll post something after the meeting, but until then: is anyone reading this in a writing group? (of any kind) If so, what benefits do you feel being in the group has brought you?

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Halloween is coming

October is one of my favorite months. The weather is typically mild here, the fair comes to town, and the month ends with Halloween, one of my all time favorite holidays. Now that I’m out of collage and theoretically an adult, I don’t go to many Halloween parties. (I need some married friends. I love my friends, wouldn’t trade them for the world. But parties are odd now that I’m married as my friends who are not single, are in somewhat open relationships, and tend to get naked and play drunken debauchery games. While amusing for a while, that’s not much fun when you’re sitting on the sidelines.) So if parties are out, bars are full of singles, and I’m way too old to trick-or-treat (unless I kidnap a small child, but even my cousins are out growing that) what’s a Halloween loving girl to do?

Volunteer work.

I’m friends with several librarians in the area, and I was asked to help out with the Halloween festival on Saturday. It’s sad, I probably spent close to three hours getting ready, but the event only lasted an hour. (My prep time included ransacking my closet trying to put together an acceptable costume because mine haven’t been kid-friendly in several years, so improvises had to be made) I was stationed in a haunted house (more a haunted broom closet) with another guy and my husband. We had the facade of a castle with a window, some dangling bats, three tombstones, a black light, and after some searching, two flashlights.

No instruction at all.

We spent most the time laughing and goofing off because the librarians told the children that the haunted house was really scary and only the bravest should enter (these kids were like six.) After three or four kids we finally worked out a script (okay, I was the only one talking, but my friend laughed maniacally and my husband played a disembodied hand behind a curtain.) Getting the kids back out was the biggest problem. The room was only maybe two yards wide and they had turn around and go back out the door they entered. The solution turned out to be terribly dorky, but worked quite well. When I led the child over to the ‘disembodied arm’, I told them that the dead were rising, then my husband would stick out his hand, holding a bit of candy, and I would urge them to go take it from him. Then, I would ask what the child found, and, as it was always a chocolate eyeball, say “Oh no! His eye, you better run before he comes for it.” This was usually met by wide-eyed shock, and then the child rushed to the door.

Yeah, it’s hard to balance acceptable spookiness with not getting laughed at by small children.

I had a good time though, and I think the children had fun. One little girl dressed like a princess might have gotten a little too scared, and a couple of the kids did laugh at the monster in the castle (my friend,) but most of them jumped at my appearance (floor length black cape, only black lights, and turning on flashlight… oh the magic of a cheap haunted house,) and even the laughing children approached the disembodied hand with obvious trepidation. So over all, our sad little haunted closet was a success.

Friday, October 20, 2006

First Rejection,

Well, my agent passed along DH’s first rejection today. Weirdly, I’m not as bummed out by it as I thought I would be. Of course, maybe it just hasn’t had time to sink in yet.

The rejection was very nice and complementary (which I’m not sure how much that means since it is still a rejection.) It also listed the reasons DH was rejected, so at least that gives me something to work with. CW will have to wait a couple weeks; I have some editing to do before Nano starts.

Wish me luck.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Touch of the Muse or the Touched Muse

You might have noticed the progress meter claims it is ‘Out of Order’ currently (actually, you might have noticed the entire blog has a new look. I went ahead and switched to blogger beta after seeing several examples of it and the super shiny labels. But I digress…) The progress meter is down. Why? Because MG is in ICU on life support after cutting out 25k words of malignant sub-plot.

The muse and I have been fighting about this for almost two weeks now. And let me tell you, a girl doesn’t get a lot of writing done when she’s fighting with the muse. It was obvious that sub-plot (plots actually, three of them) slowed down MG, but the idea was to set up some stuff for later stories. The problem: the main plot and the sub-plots took place in two different places and I had to wrap up the sub-plots before heading to the location of the main plot. In the outline this looked great, but when that two sentence summery of a sub-plot became 10k words and wanted more, I knew there was a problem. Okay, just cut it and put in a scrap file to use later, right? Oh no, the muse says she thinks we can write a whole book using the sub-plots that will take place before MG. That was when the red flags went off. I have a hard drive full of stories that died after 30k words. Starting a new story sounded like big trouble and falling backwards into bad habits again. The muse assured me it would be just this once.

“Okay, so what’s the main plot of this new second book?”

That was when the muse got really quiet. The sub-plots might have been begging for more room to stretch out, but they were only supposed to be setting up for a story in the distant future, nothing fully worked out. She told me not to worry about that detail yet (not worry about the plot?) and to fix MG’s outline and then start the new one tentatively called CW. It took me the rest of the day to do that and as I started CW’s outline, I was pretty lost aside from knowing that a version of what I cut from MG would be near the beginning of the story.
The next day the muse didn’t show up while I was hitting my head on my keyboard so I went to look for her. I found her kicking rocks.

“So what’s the plot?” I asked.
She didn’t even look up, just kicked another rock. “It’s still hatching. Come back tomorrow.”

Right. The next day she didn’t show at the keyboard again, so again I went looking for her. This time all I found was a note under a rock that said she would be gone for a little while. Always a good sign. *sarcasm*

Of course whenever the muse goes on vacation, her house is empty and her evil sister, doubt, tends to hang around to water the plants. Doubt sings dark lullabies whenever she is in muse’s house. The theme tends to be things like that I won’t be able to finish a second book and that no one has even said they want DH yet. After a couple days of listening to doubt sing I tend to get rather blue. This time was far from the exception.
Finally a postcard arrived from the muse, but all it said was “need fuel.” Okay, I knew what fuel was, so off to the bookstore I ran. I tore through several books, but still no sign of the muse.

Last night I was sitting around telling myself I had to work, muse or no muse, when she just walked in, sporting a nice tan. (Which I have no idea where she went to get a tan in October)

“Got a pen?” she asked.
“Words up on the computer. I’m ready.”
“No, get a pen.”

A strange request, but I wasn’t about to argue with her. I grabbed a pen and some computer paper and we started working out everything she had come up with on her trip. In the end one of the sub-plots from MG transformed into the main plot for CW with the other two sub-plots tying in very nicely. She even came up with a delicious cliffhanger for the ending. (Which can probably be blamed on the fact that I read two of the evil queen of cliffhanger’s wonderful books for fuel while the muse was gone.)

So now I have several pages of notes with all the high points and even some yummy dialogue that needs to be turned into a proper outline. After that I can finally get back to really writing again.

When the muse left last night, she handed me one other thing: a sticky note with the words ‘pound it out’ written on it. It’s stuck to my computer now and is something I need to take to heart. Once CW’s outline is complete I’ll have two outlined books waiting to be written. Pounding them out is good advice. I’m so excited.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Bees

Bees?
Yes, this post is about bees.

While at the fair yesterday, I passed a local bee farmer’s booth and stopped to look. He had a honeycomb behind glass with bees working in it, and while people were gathered around he started doing his educational/sales pitch. At one point, he held up a little tube of honey and explained that during its life, that was how much honey a single bee would make. I’d be surprised if the amount he held up was enough to fill a thimble, it certainly was less than what I put in my tea.

It made me think. Several bees toil their entire life to create the amount of honey I put on a single biscuit. It’s kind of sad really.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

What I'm reading

I've had a blah couple of days, so I hit the bookstore to make me feel better.

GreyWalker by Kat Richardson hit the shelves last week. The book is only out in trade right now, and she is a first time author, but I'd heard some good stuff so I decided to spend the extra bit and give her a chance. It started out a little rocky(or maybe that was my mood while reading) but once it picked up it was hard to put the book down. The book's biggest fault was the psychobabble by characters speaking for the writer and telling us about the 'grey.' That was forgivable though, and the book is well worth the extra price of the trade cover (though to be fair, most UF is out there in mass market and lots of it is well worth HC to me.) Great novel. I recomend it and look forward to the next one, which is due to be out fall 2008.

Kitty goes to Washington by Carrie Vaughn is the second book in a series. The first book, Kitty and the Midnight Hour was great. Not I'm dying to get more great, but still good and looking forward to the next one great. This one was even better though. I feel like the author grew a lot between the first and second book, and lots of the little annoyances I had with the first one were worked out better in the second. That said, both books are funny, fast paced, and filled with snappy dialogue. Pick up the series if your looking for a fun urban fantasy.

Glass Houses by Rachel Caine. (Yes, I did just read a different book by her last week, sue me.) I had the hardest time finding this book. I wandered all around the bookstore and finally had to break down and ask. It was in young adult section, which, was not a mistake. Was the book good? Yes, I loved it, but I always have a hard time relating to main characters flustered over their first kiss when I'm used to characters rolling into bed with someone at least once in a book. Still, it was a fun and fast read, and because as previously said, Ms Caine is the evil queen of cliffhangers, it ended with me going "Wait no...you can't stop there...." So yes, I will be buying the next one. If YA UF isn't a total deal breaker for you, pick it up.

You'll probably notice none of those little reviews tell you anything about the books themselves, just my impressions. Sorry. Follow the links to amazon and read the blurbs there. So far I've read three books in as many days and I'm ready to make another B&N run if I don't get out of my slump soon. *sigh*

Monday, October 09, 2006

Wine in plastic cups

Last night was the art preview and awards reception, which is always a weird but enjoyable event. It’s nice to see the artwork, but I’ll be honest, I pay more attention to the pieces once the show is actually open and I visit it for a second time, last night I was observing the other attendees.

People of all ages enter the show, from fresh out of high school to blue hairs. The preview is open to anyone who entered artwork and one guest, whether they made it into the show or not. This makes for an interesting crowd. Some people are very quiet as they roam the aisles of work, occasionally pausing to look a little closer, but usually pulling the typical art observer and giving each piece around a 2 second study. Some people stop and study/discuss almost every piece, at least in their favored medium. Some are obviously juried out artists, and they tend to stop in front of art they don’t like more often than art they do. Their ‘supportive’ guest tends to be more critical than the artist (though not always.) It is inevitable at this event to hear at least one lowered voice complain that “my/your piece is better than this” followed by some rather unpleasant descriptions of the judges’ tastes.

The judges’ choices are always a hot topic by even those that made it into the show. The ‘hit or miss’ discussion is muttered in hushed tones by most of the attendees, except perhaps those who won awards. I’ll admit to understanding the feeling. There are always some pieces that I stop and gap at. They are amazing in technique, content, or in some way that absolutely floors me, and they don’t even earn a merit award. Then, I wander to the awards aisle to discover the unimpressive image that won first place and I’m just dumbfounded. Nothing too extremely weird this year, at least. There was one year that a black and white photo of a jar of mustard won grand prize. If you ever wanted to hear lots of ugly words, you could hang out around that image for a while. It must be hard to be a judge.

This year the biggest complaints were about the lighting, which was honestly horrid. In the past, my works were better placed, so it could have been that I never noticed the lighting was quite so bad during previous years. There were lots of artists talking about it this year though. From dismay at how their colors looked in the light to the fact that some of the pieces (mine included) had weird shadows cast over them. This isn’t a gallery show, it’s the fair, so I guess poor lighting shouldn’t be that surprising.

My husband took a couple pictures during the event. I think it’s pretty obvious I wasn’t too keen on taking them. My smile is very ‘okay quick, while no one is looking, just take the picture.’ Special huh?

Despite how I look in the picture, the night was a lot of fun, and the show is pretty good this year. More works were cut than in previous years, so I guess the judges had more to choose from. I’m still surprised I made it in, honestly. My piece definitely didn’t fit in with the works surrounding it: a still-life, some flamingos, and a flower path. The great thing about being surrounded by ‘pretty’ images is that while, for the most part, the wall got a two second look, my piece earned a lot of double takes. No one really said anything, but people stopped and actually looked. What more could I ask for?

Saturday, October 07, 2006

When they stop talking

Do your characters ever stop talking to you? Not because you don’t know where they are going, but because they suddenly become as elusive as trying to capture the breeze?

I have a scene I’m working on with MG that started forming in my mind way before I even finished DH. It’s played through my imagination a thousand times, I’ve written snippets of it in random places in my notes, (Yes, I have a word document named ‘notes’) and I have been looking forward to actually writing the scene for almost a year. Now it is finally time and my characters are standing around the scene acting like rusty marionettes.

Maybe the scene has been with me so long that the characters have out grown it, or maybe I’ve lost contact with them. Is it possible that long term planning could be unhealthy? In the last year, since I came up with the idea for this series, my brain has been slipping pieces together so that I have a rough idea what will happen for at least five books, (which means it will be really sad if I can’t sell DH and the rest of the ideas have to be mulched to make room and fertile ground for a new story that might sell.) But, maybe being so far ahead of myself is tearing my characters in two. After all, from their perspective, I’m making them regress because at the point my brain is currently playing with the story they have grown a lot, but I’m way back near the beginning in writing it. It could be that I just need to be writing faster. (Well, actually, I know that is true. I should be setting a much higher min daily word count for myself.) I guess I should also consider the fact that I’ve hit a personal slump and just need to push through it and get back into the swing of things.


Does anyone else ever have this problem? What do you do when it happens? If you’re writing a series, how far ahead do you find yourself planning? How do you reconnect with characters when they are sitting around staring at you blank-eyed?

Friday, October 06, 2006

The interim and Firestorm

This blog went silent for several days, my apologies.

Things have been a little crazy around here in a way that has absolutely nothing to do with writing. I picked up a contract job (as I do when the opportunity arises) because a little extra cash is always useful. When I heard the details of this job I had the feeling it wouldn’t work out well, and really I should have gone with my instincts but I took it anyways. I had the feeling when the problem was first presented to me that I wouldn’t be able to do much, and stated that up front, but the client really wanted me to look into. So I looked into it, and the research (and tech support) glutinously devoured my time. In the end, I was correct with my first assessment. Since I couldn’t technically do anything, I have to decide what to bill the client that both my conscious and my pocketbook can agree with.

Urgh… I hate money.

I explained the situation to my ‘boss’ (who really just passes me clients who he feels wouldn’t be profitable enough to work with himself) and asked him to bill the client for me. It’s the no rocks approach. If it were up to just me, I wouldn’t charge anything. Of course, I’ve never felt I’m as valuable as he contracts me out for. He is a fair guy though, so I know he will come up with something everyone can live with.

In other news, I finished Firestorm the other day. Rachel Caine is an evil genius. If you haven’t picked up the Weather Warden books, go, stop reading this and read them. This a wonderful series, but the amazingly evil writer always always leaves off with a killer cliffhanger. So now I have to wait until July for the next one. *grumbles*

Firestorm is the fifth book in the series, and I won’t tell you anything about it in case you have not yet run off and read the first four, but I guess I can tell you about the series itself. It’s urban fantasy, and though the genre usually arouses connotations of vampires and werewolves, this series has neither. Unknown to the general populous, a group of individuals called Wardens, who possess control over the elements, are the only thing standing between sentient storms, angry fires, and other major disasters and humanity. They are assisted by a highly magical race known as Djinn, (think genie in the bottle without the three wish limit) but no one said the Djinn want to be controlled. Oh yeah, throw in some demons too. The books are fast paced and the main character, Joanne, is sassy and kick ass. Read it, and suffer my pain of wanting more.

Here’s a random observation… urban fantasy females tend to know a lot about cars. Joanne loves fast cars and I have learned more about the motors in top end sports cars from the Weather Warden books than the boys in high school. Then there is Mercy in Moon Called. She works on cars as her day job, so more car talk in books. And the main character in Urban Shaman (also a Joanne) is an auto mechanic working for the police. I’m sure there are others, but those three come to mind. Anyone else notice the car savvy females in UF?

Monday, October 02, 2006

Art Show and Nano

They say “when it rains it pours” and “misfortune always comes in threes” but is the same true about the good stuff? Or, would that completely unbalance the karma scales and drown us in the bad stuff?

Good news came in today: my piece made it into the art show!

I’m super giddy (and who knows, maybe this will be my week for good news.) This weekend is the preview and awards reception, which means free food and wine, a mishmash of the local art culture meeting, and me walking around pretending like I’m the guest of an attending artist instead of the artist herself. (This goes back to the same issues as discussed in ‘writing secretly.’ I’m mortified to point out my work face to face with people, never mind that I went through an art major and had public critiques… there is probably no hope for me.) I won’t find out until the reception if my piece placed, but I’m just thrilled to have made it in. That’s enough for me.

Official NaNoWriMo 2006 ParticipantIn other news, October is here again which means it’s time to start thinking about NaNoWriMo. For those of you who have never heard of it, Nanowrimo is National Novel Writing Month and is an event that gathers thousands of people who want to write books and pushes them to write 50k words during the month of November. I did it for the first time last year and won, (I found out about it the year before, but November was more than half over and I was in the middle of exams.) It’s madness but tons of fun. (I was working full time last year… it might be slightly less madness this time around.) This year I will be invoking the Zokutou clause and working on MG. If I manage to finish Mg early or there are not 50k words left at the start of November, then I'll have to throw together a quick outline of book #3 and jump into that.(And I wouldn't complain a bit about finishing MG sooner than planned.)

Last year around 60k people participated in Nano and even more are anticipated this year. If you have ever felt like there is a book inside you waiting for the right time to jump out, now may be the time. My Nano name is Kalayna. Drop me a message and we can keep up with each others word count and help each other stay motivated.

De-stressing with string part2

Well, armed with a plethora of knitting books, I have started making progress on my goals from the last post.

So far I have learned which stitch is a Knit stitch and which is a Purl. It turns out that the stitch I have been using for years doesn't actually exist, but is similar to a knit through the back stitch. I also figured out what obnoxious pattern notes such as Row4 p3 k2tog *p1 k1 repeat from * actually means. So, I plan to practice real stitches for a small project (making fingerless gloves because winter is coming and my hands get cold while I'm typing all night,) then I will start on my husband's sweater. I'm excited.

I hit the bookstore this weekend and picked up two of the books on my reading wish list: Firestorm and Kitty goes to Washington. I can't wait to dive into those. I'll let you know what I think after I'm finished, but as they are both parts of series I already like, I anticipate they will be great.

Still no word from my agent, but I'm really not as stressed as I was earlier in the week. Of course, it's the weekend, so it could be that my subconscious and my logical side actually got together and figured out there wouldn't be any news. Who knows. I've been getting work done, and that's the important thing.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

De-stressing with string

I went to the library today to pick up some books on writing. Over the years I have read most of what my local library carries on the craft of writing, but I have convinced myself that I don’t know anything about telling a story, so I went looking for something new. While browsing the shelves I spotted some books on knitting.

A friend taught me two stitches back in college, but I only ever use one of them. Don’t ask if it is a purl stitch or a knit stitch because I don’t actually know the difference. I also can’t read a pattern (or most maps, though I can navigate cross country with an atlas, go figure.) I knit hats and scarves because that is all I know how to do and the repetitive movements are very zen for me. Knitting also gives my hands something to do while my stories sporadically play out behind my eyes. I knit a lot when I get writer’s block because it takes the pressure of the keyboard away and lets me work through things.

I don’t have writer’s block right now, but my nerves could use the zen-like state knitting puts me in. The problem, no one I know needs a hat or a scarf. I’ve made everyone at least one of each by now. So despite my inability to understand what in the world the knitting books are talking about, I decided to bring some home. My husband wants a sweater, so I’m trying to figure out the pattern for one.

It’s on my goal list now-- write a minimum1k a day, learn to knit a sweater, and stop being OC about checking my email. Some goals, huh?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Addictive personalities and Nervous energy

"The waiting is the hardest part." I've heard it all my life, but I don't think I ever really understood until now.

I'm not a patient person. I can be, and I try real hard, but I always end up adding the spaghetti noodles before the water boils. That's the way I am.

Now I am stuck in a position where all I can do is wait.

What am I waiting for? My agent to call and tell me someone wants my novel (or doesn't want it and she needs more copies,) to find out if my painting will make it into the show, and for the guy who interviewed my husband the other day to call and offer him the job. The painting has a date at least. I will know on the second. The other two are up in the air so they're harder to deal with. It fills me with all this nervous energy, which if I could figure out how to harness and use constructively probably wouldn't be that bad. (Who couldn't use a little extra energy.) But no, nervous energy makes me act a little ADD, always jumping to check on things. Which is where todays other topic comes in....

Along with compulsively checking my email, I now check the myspace forums anytime the idea flits through my brain. I don't respond that often, but I log in several times a day (or just leave the screen up in the background) and check out what people are talking about. I do stumble over tidbits of useful information once in a while, but for the most part it is becoming a major time-sink. The sad part is that I am disappointed anytime I check them and no one has said anything new.

At least when I do the bulk of my writing (between 2 and 8am in the morning) most people who have lives are sleeping, so even if I do sporadically check the forums, there is usually nothing going on to distract me. It's a phase, I swear.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Editing and Outlines

I am having an issue today, I want to edit DH and I'm not sure if I should or not.

Holly has four copies of the manuscript out with editors already, so if I do change anything and one of the editors wants my novel, I will probably have to change it back. (I know there will be edits after the editor picks it up, but I'm not sure what to expect with that or how open the editing will be on my end.) If none of these editors bite, having a tweaked manuscript might be a good thing. I don't know, and I don't even know who I can ask. I suppose I could ask Holly, but I don't want to 1.) bother her, 2.) sound like an idiot, or 3.) make it appear I sent her the manuscript before it was ready.
Three weeks ago I was pretty sure it was ready. Now I can think of places that could be better. (I haven't let myself read over it because I knew that would incite another edit. If I ever do get to see this thing in print, I will probably have to continuously buy new copies because mine will all be filled with red ink.) So do I go ahead and edit it or try to focus on MG?

Maybe I am going through editing withdrawal. I have been editing DH all year; this is the longest break I have taken from it.

On a less uncertain note, I was looking over my outline for MG and realized there is not near enough tension and the climax is dinky. I guess I should be happy I noticed it now and not after the first draft was complete. So right now I'm back tracking a bit and working on the pacing in my outline.

It makes me wonder how many other authors write outlines, and how those that do write them, use them.

I started using outlines relatively recently, but I rarely completed projects before I began outlining. It used to be that characters would show up in the back of my head one day and start talking. Random dialogue and clips of scenes would come to me (not a plot mind you, just quirky things.) From those scraps I would start discovering what kind of world my characters lived in. These characters and scenes would simmer on the backburner for a while then eventually inspiration would take over and I would sit down and start writing. 10 to 40k words would boil out of this pot of inspiration before it calmed and retreated to the background again. I liked the characters and the world, but I had no idea where the story was going. I might tinker with it, adding a few words now and then, but if the characters weren't talking to me, I had no idea what was going on in their story.

This led to a very large graveyard of story beginnings on my computer.

I don't remember why I suddenly decided to outline one day. I'd been reading about it in books for years, but I guess I had always figured it was a technique for someone other than me. I did decide to outline though, and when the pot boiled over instead of indulging in writing out the wonderful details of everything flashing through my head, I started jotting down rough notes and moving on to what happened next, and then after that, and after that, and all the way to the end. By the time the inspiration ran out, I knew the end.
I had a map!
Now all I had to do was throw those summaries of scenes from my outline into the pot, coax it to a boil, and the scene would take off. If I got lost or wandered too far, I had a map to help me to the next scene.
For DH, the outline was written after I already had several thousand words on paper because DH started as a way to get over writer's block. Consequently, most of what I wrote before I started outlining ended up getting cut in edits or completely rewritten because it lacked voice. Almost all the diversions I made while writing (and editing) made the story stronger in my opinion, (Because an outline might be a map, but it is not the one and true way, I take detours.) but the outline controlled the overall pace of the story. Despite that, it wasn't until I tried to write a summery that I realized the lead up to my climax was horrid. It had to be completely rewritten.
I didn't foresee that once when writing the outline or the first draft. The fact that I can see the pacing issues present in my outline for MG gives me hope that I am becoming better at my chosen craft. I never changed DH's outline after it was written.

So I am wondering, how many of you out there outline?
If you do use outlines, do you spend a lot of time making sure they are the best map they can be, or are your outlines more of a rough skeleton?

Friday, September 22, 2006

Writer's Digest, writing secretly, and email

I have become a compulsive email checker in the last few weeks.

I didn't use to be this way. In fact, until two weeks ago I had to remind myself to check it, or I would end up going several days without opening Outlook. What changed?

My agent contacts me by email.

So now I hit send/receive at least four times a day, and with my schedule that is really ridiculous because she is only likely to write me between 9 and 5. But at midnight I still can't resist hitting the button and seeing if something new slips into my box. I foresee this growing into a really bad habit.

I noticed something interesting recently. I subscribe to Writer's Digest because, well, I write, so it seems the thing to do. In the last few months they have been sending me renewal slips saying I can get 2 years for 1 low price...2 years (12 issues) for only $29.96 as opposed to 1 year (6 issues) for $19.96. The thing I'm confused about is that the little postcard ads that fall out of the magazine claim that if I return that card I'll get 2 free issues and a year’s subscription (12 issues in all) for only $19.96. So what’s the deal? Do I get 12 issues in a year or 6? I get the feeling they must have recently changed their policy because it seems like I am not getting magazines as often as I used to. Anyone know what’s really going on?

Jumping topics: several weeks ago I set up a myspace account to check out the networking possibilities. I'm not yet sure if it will ever be useful or just a time-sink, but it did lead me to an interesting blog today. One of the topics Fred talks about is that he is embarrassed to tell people he is a writer.

I know the feeling.

I've been writing stories since I was around eight, (mostly very bad stories,) and have always treated writing like a dirty little secret. My immediate family knew but that was about it. I didn't even let anyone else read most of it, except my mother--poor woman.
In high school my friends thought I took really good notes because I was always scribbling in notebooks during class. I never told them I wanted to be a novelist. I think my college roommate thought I had a long distance boyfriend. I never started such ideas, but I didn't correct them either.

My husband I had to tell, of course, and that's how my secret initially got out. It started when he offered to let quit my full-time job and focus on my writing, (who could say no to that?) I keep the house clean and make sure meals are on the table, I also work part-time doing books for a small company-- the rest of the time is mine. It's a trial thing. I already had DH written when he made this offer, but I needed to edit it and get it out in the world. If DH can't find an editor, I'll probably get another full-time job. (I can't stand the idea of being a louse, so even if he doesn't ask me, I’ll end up going back.)

Well, I wanted to keep the agreement a secret, but he told his mother that I quit my job and that I was working on a book. I think she must have told everyone else. The day after I left, I was at a friends wedding and my brother-in-law's girlfriend asked me about it. Boy was I thrown for a good one.

What should I tell people when they ask what I do? "I'm a writer who hasn't published any books, but I'm working on it." The next question is inevitably "What do you write?" or "What's your book about?" I hate those questions. I've even written down and tried to memorize intelligent sounding answers, but when the time comes I stumble all over my tongue and end up saying something stupid, vague, and convoluted. It's awful.

The other way my secret got out was my own fault, but a necessity. I chose some of my friend's friends to read my novel because I knew they read in genre and hoped they wouldn't be too biased to give me an honest critique. Well, of course then my friends inevitably found out, so the secret was out.
My friends and family know...and it's dreadfully uncomfortable. Faceless people on the internet I will gladly tell I'm writing, but in person the game is up and I become a babbling idiot.

Hopefully if I ever manage to get published I will have enough confidence to promote my own work. God help me if I don't, because self-promotion is important and if I don't believe in my writing, who will?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

R.I.P. fish and Max

Since the fantasy worlds I write are not reality, I have to accept that all living things have to die.

Sometimes it's shocking and sometimes it's merciful, but it is always painful.

I woke up today to find my Beta floating upside down in his bowl. Yesterday I thought he had looked a little sick, and I guess I was right. He was around two years old, and I don't know what the average lifespan for a Beta is, but that sounds like a long time for a fish sold for two dollars in a plastic cup. I think my fish had a good life: he had a pretty bowl, was fed regularly, and liked to swim over and look at people.

Max was my mother-in-law's beagle. He was old and had been sick for a long time, but he was a sweet little dog. I got the call a couple hours ago to let me know that she had taken him to be put down. It wasn't that surprising, she had tried to take him a few times before, but always turned around before she got to the vet. It is still sad though.

Rest in peace fish and Max. You both will be missed.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Fall, the fair, and art

I look forward to the fair every year.

I mean, what's not to love about the fair? You get to eat fried foods that you would never even consider ingesting any other time of the year, there are cheesy haunted houses, festival music by small bands no one has ever heard of, and rides that are scary only because you wonder how precariously they were set up. But that's what makes it fun. It also is the harbinger of Fall (no matter what the calendar says, it's not Fall until the fair gets here, and it's still fall even if it's 101 degrees and all the trees are still green.)

In recent years the fair has started meaning something else to me as well, Art Show. I'm not active in the art community, but I do try to enter a painting or two each year. Now that I am out of school and have no deadlines on painting, motivation to work on them wanes greatly most of the time. Knowing that I need new works to enter in the fair is a good push for me.


With less than a week left before I need to drop my art off to be juried, I finished this years entrant, 'discarded.' This piece is actually one I started over a year ago, but then set aside for ever and a life time. I picked it back up about three months ago. Since the show is juried, there is a chance I wont make it in. I am a little worried that the piece is a little too weird for the fair, but it is part of a psychological narrative series I have been working on, and I am not about to paint flowers just because that is what people like. (I had to do enough of that in school.) Maybe next year I'll be inspired to paint something less morbid.

But this is all like counting the eggs as broken before I have even put them in the basket. I'll be turning the piece in on the 25th and will find out if it made it in the show on the 2nd of October. Either way, I'm grateful for the push to finish the work. Now to finish the second one in the series. (Discarded is actually the third)