Monday, December 14, 2009

Santa Baby

Our daughter was born last week healthy and beautiful. She has black hair and dark eyes, and so we think she may take after her father like our son did not.

Although very tired, it is a very joyful time having a new life join our family. I keep forgetting it's Christmas. I feel like I already had my Christmas. I also keep forgetting I like to do that one thing...what is it called again? Oh yeah, writing. A little occupied with something better...

I'll be back in a few weeks. Merry Christmas!

Friday, November 27, 2009

BLEH

Not as close to the 50 pages as I would like to be, but my Christmas decorations are up, my house is clean, and I even shaved my legs. I'm ready for this baby to come. NOW.

By the way, my blogging will probably fade out in December, but once I adjust to being a mom of two, I will be back to talk writing and books.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Magic Number 50

I now have 50 followers! I've been blogging several months, and in September joined the following bandwagon. 50 is a nice round number. It makes me happy.

I just jumped on the scale. I've gained exactly 50 pounds during this pregnancy. (This 50 is also very nice and round, and does NOT make me happy! Of course, what did I eat last night after New Moon? CHOCOLATE. What did I eat at a wedding reception tonight? MORE CHOCOLATE! Will I ever squeeze back into my skinny jeans?)

It is exactly 50 degrees outside. Really, I just checked weather.com.

Not usually one to see signs in my life, I will just take it for what it is. 50 is trying to tell me something, and I know what that something is. So yes, I will work harder to write 50 pages of GOOD WORDS and SOLID STORY before this baby hatches.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Let it Snush!

This morning my son came into my room and said, "Look, Mom, there is snow on the ground!"



Our first snow...well, more like our first slush. It's gone now. Anyway, I love cold days when you can stay in, eat and drink warm things, snuggle with your kids and with a good story idea.

We got up and had hot oatmeal with maple syrup and brown sugar. Then we went to a doctor's appointment. Even with our first snush, life goes on I guess.

Friday, November 13, 2009

S. L. O. W.

No, it's not an acronymn. I wrote my rough draft relatively fast, but the rewrite is so slow I am not even telling you my word count. (No, my pretty inky ladies, not even to YOU.)

I think I'm a little afraid of it. I mean, my rough draft could be bad, but this has to be better. Not just better, it has to be good. And I'm slowing myself down by going back and reading what I have already written and then EDITING it. For shame.

(Oh, and then there's the whole distraction of pending babydom. See, it's coming up in every post now. I can't get away from it...her.)

I'm still trying to pound out the storyline, which has many basic elements from the rough draft but A LOT of rearranging. I'm even mapping it out with sticky 3 x 5's on my bedroom wall. I'm sure the missing pieces will come to me when I don't expect it. Like that one night when I woke up with a full bladder and a great piece to my storyline. It hasn't happened since, but I make sure and drink lots of water before bed now.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A Little Blog-Love

Having been awarded a couple awards over the last couple of weeks, I must pay my thanks...

From Heidi Willis (who's book Some Kind of Normal comes out in a couple months and if you look at her blog you will see her awesome austere-author photo) I received the Kreativ Blogger award. For this I must list seven things about myself.

1) I am the second of five children. All of us, but one, live close to one other. I love big families. Lots of cousins

2) I hate that initial feeling of stepping out of the shower or bath and feeling wet and cold. So I just don't shower or bathe.

3) I enjoy cooking and baking, and I like to make things from scratch. My husband tells me I am a great cook, but he prefaces this by telling me that I used to not cook so well.

4) I played the piano from ages six to eighteen. I guess I should have included this in my music post. I liked to play fast and loud, using it more as an outlet for teenage angst than an actual display of talent.

5) My son was born with his two bottom teeth. This isn't about me but it's pretty cool. They were loose and a choking hazard. We had to see a pediatric dentist at two weeks and have them pulled. Now his bottom two teeth are missing...never got those babies. We are hoping that the permanent ones are somewhere in there.

6) I am LDS (Mormon). Some of those I blog with I met through Mormon Mommy Writers. My religion is a big part of my life and who I am.

7) I love BBC movies, and have quite the collection. In fact, I have taken a break from all of those British novels that I love, to devour YA literature. I think it is time for me to revisit.

8) (I know I said seven.) My unborn baby's butt is permanently wedged between my ribcage. I include this in case any of you forget that I am pregnant as I'm pretty sure I manage to squeeze this fact into only most of my posts.

From Natalie Murphy, who I recently "met" through blogging and who is doing that amazing thing of both going to school and writing, I received the One Lovely Blog Award.

And since I make up my own rules, I am passing each award onto only one person, regardless of whether they have received it in the past.

The Kreative Blogger award goes to Kasie West ,who is my enemy, because she has recently started a new "kreative" blogging regimen of Maddeningly Unhelpful Advice Mondays, Wednesday Reviews, and...well, I think her Fridays change although she has done Follow Friday. Hers is one of the first blogs I check because she makes me laugh.

The One Lovely Blog Award goes to Beth Mann. Why? Well read the first paragraph of this post, and you will see there is nothing lovelier than that. Yes, she also makes me laugh.

Both have been blog-loved by me already in previous posts, but I awarded above based on very strict criteria and only after hours of evaluating all blogs on my list by said criteria.

And to my son I give the BE QUIET AND GO TO SLEEP!!! award which is closely followed by the I ALREADY GAVE YOU WATER...TWICE!!! award. Yea, that long nap today? Heaven. But I'm paying for it now.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

PRETTY IN INK

Meet my writer's group, Pretty in Ink. Our motto is "We Slash the Trash." Our mascot is...oh wait, we don't have one yet. But I really like the Geico gecko. Are we allowed to have the gecko?

Patti Nielson writes young adult. She is moments away from querying her first book, which I read and loved. If an agent doesn't grab it, I think I will cry a little. She lives in Canada near the fairy-tale-sounding town of Banff, plays soccer like a madwoman, and has three children who say funny things.

Lois Moss also writes young adult. She is a girl from the south and has four children, two of whom she homeschools. (I think this makes her Supermom.) She studied Latin and French in college and used to teach. You may also know her as lotusgirl.

Beth Mann writes women's fiction. She also hails from the south. Beth is the mother of two young children, and her husband is a tech geek which we all know must come in handy as a writer. She gets to go to Starbucks and write sometimes which makes me jealous.

I'm very excited to finally have a writer's group. These are the ladies that are going to help make me into something better!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Meet My Book

UNTELLING THE MAYA (Title changed to PIECES OF MOON February 2010)

While visiting Belize, Tess Gale finds herself in sixteenth-century Maya, where she discovers she must betray the Spanish soldier she has fallen in love with to thwart the ancient end-of-time prophecy.



The above picture was drawn by Natalie. I am gearing up for a rewrite, but in the meantime I have read a few books and am currently working my way through The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman. I'm not an outline girl, but I am trying to map the book out this time, now that I have a rough draft written. I'd like to get a chunk rewritten before my baby comes next month!

Oh, and as you can see, there is a little bit of end-of-time pressure. Although my book doesn't specify the year 2012, that is what it is based on. So, I'm sure agents will only look at it if it comes across their desks next year, earlier next year. Maybe I'll be too late. Maybe it will be a learning book. Or, maybe the world really will end in 2012...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Apple Time!

I'm done, but the satisfaction of having written a book in just under two months is tempered by the knowledge that it will have to be completely rewritten. Remember when my middle was truly awful? My book is like a string that is tight at the beginning, but slowly becomes unraveled, leaving several loose strands at the end.

The one good thing about my ending is that, as a couple of you suggested, I now have fodder for a sequel. And I have a better idea of how I want it to end when I rewrite it. Of course I have a feeling that my "the end" may take several tries before I really mean it.

However, I'm done, only I want to say I'm "done." I was going to celebrate with one of those big crunchy caramel apples from Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, but the bad parts of my manuscript want to mock me and ask me if I really deserve that big crunchy caramel apple.

But you know what, Ugly Rough Draft? You can't dissuade me because I am going to turn you into something beautiful. I think you have a lot of potential, even though right now your storyline changes so much you must have Multiple Manuscript Disorder. So there! Now for that caramel apple...

Friday, October 23, 2009

Why Moms Enjoy Twilight More Than Teenagers

When I was 17 I liked a boy who was 22, and he liked me. Naturally, my parents were nervous. However, he was fun, made me feel special, and danced with me on a picnic table. And what were my parents worried about? After all, he never so much as kissed me, although he did hold my hand at the horse stable.

After awhile I took my parents counsel to heart, began to see that it wasn't right, and broke it off. Oh yes, and a few months later a girl I was acquainted with was expecting his child, and they got married. Even if it did not end that way for him, the fact remains that my parents knew best, and that although for a few days it was love for me, it wasn't.

It is so easy as a teenager to think that you have met the end all in a boy and love will keep you alive. We remember feeling that way, right? We also realize that most of the time teenage love is not it. So, why are so many teenage girls looking for true love? Maybe they think it will complete that part of them that isn't complete, but how many of us really felt like a whole person as a teenager? I certainly didn't. I was still trying to figure out where I fit in, how I was supposed to act, and who exactly was I anyway?

Books about true love helped to fill that void, and I am probably lucky that Twilight was not published until I was an adult. Otherwise, I may have believed it. I may have believed that meeting a boy and falling in love could make me a whole person. Don't get me wrong about Twilight because this mom is a fan. But I think I can enjoy it so much because it is fiction, whereas I think that for a lot of teenage girls, some whom I have spoken with, hold it up as a standard and are bound for disappointment.

And this brings me down one more avenue of discussion. What is the love story like in your young adult book (for those of us that write in this genre)? My love story kind of starts out as described above, but I don't think it ends that way. I've posted at least one other post along this vein, but I really want my reader to come away thinking I'm awesome rather than me + boy = awesome.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Endings

7000 words.

That's all I managed last week, which isn't a bad word count. However, I wanted to finish my book.

But life happened, and then a couple books wanted to be read, and that daunting ending really gave me trouble.

Endings. Harumph. For awhile I was actually afraid of my ending and kind of repelled by my manuscript because it just felt like it was too big for me. I think I am over that for now, and I am pleased that I figured out a big piece of my ending (subject to change of course).

However, winding this book down is difficult. In fact where it is right now could propel my book into a new direction that lasts for tens of thousands of more words, but I won't let it.

My break was good and maybe I'll unplug occasionally, but it's good to be back and active in full blogging mode again.

So here is to finishing my book this week. Hey, not including about five- or six-thousand words I wrote previously, I can then say I wrote my book in 8 weeks.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Blogger Break

I am leaving Blogland for a week so I can work on finishing this baby! See you then!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Searching for What Isn't Best

I am a stay-at-home mom. However, I must qualify that because I am mostly a stay-at-home mom. As some of you know, I still work a couple times a month as a cardiac nurse on phone triage. (I used that nursing degree to put my husband through school, but now that he's done I am much happier spending my time with him.)

Today, while working, I identified a particular type of patient. (This has to do with writing. I promise.) This is the I'll-keep-trying-til-I-LIKE-what-you-say patient. These are the patients that call back multiple times, hoping to speak to different people until they hear an answer that they like. (Usually one that doesn't involve changing their medications or undergoing a procedure.)

Sometimes they like to go to more than one practice until they find a doctor that will look at the same test results, but say something different...something like, "No, you DON'T need surgery." I mean, who doesn't like that answer?

They are the patients I offer advice to and then they disagree. I have to ask, (to myself, but okay sometimes not to myself) "Why did you call me then?"

Here is my analogy: (Have you figured it out yet?) I am trying to prep myself for criticism. When my book is good enough to be looked at by somebody else (fear and dread) then I need to be prepared to receive feedback I don't like. I need to find the people that will be honest and not just feed me the "answers" I want.

Example of answer I like: "You are the next Stephenie Meyer and Eron is the next Edward."

Example of answer I don't like: "I don't get it."

And I'm excited because I'm part of a writer's group now! (More later.) So girls, you gotta let me know if I my manuscript needs some serious cardiac intervention.

Incidentally, today is a very proud day for me, as I am the first ever to be awarded with the Evil-Eye Award. Kasie. What will she think of next?

Oh yes, and I have given much thought to the whole no-music-in-my-life thing. I think I will try harder to play more music because I know that it lowers my blood pressure, brings peace of mind, and maybe even heightens my creativity. So today I put in one of my husband's CDs while driving with my son. I asked my son if he liked it, and he said, "Mommy, stop talking." I've been trumped...by Artist-I-don't-know.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Life of Quiet

Jenn tagged me last week, and I am supposed to list seven of my favorite songs. The problem is, I don't listen to music. Ever. I mean, there are certain genres of music that I like, but I really don't listen enough or pay attention enough to list songs.

I'm serious.

I don't even listen to the radio in the car, and while I like to say it is because I am listening to my son talk, I'm more certain it is because in movies devastating car accidents happen with a soundtrack. If I eliminate the soundtrack, I will never get into a devastating car accident.

So, instead I will list seven musical things about me, which is probably cheating.

1) I don't ever listen to music. In case you didn't know.

2) I was in choir in high school. I got to wear these awesome shiny teal dresses with puffy sleeves that I think were designed for our high school choir in the 80's.

3) I was in musicals in high school. Mostly chorus roles, but a few minor roles. My most memorable moment was during the Potiphar dance when I twirled the cane right out of my hands, sending it clattering across the stage, and having to force a smile the rest of the dance while I danced cane-less.

3 1/2) That makes me a choir/drama geek in high school.

4) One of the first times my husband saw me I was singing...a solo...in front of hundreds of people (mostly teenagers). Yes, I did mess up by stumbling over a few words, and I'm sure it was because my subconscious and my husband's subconscious were too busy ogling each other.

5) I do like the Les Mis soundtrack. And besides the fact that it stirs something in the very core of my soul, I like it because my husband, who is a man's man, knows every word. He belts it out in the car (he listens to music in the car), vibrato and everything, which is more endearing than soul-stirring, but wonderful.

6) I love Irish music. We even had an Irish band play at our wedding reception. And I guess if I have to list any artist on this post it would be Connie Dover, who grew up in Weston, Missouri, a town nearby that I love.

7) I watched two seasons of American Idol. Starting last year I gave it up because it took too much time. However, I will always have a special place in my heart for David Cook because he's from Blue Springs, Missouri where I lived from baby to five years. And he's adorable.

And now I suppose I need to tag others. Only I've kind of morphed the tag into something unrecognizable. So I will copy Kasie and tag anyone who loves music. Or musical things. Actually, I'd love to find someone who also never listens to music, and then we can be friends.

By the way, once a long time ago Kasie gave me an award, and I never acknowledged it on my blog or passed it on, but I think it is because I was perpetually pukey or maybe somewhere in another country near the Baltic Sea. I don't remember what it was for, though...probably "Best Blog Ever Award" or "I Want To Be You Award." Just mentioning it now so Kasie knows there is no blog-love lost on her, even though I am already on a multiple number of her hate lists.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Truly Awful

As I wrote the first half of my rough draft, I knew that it was just okay and maybe slightly bad which is fine because it's my rough draft. And plus the book had direction and the ideas were spilling off my fingertips, and that bolstered my writing-ego.

However, lately I must say that my rough draft has reached the summit of Truly Awful.

The plotline is kind of spinning around in circles and making me dizzy. The writing, losing its spirit in the face of dizzy plotline, is rudimentary and dull. I feel like my characters are really unexcited about what I am putting them through, and they just aren't delivering their lines. In other words, my dialogue is also Truly Awful.

I am embarassed to read it to myself. Maybe if I just pretend someone else wrote it...

While part of me believes stopping and re-examining the storyline would help, I am more inclined to just plow through without looking back. I just need to get to "the end", and then I can clean up the mess later.

The end is so close. I'm almost there. Must. Keep. Going.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Theory of Chaos

The Theory of Chaos states that a decent muse can only exist in a house with un-vacuumed floors and un-scrubbed toilets.

Today I cleaned my house.

My mind is blank. My cursor mocks me. I have written words, but they will not keep. My storyline refuses to move forward.

I'm pretty sure 409 and Comet are sworn enemies of my muse, and that to write well I must live in a state of chaos.

Fortunately I have a three year-old that will restore chaos to my home as soon as he wakes up tomorrow.

Friday, September 25, 2009

DISCOVERY

I am currently writing a scene where the character discovers something, something important and crucial to the whole story beginning to end.

And I have a feeling that this element of my story will have to be written and rewritten, not to mention go through many, many betas because when the story is in your head, it is hard to figure out what is or isn't obvious to the reader.

I've decided that with this particular point of reader discovery, I've probably teetered either of two ways and it will take other people reading it and telling me which way I've tipped.

1) Either I've dropped way too many hints prior to the discovery, and the reader will plod through the rest of the story UNTIL the discovery, thinking, "It's sooooo obvious. The main character must be really daft to not figure this out until now."

OR

2) I've not set the stage enough for the discovery, and when the main character reaches her discovery point, the reader will say, "Huh? I don't get it. How did she figure that out from A and B?"

It's an answer I won't really know until my manuscript is ready enough for me to brave somebody else reading it, a few somebody elses, who can tell me if it's "1" or "2", or if I'm really special (or if they are really lying) that I've nailed it.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

And Then They Kissed

That's right-I wrote the kissing scene a couple of days ago.

Yes, there will be more, but this was the kiss because it was the first kiss.

And it made me realize that kissing scenes aren't my forte...yet.

So to improve, I told my husband we needed to kiss so I could describe it in my book. However, he wasn't very excited about submitting his kissing-self to research, and I guess it would not be very romantic if I stopped mid-kiss to take notes.

Instead I went through my collection of young adult books, and reread the kissing scenes. Here it is-The Anatomy of a Kiss. (a PG kiss)

1) It starts with a look - a dazzling gaze or a soft longing in the eyes.

2) Then contact. Hair is brushed away, jawlines are traced, chins are lifted.

3) The space is closed between them - hands behind waist, arms around neck. They lean in.

4) And then...and then....they kiss. Lips brush against each other. The kisses are soft and sweet.

5) Physiologic response-breaths are held, hearts skip beats.

6) Metaphors maybe? A cat and a bird made it into a couple of kissing scenes I read.

7) The aftermath. They pull away. Maybe they kiss again. (Oh, 0r maybe she slaps him.)

It has to be good. A lot of YA fiction readers are teenage girls. This is the part of the book they wait for with baited breath and maybe read again if it's good.

What elements do you include in the kissing scene?

Friday, September 18, 2009

They Were Just That Good

I am a big fan of nineteenth-century British literature, namely Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, and Elizabeth Gaskell. (By the way, if you haven't read Elizabeth Gaskell, you are missing out.) What amazes me now, as I write my first draft, is that they did everything by hand.

I mean, that seriously limits the editing possibilities, and to rewrite your whole first draft was no easy feat. Let's see, my copy of David Copperfield is 870 pages. How many pages is that handwritten? And then to edit it and copy it for publishing? It boggles my mind.

So I have reached the conclusion that these authors and authoresses must have gotten it pretty close to right the first time. They were that incredible. The brilliant prose and wit just slipped from their fingers onto their paper.

Maybe they were just smarter then. I mean, we have more knowledge now, but they were languge-smart. They could think of an emotion or a circumstance and just translate it into words that everybody would know and understand...for years to come.

So I have determined that I must settle for my mediocrity and just be glad to be blessed with their genius, and maybe a little sad that if it weren't for Addison's disease, coronary artery disease, and cerebral hemorrhages we would have many more of their masterpieces to read and love.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Very Not Useful Post About My Conference Experience

Before attending the SCBWI conference on Saturday, I received a list of rules-one of which was: Don't corner an agent/editor in the bathroom. During one of my many bathroom breaks I found myself washing my hands next to New York Editor #1, and I'm proud to report there was no cornering.

But really, mutually washing potty germs off of your hands isn't exactly the best context to pitch your project anyway. Who does these things that rules actually have to be invented for them?

I did actually speak to above editor at one point, as lucky me got to sit by both New York editors as the other editor spoke. I asked her a question about agented work. Only, it took me a few tries to say the word "agented." I guess editors leave me a little tongue-tied.

The conference was awesome, of course. Other than our two New York editors (one from Macmillan and one from HarperCollins), we had a visiting agent as well. And lots of published authors.

I volunteered to introduce one of the authors during a break-out session. When I went to the volunteer table to register, they handed me a bandana. A bandana?

The conference had a wild west motif this year, which was really cute to look at, but not to wear. A lot of writers are boldish types who will greet each other with a "Howdy Partner" and tie a bright red bandana around their neck. I'm afraid that isn't me.

I cheated a little and wore the bandana around my arm. And I didn't once say "Howdy Partner." Maybe I need to work on that. Ooh...maybe I should have said "Howdy Partner" to the editor in the bathroom.

This is my shallow report of the SCBWI conference, which contains absolutely NO helpful information except bathroom etiquette and the mandatory dresscode of a volunteer.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The End

No, not the end of my manuscript.

The end of my iBook.

Today, my computer crashed. I mean, it really crashed, as in it slipped off my pregnant lap onto the floor and crashed. It wasn't much of a fall, but enough to kill the seven-year old Mac.

Luckily, I had backed up my file with the exception of maybe 1000 words, which I will reclaim tonight.

So the Latin Litigating Lover and I had a talk. Could we afford a new laptop? Well, we figured if A + B divided by the square root of X equals maybe we can afford it, then maybe we can.

So we did. Only I just wanted my husband's laptop's twin while he tried to convince me to get the one with the bigger screen.

In the end, I said you take the big screen brand new laptop. I'll take your laptop. So husband is happy because now he has new electronics. I am happy because now my laptop isn't an old man. And he is kind of pretty.

P.S. New laptop is not a Mac. I know a lot of writers dream of Macs, but I had one for seven years and decided it was nothing very special for way too much money. Give me my second-hand Toshiba anyday.

P.S.S. I would take a picture of my Toshiba, but I've been dropping more than just laptops lately. And my camera is at Kodak being repaired from its recent fall.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Changes

Look! 25% done! It's official. Book Number Two is definitely winning. So much that I just deblogged Book Number One completely. Maybe I'll revisit it later but right now there is only room in my life for one book.

I even blog-published my book title: Untelling the Maya. Blip yet to come.

I have mentioned my "Maya" book in the past, but after two unsuccessful starts, I gave it up. Really, on my second start I was pregnant sick, thus associating all things during those few months (including Bedtime Stories, Baltic Cruises, and yes, my book) with puke-ness.

However, after I started a third time something happened. I'm pretty sure it has something to do with the mist that has been hanging over Kansas lately, but I managed to write almost all of my book thus far in a little over a week. So I am hoping -maybe praying a little- that this goodness continues.

For more blog changes. I am prepared to follow and be followed. (Renee wrote a great post last week about just the same thing.) I've never done either. Now I am posting my followers, and actually "following" blogs for real. Time to get on the bandwagon.

And see my statmeter? I haven't decided if I want to keep it ON my blog yet, but it makes me feel special. And since I don't know my IP address, every time I visit my own blog, it looks like a visit. I'm very popular.

And one more change I've been considering, but it is slightly more expensive than blog changes...my ibook is old, seven years to be exact. I bought it because I wanted to write, and it took me all of its good life to get into writing. Poor, poor ibook. Maybe I need a new computer, but maybe I'm poor.

Has anyone used the Netbook yet? It's much cheaper than a laptop, but the keyboard looks cramped and my fingers may not love it very much.

Friday, September 4, 2009

What a Week!

It has been a very busy week. I had to move old tenants out of House We Cannot Sell, get House ready, move tenants into House...all while being sick and tending to a sick child. THEN, add the whole my-son-erasing-part-of-my-book debacle a few days ago. Should have been the perfect recipe for an unproductive week in writing, right?

Incredibly, WRONG!

This has been the most productive week for me probably ever. I was set back a couple of days when I had to rewrite the 5000 my son deleted. (I only came up with 4400 words, though, on my rewrite-hopefully those 600 words were not very important.) But look! Book Number Two (the one that I love) is kicking Book Number One's butt. (Can I say 'butt' on my blog?)

What better way to end a productive writing week than to win a contest?! I won (well...runner-up) Natalie's contest to create a metaphor with orange. And I win a black-and-white picture drawn by Natalie of a scene from my book. I'm very excited.

And for more blog-love: aside from having awesome contests, Natalie is now the proud client of Nathan Bransford. (Whew, that was a lot of links.) Wow. Awe. Most of you blog with Natalie and already know this, but there are a few that may be unaware of Natalie's supremacy.

Now back to the writing board.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Thank You For Your Sympathy

I appreciated all of your comments of understanding and sympathy yesterday.

I am happy to report that after a lot of rescusitation, Manuscript is almost back to his full form.

We had a rather sleepless night last night of mad typing and tossing and turning, but tonight he is feeling very much back to himself.

Of course, he realizes that when I am done writing him, he will be completely rewritten and replaced. He is like the orange seed with lots of potential but bitter and definitely not sweet, and my final draft will be like the orange tree that it has sprouted from. (Okay, I'm heading over to Natalie's blog to enter her contest for real.)

Monday, August 31, 2009

Sad Stuff

Only another writer knows the pain of having your son, who you just blog-loved yesterday, get into your computer and somehow delete 5000 words that you loved, too.

Remember when Amy threw Jo's book in the fire?

Feel bad with me. I will be rewriting, but will I remember it all????

Friday, August 28, 2009

When YA Literature Promotes Marital Bliss

My husband and I are beginning to compromise on something we have differed on since the beginning of us. It is a very difficult subject, and something I hesitate to make public on this blog.

Zombies.

He has grown up in love with the undead, and owns every zombie movie ever made. Lawyer by day, but zombie killer by night, he plays Resident Evil on Play Station 3 (AFTER our son has gone to bed).

I tried to love it with him. I watched Resident Evil with him, but even the clean flicks version was too gross. I even watched the grandfather of all zombie movies. You know the black and white one from the 60's, with bad makeup? Still pretty gross.

But then I read a zombie book. And then another one. Okay, so zombies in literature aren't as gross as zombies on film. Now we can discuss rotting, walking, brainless corpses together and enjoy them. What have I learned from this? The best way to kill a zombie is to chop off its head.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Boxes of Ideas

Warning: The following posts contains analogies. If you are tired of posts involving writing analogies, you have been forewarned.

When I first moved into my new house I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of boxes and stuff all over my floor. Would there ever be any order to this madness? And most importantly, would I ever find my Magic Bullet blade?

It was chaos at its best and very intimidating. (Why do we have so much stuff?) It has been almost one month since I have moved and still I have piles all over the house. I tell everyone that there is order to my chaos, but it is only a little bit true. The thing is, the longer I leave things not in place, the more I forget they are not in place.

Like the two end tables that sat in my kitchen for a couple weeks. There came a day when I honestly didn't see them anymore. I had to remind myself that they didn't belong there and move them into the living room.

And so it is with writing. First of all we have boxes and boxes of ideas. And slowly but surely, we find a place for these ideas. (However, there are ideas that will sadly never have a home and must accrue in our junk pile.)* Then we do find a home for our ideas. They are executed in the most beautiful prose and when we read them out loud, they taste good.

But some of these ideas shouldn't be in our manuscript, or should be somewhere else, but we are so used to seeing them there that we don't see that they shouldn't be there. I suppose that's where a good beta reader comes in handy. They tell us the end tables do not belong crammed between the kitchen table and the kitchen set. And sometimes if they are really honest they remind me that these are not end tables at all, but cheap stools with placemats on top that I think pass for end tables.

*Just as there is a Salvation Army/DI for our real-life junk, wouldn't it be brilliant if there were a charity for idea rejects? Some ideas are good, really good, but they will never be used by their creator. Maybe we should give them to those less fortunate. Or maybe a Salvation Army for Rejected Ideas is a horrible idea.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Back in the Saddle Again

I really have not forgotten how to post. However, between moving and visiting in-laws in Texas and just being plain lazy, I have not posted for almost a month.

(By the way-it is hot in Texas. Don't visit Texas in August, especially if you are pregnant. Fortunately, Kansas has had an unusually cool summer. I'm pretty sure it is because Kansas likes me and Texas does not. This is why we should stay in Kansas and not move to Texas, probably ever.)

While in Texas I found an in-the-flesh writing friend. My husband's best friend's wife is also writing a book. We have known each other since I have known my husband, but only after our husbands mentioned the fact during this visit did we make the connection that we were both writers.

I intended to do a lot of writing during our visit. I lugged my heavy laptop through the airport with a three year-old in tow because I had such lofty goals. Yet, deep down didn't I know that I would actually do very little writing? My son wouldn't leave me alone. And he's really cute, and how can I choose my laptop over him when he has three months left as an only child?

In a few weeks, I am attending the SCBWI conference in Kansas City. I have nothing solid to bring. I am not looking for an agent or even for a critique. (Plus, they cost more money.) But I'm excited for the experience and the opportunity to meet more writers.

And finally, for more news on the writing front, I did submit my very short children's book that I will forever be attached to in a contest. The Spoonful of Cherrios contest. Of course I did hesitate to enter when I saw that a lifetime supply of Cherrios wasn't stipulated in the prize. However, the winner does get $5000 and an agent and a book deal.

Now that life is regaining some form of normalcy, I hope to write much more. Then again, since I am actually publishing that in my blog I am really jinxing myself.

P.S. I am not talking about the second word-count bar because it may be a little shameful that I swore not to waver from the first book but have cheated on it already.

P.S.S. On a completely unrelated note and yet much more exciting than anything writing related, since I started this post and finished it my son tried asparagus. And he liked it! As a reward he gets to eat a popsicle.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Rants and Things

Is there anything cuter than watching my son sit in a moving box, coloring the inside with markers?

Is there anything more annoying than having moving boxes in my house for reasons other than entertaining my son...that is, MOVING. While only moving a few miles away, I still have to pack things up and then (oh dread) unpack them. Blah.

Why do I feel like I am carrying around 50 extra pounds, not just 20? I am growing in places besides my belly, and while much curvier than before, it's obnoxious. You know all those pretty pregnant people? I'm not one of them. My face is fat.

Oh boy, my son just stood up with marker all over his face and hands...and Thomas pajamas. Time for a bath, after I finish this post.

I am 9000 words into my book. And I've hit the wall where I think my book is no good. I know where I want it to be, but I don't know how to get there. And maybe I've taken a detour because it's awful. BUT I have committed to finishing it, and so I will. (My sister did laugh out loud a few times while reading. That was a pick me up.)

And why does this housing market have to be so terrible? If it wasn't terrible then we could sell our house that we don't live in but rent out. My Latin Litigating Lover and I stayed up late last night drafting a lease. Now I am very well versed in contract language. So much that I kept trying to tell my husband things like "No, 'heretofore' sounds MUCH better than 'herein.'"

Now my son is climbing on me. Time to go.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

"Is This Too Contrived?" I ask.

Dialogue.

How to make it sound as real as possible? I hate reading books in which the dialogue sounds too contrived. Too fake. You know, where you kind of wrinkle your nose in disgust and think, No one talks like that. (I just used internal dialogue to further my rant against contrived dialogue which hopefully doesn't sound too contrived.)

The best example that comes to mind isn't a book, but a TV show most are probably familiar with-Gilmore Girls. I enjoyed Gilmore Girls sometimes, but that constant witty banter kind of ruined it for me because who is that witty all the time?

But there is a fine balance between too contrived and too real. Because face it, we don't talk as well as we write. If I transcribed my daily dialogue it would sound something like this.

"Do you want begeela or bebeela for breakfast?"

"No, not begeela. I go pee-pee in my diaper now."

"Do you want to go pee-pee in the potty?"

"No. I play fireman house now. Play wid me."

"Mommy is too tired. Baby in Mommy's tummy makes mommy tired."

Hmmm, and I even dressed that up too by removing some of my own baby-talk, like how I say "brefast" instead of "breakfast" and how my son's spoken sentence structure is far better than mine.

I think dialogue that reads too fake reminds me of plays I watched in high school with kids that couldn't act. You just can't believe the play or the characters. (But you stay because Algernon is so cute.) Dialogue can really affect the believability of your characters. And my characters want to be believed.

P.S. It's a girl.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Perfection, Confessions, and My Savior

I have not posted lately because I have been too busy achieving perfection. And I would like to announce that after almost thirty years it has been done.

What is a perfect Jessie?

- I retire every night at ten o'clock, and wake up at 4:00 AM because I only need six hours of sleep. I never get tired during the day. Not even pregnant tired. Never.

- I usually take the first few hours before the household awakes to write 5,000 words of my almost completed novel, do thirty minutes of Namaste yoga, do my hair and makeup, and whip up a small breakfast feast for my family.

- I have a full year's worth of food storage, attend the temple weekly (even though the nearest temple is in Omaha), plan and conduct weekly Family Home Evenings, and my visiting teaching record is 100%. (A little cryptic if you don't go to my church, but you get the point.)

- I budget montly and never overspend, not even to buy books. Not that a budget is really important. We are filthy rich. People send me money just because they like me.

- I plan and cook healthy meals for my family nightly and still stay within aforementioned budget. My family loves, praises, and eats all of said meals. And my husband (who happens to be perfect, too) never pours hot sauce over his salmon to disguise its taste. He loves fish. All kinds.

- I don't speed. Ever. Not even 5 over. Not even when I am late. But oh yeah, I'm perfect. So, I am always on time.

- I've trained my son well. He always goes down at the same time every night. He never wakes up in the middle of the night, or tries to get in bed with us. He enjoys sleeping. It's his favorite thing.

- My house is always clean. There are no dishes in my sink. There are no sugar crystals on my kitchen floor from making chocolate cookies with my son. And there are definitely not lipstick marks on my white comforter from my son's artistic outbursts.

Well, I could go on, but I don't want to boast because perfect people don't boast.

But really, how hard are you on yourself for not being perfect, for not attaining what you think would make you a better you?

- Because I wake up when my son wakes up, and then I try to convince him that it is still nighttime-even though the sun is streaming through the window.

- My yoga mat lies untouched and rolled up in my family room from a sudden surge several months ago that I would be fit and do yoga.

- See my word meter?

- Because if there was a natural disaster, I think we would survive for about five days on our food storage, and maybe we would only be eating biscuits.

- Budget? What's that? Can someone please tell me.

- (My husband hates fish.) And sometimes we eat pizza.

- I am always fifteen minutes late.

- Because my son didn't come with an instruction manual. He's not trained. The "Scaries" have been invading his sleep lately. He likes to kick one of us out of bed.

- And finally, my son, the pro-Imitator, sums up the state of my house by this picture.



When I was driving the other day I read a bumper sticker that read, "With Christ there are no limits." And I remembered that I can be perfected one day but not without Christ. And by then maybe I'll understand better that perfection isn't measured by how well I can do a sun salutation or by how clean my floors were.

"We will not attain a state of perfection in this life, but we can and should press forward with faith in Christ along the strait and narrow path and make steady progress toward our eternal destiny." David A Bednar

And that is hopeful.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Nondescript, Kansas

I spent the fourth of July weekend in Nondescript, Kansas among family. I'm sure you have a town like Nondescript in your life. Maybe your grandparents live there. Perhaps you'll recognize it.

In Nondescript, if you drive too far east you end up, not on the wrong side of the tracks, but the wrong side of the grain elevator.

The aforementioned grain elevator is the tallest building in town.

Nondescript has grown enough for Wal-mart. This Wal-mart has been affectionately termed Wally World by your relatives and serves as a source of amusement while visiting Nondescript.

Other sources of amusement: Grandma's front lawn. Even though Nondescript is hot as Hades in the summertime, you have yet to know someone with an actual pool. Instead you purchase a cheap children's pool, and while the kids splash you "hang out around the pool."

Since it is so flat in Nondescript and the city planners neglected to put in a very good drainage system fifty years ago, after a good rainfall the streets turn into shallow rivers and the children have something better than a pool to splash around in for awhile.

Nothing changes much in Nondescript. Change makes Grandma nervous. Too many things in her refrigerator make her nervous, and although she has been sitting most of the time you have been visiting, she finds the energy before you walk out the door into your loaded car to start emptying her refrigerator onto the kitchen table. She asks if you want to take any of it home.

The most oft watched channel in Nondescript? The weather. (Which brings me to another favorite pasttime particular to Nondescript, Kansas-Tornado chasing. I'm serious. My uncles' and my dad's favorite pasttime. Take the camera and the radio and hop in the car. Actually my dad asked me this year if he could use my Honda. I said, "Why my Honda? You have a perfectly good Honda and it's newer than mine." To which he responded, "But your Honda is already trashed. Can I use it?")

It is pretty relaxing in Nondescript. It's where you go to sleep in and make sense of your life that you left back at home. There are no such things as High Fructose Corn Syrup or Partially Hydrogenated Oils in Nondescript. Grandpa does the dishes. You take walks. You go fishing. You walk through the graveyard down the street, and it's not creepy. When you are old enough to bring your family, you revel in passing the beauty of Nondescript onto you children.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Reminiscing

The last couple of nights, rather than writing, I have been reminiscing. Yes, I have been reading my older, neglected work. And it has been bittersweet. I have said more than once and to more than one unfinished book, "Why did I abandon you? We could have created something great together!"

Maybe one day. Maybe one day I'll come back to you.

However, I drew up a tally of books I have begun since I started writing. This includes the small amount of time immediately after marriage that I wrote (but this didn't last long because I was working full-time and being a newlywed the rest of the time). And the tally is 7. It is kind of shameful because they are good ideas, but all undone.

There is an eighth book that I did complete, but it is a 1000 word text for a children's book. I want to have a 70K YA book to show for all of this want to write.

And so, I am taking a big step in this blog. I am posting a word-count meter.

I did start a new book since coming back from Europe, and it has been slow. But wait, I'm slow, but that's why I am hoping that publishing my word count will help to motivate me to finish this thing...and speed it up a little bit.

By the way, the Maya book I have previously posted about...I couldn't even go back and reminisce with that one. I couldn't even run the little cursor over the file on my desktop. It was a painful breakup. I can't talk about it anymore.

So, here is my new book. I have a title I like, but haven't quite reached THAT stage in my blog yet...where I actually name my book. I don't even name my family members. And we all know that a book is very like a family member. So it shall be called, The Book That Will Be Finished.

Friday, June 26, 2009

To Love

Today my husband and I celebrate our five year wedding anniversary! Only six years ago we first laid eyes on each other in San Antonio while we both worked at EFY, a church youth conference. We both attended BYU at the time, so naturally our romantic interest had the opportunity to grow into something more until Thanksgiving weekend of that same year when he said, "Let's discuss creating a merger this summer."

After meeting my family over Christmas, he proposed to me in Las Vegas in front of the Bellagio water show. Very romantic. By the way, the romance doesn't end. Guess what we are doing to celebrate our five year? Seeing Transformers at the Imax of course! (Okay, in addition to dinner and a dozen roses.)

And what makes my husband so great? Besides the fact that he is a babe?

1) He writes me poetry.

2) Even after he puts our son in time-out, he holds him and kisses him and makes him understand.

3) He is a babe.

4) He watched Twilight with me.

5) He goes grocery shopping for me. And he LIKES it.

6) He tells the girls at the office how much he loves me, and then they tell me.

7) He is honest. He is good.

8) He gave up Texas for me.

9) He has big muscles.

10) He believes in me.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Dad

My Dad.



This picture was taken when my dad and I went biking together in Moab, as he was driving me home from my Sophomore year at BYU. He always does as much as he can for his kids. I mean, he could have just had me come home on a plane, right? But, no, most of the time we came home from college, it was with him at the wheel, and sometimes with some fun stops.

Oh yes, and there was that time he just came out to visit me the Fall of my Sophomore year, and we rented a Harley and rode all over the mountains all day.

And speaking of college, I could always count on my dad at the other end of the line to sort out the stress in my life. And I called him a lot, and after we talked, I always saw my life a little more clearly. Suddenly, the tests and boys and friend problems and homesickness didn't seem too unbearable anymore.

Words are really insufficient to explain him to you. I mean, he was just a kid when he got married, and together he and my mom have wielded this beautiful, perfect force that is our family.

And being a dad is your greatest accomplishment.

Happy Father's Day Dad! I love you!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Fashion Tips

So while writing, I have stumbled on a very difficult question.

I know what my characters like.

I know what color their hair and eyes are.

I know where they live and go to school.

But what do they wear?!

I hardly knew what the teen fashions were when I was a teenager. So you can imagine I am really lost now. What are my characters supposed to wear? I need to pay more attention. So today I googled a few teen starlets and looked at their fashion choices.

And while many of the styles and choices were good for all of my axillary characters, my MC just wants to stick to jeans and T-shirts. Go figure.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Me at Fourteen

This is another post on teenage girls and boys. So if you are looking for an informative and intelligent post about writing, you can just go.

When I was fourteen, I started OBSESSIVELY keeping a journal. I mean, 2 to 3 notebook pages everyday. That is every day for about the next ten years. (And then I got married, and suddenly lost my urge to obsessively journal. I have decided it is because my journaling was an outlet for my desire for everlasting love. So when I found it, no need for an outlet anymore.)

It is funny to look back and read my fourteen year-old self. Mostly laugh at my fourteen year-old self. Like when I didn't understand why the boys didn't like me. I just DIDN'T GET IT. I was cute. I was fun. Why didn't they like me? Well, please enjoy the following excerpts and let me know if it really takes a detective to figure out what I did wrong.

Dec 3, 1994...I asked [Crush #1] to dance. He said he didn't want to, and I hit him.

Dec 28, 1994...I called and he was short with me. He said he was watching a movie. I was short with him back. I said, 'Well, [Crush #1], you are as boring as %$** so I'll let you go.'


Disclaimer-I don't swear, and I sure as heck didn't swear when I was fourteen. Unless I was incensed at Crush. Then I may have swore.

March 5, 1995...The whole night (youth dance) with [Crush #2] consisted of an argument on [Un-named Issue].

May 22, 1995...I wrote [Crush #3] last night. It was four pages long and kind of a dumb letter but he'll get over it if he likes me enough.


Okay, so apparently no one ever gave me lessons, on coy, shy, subtle flirting. I kind of figured it out as the years wore on, and now I can have a good laugh. (Laughter and maybe a few tears for the fourteen year-old girl immortally caught in these pages who wonders day after day why she can't get a boyfriend, the most desired thing in the world.)

And I would like to close with this final excerpt, which feeling conveyed is the very opposite of the feeling teenage girls have in the wilderness as discussed in previous post.

Jan 1, 1995...I don't want to wait around for a boyfriend until I am 16 and gray.


Older Jessie to Younger Jessie: There is so much more to life than boys.

Younger Jessie: Yeah, right. I'm going to go stalk Crush #4.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

"What are Men to Rocks and Mountains?"

Although Jane Austen's Elizabeth was still unwed at one-and twenty, she was able to put her romantic angst behind her and find happiness in the prospect of a trip to the Lakes with her aunt and uncle.
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I just spent two days as camp nurse at Girls' Camp, and therefore had further opportunity to observe my chosen audience. The most important conclusion that I came to?

Although teenage girls may thrive off the attention of and potential romances with teenage boys, they seem so free and unrestrainedly happy in the woods far, far away from any teenage boy.

Hair was unkempt. Makeup was left at home. They wore T-shirts and boy shorts. There was much skipping and singing and hollering and absolutely everything was one hundred percent pure and essential themselves.

And although I want to write a young adult book with romance, I don't want my message to be boy equals happiness. I want my reader to close the book and feel good about who they are and what they represent.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Baby, Baby, I'm Back

I have been back for a week now from my Baltic Sea Cruise. I have a blog post planned with pictures and bits about my trip.

But not yet.

I am just touching base with the blog world right now to bring you this news...

(completely unrelated to writing)

I'm pregnant!

Yea! Actually, I'm 12 weeks pregnant yesterday. I wanted to wait a little before blog telling.

And I'm SURE it's a girl because I've been sicker with this pregnancy than my first. (And my mother-in-law thought my husband was a girl when she was pregnant with him. I'm glad she was wrong.)

The sickness has mostly subsided, leaving behind a lot of tired. Combine that with jet lag, and well...that is one reason I have been so blog-neglectful since I've returned. The other reason is that when I'm not resting I'm eating. Then I have to rest from eating. Speaking of eating...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Round Table Critique

Where Am I today? Stockholm.

This is my last installment of the Strong Words workshop I attended May 2nd. Next time I blog, it will be a real live blog. Not a post-dated one.

At the workshop, I participated in my first ever Round Table Critique. Actually my first in-the-flesh critique by other writers. And it was very enlightening.

Of course, this being my first, I proudly handed over two pages of my manuscript that were perfect. After all, they didn't really need to be critiqued. Only praised.

And so my two pages were read aloud by another writer.

Then there was silence.

"They are so impressed, they are speechless," I thought.

Actually, I later realized the silence followed every read, as all of the writers gathered their thoughts on what they wanted to say.

And the general consensus? It could be tightened, they said. A little too wordy in places.

And now that this has been pointed out to me, I see it. It is so loud. How did I not see it before?

And one final note, and along the lines of Natalie's Bad Critiquer/Good Critiquer post the other day, the same advice was given in two very different ways. Critiquer A said it in a way that left me and my manuscript blushing...and a little defensive. Critiquer B said it in a way that made me JUST GET IT. Be kind to each other.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Zeroing in on Description

Where am I today? Tallinn, Estonia.

Two authors spoke during the writer's workshop, the one which I have chosen to highlight is the previously mentioned Elizabeth C. Bunce, author of A Curse Dark as Gold. And with her permission, I relate the following:

Elizabeth gave five points of what description should be.

First, it should be powerful, with the use of concrete nouns, vivid verbs, and only occasional adjectives. The stronger and more specific word, the better.

(And one of my favorite quotes, "Sometimes blue is just blue.")

Description should be precise. Use specific examples and not generalities.

Description should be selective. Give just enough detail, and let the reader fill in the rest.

It should be almost invisible. Integrate the description into the narrative. Avoid using description for only description's sake, as this halts action.

And finally, description should be hard-working. It supports the emotional content and mood of the piece.

And if you have read A Curse Dark as Gold, you will see the perfect example of all of this. Really, you hardly know you are reading as you are reading. You see and feel.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Sensory Words

Where Am I Today? Copenhagen.

This is the first part of my recap on the Kansas SCBWI writer's workshop I attended on May 2nd. The theme of the workshop? Strong Words.

To open up the workshop, everyone participated in a writing exercise from Sharelle Byars Moranville. We were given a simple narrative about a girl who rode her bike to school on a Saturday to participate in a school clean-up. No sensory words. Just the pure and boring facts.

We were given a challenge to come up with additional pieces to the story to add those sensory elements (which are seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling, and remembering).

Then we shared. It turned out that all of my sensory elements were ones that at least one other person had chosen. Autumn leaves. Laughter. Cigarette smoke. Tasting breakfast.

The only elements the group leader kept were those that were unique-that no one else had chosen. Root beer chapstick. Lawn mower sound. Trash on the lawn.

The point? There are certain sensory descriptions that many of us fall back on. We need to consider all aspects of the scene.

We were advised to use at least three sensory words in a scene to draw the reader into the story, because sensory words produce emotion and create images and sounds that drive the action. And keep the reader turning the page.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Off to the Baltics!

Have I mentioned that my June cruise is now a May cruise? Well, we are flying to London tomorrow. Sunday we embark on our 15-deck cruiser for all the major cities of the Baltics.

I'm excited, but really nervous for the 8-hour flight. My son does not travel well, and so I don't have high expectations for this very extended confinement.

As I will be blog-absent for 2 1/2 weeks, I have decided to post-date a few entries. And the topic of my entries? All the wonderful advice garnered from the Kansas SCBWI writer's workshop I attended this past Saturday.

So, goodbye! Cherrio! Dasvidania! Auf Wiedersehen! Vi ses! And other languages. (What the heck to they speak in Estonia anyway?)

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Knowing Things

When I started to write my book, I didn't anticipate just how much research I would have to do. Every writer has the chance to become an expert in something. For me?

Ancient Mayan Civilization.

Do you have a question on this subject? I'll give you an answer. Well, at least I'll be able to answer all your questions by the time this book is written.

I thought visiting Chichen Itza five years ago would tell me all I needed to know...and maybe a few trips to Wikipedia...but now I believe I could probably minor in the subject.

What subjects have you become expert in from your writing? Fairy Mythology? Japanese customs? Gaelic culture? Icelandic legends? I want to know.

And one more thing - As fiction writers we have a certain liberty to change facts to fit our story. But how much liberty?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Contact

My chosen audience (for now) is young adult. But, I haven't been a teenager for over a decade. And my recall isn't great. So what do I know about teenagers? Especially today's teenagers?

I need research. Data. But this specimen isn't always readily available for my experimentation.

However, last week I received a text message from what a garnered was a teenage specimen of the female variety.

TEENAGE SPECIMEN: Hey get me an orange cream slush please

ME: Wrong number. Try again if you want your orange cream slush. Yummy.

TS: Please dalton ill love you forever and ever and everever

ME: This isn't Dalton. Really.

TS: Who is it then

Perhaps at this critical point I could have become a secret text confidante and learned all about her unrequited love for Dalton. But I was tired. And I don't have a text plan.

ME: An old mom. Gotta go check on my son. Good luck with dalton.

TS: Ok, whatever

Was said experiment a failure? No. Because I found out that "whatever" has all the meaning it did when I was a teenager.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Dear Bloggers,

My MC is very upset that lately I spend more time with you than with her. And she is right.

No, I don't like you less. The problem is I like you too much. I just think it is better this way. And we should just be friends.

Really, it is all your fault. Your blogs are too wonderful, but they are also a little evil because they lure me in with their wit and cleverness and insightfulness.

I blog because I write, and lately I blog instead of write.

And due to those small constraints of being a mother and wife, I find I don't have much time to write OR blog to begin with.

So my MC and I have struck a deal. If I post and visit blogs only twice a week, she has promised to cooperate with my muse to help create a novel.

And when the MC calls, there is not much I can do.

Yours respectfully,

ME

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Curse Bright as a Real Live Author

Last night I had the opportunity to meet the award-winning young adult author Elizabeth C. Bunce. She is the creator of the incredible A Curse Dark as Gold for which she won the very prestigious William C. Morris Young Adult Debut Award (among other honors).

She is also a fellow Kansan, and last night spoke at a local library. The setting was more like an intimate discussion among literary colleagues rather than a forum, which I preferred because I got to get into Elizabeth's brain. And afterwards I stayed and spoke to her and her husband. We even walked out to the parking lot together. (Remember shaking slightly from nerves when talking to the boy you loved? Yes, I was shaking.)

First of all...A Curse Dark as Gold. Beautiful. Romantic. Mystical. It is a historical fantasy, a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin - a very thorough, emotional, and believable retelling of the fairy-tale. And Elizabeth is such an incredible writer. When you read her words, you don't see words, you see pictures. You feel. It's amazing. My words are a little sad they aren't as good as her words.

She spoke about her journey to publication, which is unique. She didn't acquire an agent by traditional querying, but through a conference. And she actually obtained her editor (he-hem, an editor for Harry Potter!) all by herself at another conference, who only read a few chapters and then asked her for her whole manuscript...which Elizabeth had not even finished yet. So the editor contacted her several months later asking her for the manuscript again. Her writing is THAT good. So agent and editor eventually teamed up to help Elizabeth create perfect.

She spent three years writing her book! She spent time doing a lot of research and now is an expert on woolen mills in the Industrial Revolution. (And do you know what?! She recommends books for research over the Internet. I thought the Internet had no limits...)

She said she had fourteen starts on her book. In fact, she said that false starts teach you what you need to know to finish your book. (And I just felt like I was moving backwards.)

I have been writing my book for a couple of months and I'm on my second start. Suddenly I don't feel so far behind.

We spoke about the editing process, and she warned against self over-editing. She said it comes to a point you are not making your manuscript better, you are just making it different.

What else?? Oh yes, she asked me what my book was about. And I told her. And she liked it. (Still shaking.)

It was a great experience. I recommend taking advantage of the opportunity to meet a published author if the opportunity presents itself. And maybe seeking the opportunity if it doesn't present itself.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Oh Mountains! How I Missed You!

I have been absent from my blog life the last few days because I have been away doing Utah things with my sisters.

The Utah thing I was MOST excited about, other than sisterly bonding, was being back in the mountains...





... which I find so inspiring and beautiful and heavenly. I could have had more mountains, but my sisters are less in love with the mountains than I am. In fact, we struck a deal today. If I wanted to go into the mountains again I had to allow for a little clothes shopping, which I loathe.

But, this is how happy my sisters were after being forced to partake of the breathtaking.


(I'm the one who thinks my backside is cooler than my frontside.)

So after three days of mountains, good food, chic flicks, and sight-seeing (and more reminiscing for me having lived in Utah for six years), I am very ready to return home. Mountains are incredible, but my family is better.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Out of Reach

Word Goal. I can never reach you. You hover in the distant, an unattainable destination. Why did I even create you?

I guess because I was high on writer's adrenaline. I sat down and thought if I write such-and-such amount of words in a day then I will have a book NEXT MONTH! And then I can submit my book in THREE MONTHS!

But you are just too good for me. I thought I was being reasonable and even liberal when I imagined you into my life. But I was wrong. So wrong.

What if I made you even smaller? Would I be good enough for you then? Would I?

Yeah, right. Even if I commanded you at 50 words a day, you would still somehow elude me.

WHY?!?

Friday, April 10, 2009

Happy Easter!

Before I leave to spend Easter weekend in a small, indescript* Kansas farmtown, I thought I would share with you a little bit of the Easter happiness that has filled my home lately.



Yes, sometimes you can have a little too many "baskets full of Easter joy." And sadly I have found myself singing that song in the shower. But, my husband and son are big fans of the holiday-singing-electronics.

And since I so love metaphors, the below is an Easter interpretation of this post.



As you can see, my son has the right idea, and has turned one of the voices off.

(And likewise, I too have turned one off and for the last few weeks only one has been very loud. Tess. Tess won.)

So, have fun this Easter. Eat lots of candy.

*I think I meant to say NONDESCRIPT Kansas farm town, which actually is the best town in the whole world...to me. I was really not giving it credit. I love Nondescript, Kansas.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Once Upon A Dream

While writing last week, a new hero stepped into my book. I had not planned for him. I already had a hero for my MC, but apparently now I have two. Which is okay with me because that makes the love story much more interesting.

At these early stages my hero wasn't quite formed. I only knew he existed. But who was he really?

And then I dreamt him.

Actually, my dream was more like a hero lineup. There were several, and one burly, dusky-haired hero was particularly insistent. But I didn't choose him. I chose him. The shaggy blond-haired, brown-eyed, broad-shouldered, gentle-featured hero who was so kind, so assured, so loving and wise. I fell in literary love.

I saw him in my mind's eye. But what was his name? I discussed names a few posts ago, and there are so many ways a name may come. And this name had to be perfect. Then, while scanning my book spines, looking for inspiration among the Classics, I found one. Rawdon. Oh, Rawdon, you are perfect.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Street Contact by Boy

The other day I was listening to old sound files on my iBook, old sound files that are part of a brilliant album recorded by this great artist. His nickname is Boy because when you are born in a family with only sisters, that is just what you are.

Before my brother was a medical student, husband, and almost-father, he wrote several songs and recorded them on my computer. I thought I would share a bit of his creative genius (and yes, he knows) for a change of pace.

He wrote this after his mission-a conversation between missionaries and an old drunk in the park.

Street Contact

An old man throwing peace signs through the park
We stop to talk and floods of memories start

If you feel lonely, Mister, we want to know

He can't remember a time when things weren't hard

Maybe you could be the reason we came this far
Cause if you can change then, Mister, we want to know

He says

I could use a drink or two
And a little time to sort things through
Something to remind me who we are

Maybe later find a place
Where I can worry about your Father's grace
If or not we'll make it to the stars

But if you can find me here again then, Brothers
You know me far too well

And if you can find me here again then, Brothers
I can use some help


And you can listen to it! (If you want to know how to upload an audiofile, look here.) The picture is the view off my parents porch at sunset. See, Kansas is much prettier than boring.



Yes, just realized my nice visual disappears before the song ends. So much for perfection.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Feel Sorry For Me

I want everyone to please feel sorry for me.

On Sunday I found out that my writing venue will change in June, and I will be flooded with so many book ideas that I'll never finish my current book.

Dover, London, Copenhagen, Berlin, Estonia, Russia, Finland, Sweden...

What am I going to do?

My in-laws are taking my family with them to cruise the Baltic Sea.

Too many beautiful, inspiring places. I just want to finish a book.

Please, feel sorry for me.

How to Trick Blogger into Letting you Post Sound

I want to upload an audio file! I spent time last night and this morning attempting this impossible thing. Has anyone successfully done this before? Any advice?

April 3, 2009

I sent up above red flag a few days ago. And since learning what I thought was the impossible, I've wanted to share the "how-to's" on how to upload an audiofile to your post. If I save one person from the hair-pulling experience I went through, that will be enough.

I am not computer smart. I am borrowing what I learned from the internet and from Natalie, who I discovered is brilliant in other things besides writing, drawing, and blogging.

First of all, there is a very and truly impossible way to actually embed the audiofile into your post. I spent a long time on the internet trying to figure this out. In the end, I didn't figure it out. But that's okay. It would not have been my preferred method anyway because it requires publishing your audiofile some other place on the internet first. Then, figuring out that audiofile's URL or HTML code. Then plugging it in. Argh! Computer language. Not for me. I gave up.

So how to get around above? Put your audiofile into a video (with Windows Movie Maker or iMovie)? Simple, right?

Here are instructions on using Windows Movie Maker.

I made the mistake of using a different version of Windows Movie Maker than what is shown in the linked post. I made a video file on my husband's laptop, and blogger didn't accept this video. The file was a MSWMM instead of a WMM. ??? Anyway, I found that Blogger will reject something if it is not the correct file, or if it is not compressed enough. It is very picky.

Natalie explained how to upload a Quicktime file from iMovie. And she can correct me if I am not telling it right. You create the file very similar to above, only with a Mac it's a lot of drag and drop. Actually much easier. (Sorry PC.) To export though is a little different.

1) Go to "file"
2) Select "export"
3) Then you can export to "web"

This will compress the video to 2MB. And here I'll quote Natalie, "Blogger doesn't like huge."

Too bad Blogger, because I intend to be larger than life.

So there it is.

Again, I am not a smart computer woman, but hope I can save someone from having to figure this awful mystery out. And for the finished product you can go here.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Come On Already!

I am happy to report that my main character has finally left the ground. She was stuck at the airport for days. I just couldn't get her onto the plane and off the tarmac. It took a couple thousand words but we finally made it to take off.

Do you ever have trouble moving a character onto the next step?

It could be something so simple as getting out of the car. You may even try to write, "She got out of the car." But noooooo, your character does not want to JUST get out of a car. She wants to watch her glossy purple beaded bracelet slip toward her forearm as she fiddles with the door handle. She wants to feel the cool misting rain sting her face as she pushes the car door open. She wants to feel the rough gravel of the road through her thin-soled slip-ons as she swings her legs out and stands.

And you say, "Look, Main Character! You can only do ONE thing. Look at your glistening bracelet. Feel the rain. Feel the rough gravel. But really, do we need to know about all of it?"

Well, she not only says "YES!" but she proceeds to recollect a gazillion memories associated with bracelets, misting rain, and gravel.

I mean REALLY!

So, although my main character has gained altitude, she has opened a whole new set of observations and recollections now that she is ON the stupid plane. It is going to be a long flight.

Monday, March 23, 2009

When it is Time to Say Good-bye

One thing that makes writers very special is that we find analogies everywhere. The other day I found one in my refrigerator stored in airtight tupperware:



As I cleaned out my fridge and stacked my leftovers on the countertop, my mind naturally turned to my manuscript. (And I don't really take pictures of leftovers, just if it makes for a good blog discussion.) I hate tossing leftovers. I spent time and tears and sweat (well maybe not tears) preparing those meals. But in the end, even the best of leftovers must be sent down the garbage disposal.

I changed the beginning of my novel, and ever since I did this I have known that a few thousand words will have to go. Only I'm not prepared to send them down the garbage disposal yet. Some of the words are so pretty, and plus, it boosts my word count.

However, tonight is the night. I'm going to do it. I have held onto you long enough, and now it's time to say good-bye.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Meet the Propers

This is the family that lives with mine, and they like to whisper names into my ear while I am writing.

First names

Last names

Names of places

And sometimes if they are feeling very eccentric, they will give me a made-up name. (They have visited others and credit themselves entirely for the naming of Hogwarts and Narnia.)

But seriously, how do you select a name?

I have spent a lot of time on baby name websites in the past, scrolling through decade appropriate names before landing on the perfect name. On the other hand, I have also had the name just come to me as soon as the concept for the novel is created, and once she's named, she can't be unnamed...even if I don't like the name.

Sometimes the Propers are very poor guests, and after a character is named, they huff and say, "Jane? You called her JANE?? Who's going to believe that!?" (None of my characters are really called Jane...yet.) Can a name be unbelievable? Maybe too trendy? Too contrived??

What about places? I have trouble writing my main character in Kansas City. It's too real for me to play make-believe in. Do you write your main character in the city you know best? Or do you place her in a city you would like to know best? What about made-up names for cities? That way, no one can say, "I am from there, and that is NOT what it's like."

And made-up words. I mean, if they are good, they are GOOD. Muggles didn't exist before J.K. Rowling invented them (with the musing help of above family), and now they will never be forgotten. But, if they are bad then they are just laughable. And discredit the believability of your book.

Juliet wants to know what is in a name? A LOT.

But I think Lucy Maud's Anne says it best:

"I read a book once that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but I've never been able to believe it. I don't believe a rose would be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage."

Who wants a dozen thistles for Valentine's day?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

What a Writer Sees

There is a window next to our front door that serves no real purpose but to show everyone outside what our inside looks like. The awkward shape fits no blinds, and the frame around makes it impossible to hang anything anyway. After unsuccessfully ignoring it since August, I spent about 30 minutes last week covering it with scrap paper. My sister says it looks like I hung post-it notes on my window.



My son, also of late in the decorating spirit, thought to improve the very empty space over our bed. He decided to do this while I was in the shower, and I must say he really let his creativity fly.



Light is what enables people to see. The way our eyes process light is how we know black, white, and color. I think that God gave writers a different pair of eyes. Light lets us see black, white, and color...just like everybody else, but when light passes through our eyes, we see MORE.

Writers don't see post-it notes on the window or lipstick on the wall.

A writer sees stain glass.



A writer sees art.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

A Character Study: The Man in the Yellow Hat

Sometimes I have to ask certain characters to please excuse themselves from a scene.

Most are very understanding, slipping out of the scene to play a video game or go shopping.

Parents-not so much.

When I ask the parents to please find something else to do while their daughter saves the world, they say, "Over my dead body."

Only, I am not prepared to kill anybody...yet. So, I have turned to Curious George for answers.

Yes, Curious George would never be able to set the pigs loose or call the fire department if the Man in the Yellow Hat was always around.

And so the Reys used the following methods of getting rid of this annoying parental figure-so that Curious George could be Curious:

Method #1 - Parental unit assigns main character a task and sends main character away.

A perfect example in Curious George Goes Camping. The Man asks George to fill the bucket with water while he puts up the tent. I think he really wants George out of the way so that he can set the forest fire George puts out later in in the book.

Method #2 - Parental figure leaves the scene, placing implicit trust in the main character that they will behave while they are gone.

Hmmm...this seems to be the Man's favorite method. Really, it is in 75% of Curious George books. He thinks that if he says, "Just stay out of trouble," then everything will be all right? I'm not a big fan of the Man's parenting methods. Someone needs to call SRS...or PETA.

And finally,

Method #3 - Main character sneaks away from parental figure. (And parental figure does not find main character again until all of the action has transpired.)

In Curious George Visits a Toy Store, George sneaks away while the Man is deep in conversation with a lady in green. Again, a serious case of neglect. He's not even looking at George. On the other hand, I'm pretty sure George has threatened to fling poo at the said lady if she doesn't distract the Man.

Oh wait, there is one more. Hardly worth mentioning because it is the worst method ever.

Method #4 - Who knows?

The book begins with no explanation of where the Man is. No doubt on another safari, looking for another wild animal to bring home to suburbia.

You can't really start a book out like this, unless you are Michael Grant. Gone begins with all the parents disappearing. Where are they? No one knows. But it works, because that is the whole point of the book.

Disclaimer: I don't have a really bad scanner, just no scanner, and a camera instead. I had to explain to my husband why I was taking pictures of our son's Curious George book.

Second Disclaimer made many days later: After discussing blog illustrations with my Litigating Latin Love, I have decided to remove all images that aren't mine. I've made a few edits so that the post still reads well, but trust me, it is just not the same...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

CLEAR!

It is Spring of an odd number year, which means today I renewed my Advanced Cardiac Life Support certification. And, I spent the morning trying to bring a synthetic man back to life.

After several attempts at defibrillation, a lot of epinephrine, and way too much mouth-to-mouth, he did revive and made me sole heir to his fortune. (Which is unfortunately all made out of plastic.)

But in the end I did come to the conclusion that it is easier to bring someone back from the dead than to write a novel.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Not Your Own

When I was in college and confused that boys didn't love me, I would call my dad (yes my dad), and he would give me very sound advice. One of the best was this: Your problem is-you meet a boy, verbally vomit all over him, and then he's too busy cleaning it up to get to know you.

My dad came up with 'verbal vomit' BEFORE Mean Girls. In fact when I first saw Mean Girls I was sure that I had told too many of my friends about my verbal vomit, and that it MUST have gotten back to Hollywood.

But the truth is, your ideas are not your own. Someone else is having or has had your idea, and it will probably be published if it hasn't been already. I was struggling with an idea in my novel that I thought was pretty special. Today Wikipedia showed me that there were three other authors with my idea. After the initial shock of NOT feeling so special anymore, I decided it might be a good thing. I thought this angle on my novel would not work, but apparently it already has.

And in the end, the beauty of it not being my own is that I can make it my own.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

A Little Bit of Me

My books seem to have a little bit of me in them. I don't think I do this on purpose, but it's easy to write about something I have some personal connection to.

Tess is steeped in ancient Mayan culture. I went to Mexico on my honeymoon and visited Chichen Itza, and I guess I will always have a little soft place in my heart for anything Latin because my husband is half-Peruvian. (That makes my son one-quarter Peruvian, but there isn't a hint of it in his complexion.)

Rachel begins in a made-up Colorado town. I went to school in Utah and fell in love with the mountains. If I cannot live in the mountains, I will write mountains. (Beware-another parenthetical: I am going back to Utah in April! You would think that Kansas is about as open as you can get, but there is a different kind of openness in the mountains that I miss. If I lived close to mountains and wasn't so busy raising my one-quarter Peruvian son, I would go write in the mountains and be so inspired, I would write 10,000 words a day.)

On that note, I am actually trying to write 1,000 words a day. Not much, right? Well, it's still hard for me to manage. But, I have set a goal of finishing a rough draft by my birthday-May 17. And since I know that is way too soon, my real goal is to finish by my anniversary-June 26. (That's five years!)

I am aiming to have a novel ready for submission by Fall. But my absolute deadline is to have a novel ready for submission before the birth of my second child. Oh yeah, I'm not actually pregnant...yet. So that deadline is a little open-ended.

Time to go clean my kitchen. I thought if I blogged long enough, my kitchen would clean itself. But no, it's still messy.