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


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.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Hearing Voices

So I guess if you are a writer then voices in your head are a good thing??? There are mainly two voices in my head, and their names are Tess and Rachel. They both want their story to be written. (There is also a voice named Emma, with this adorable southern accent, and I'm trying really hard to ignore her.) I've tried to merge Tess and Rachel into one storyline, but they are both very independent and possessive of their stories. They will have their own.

However, their stories are both so very similar that I can't really write them both. What I mean is, they both belong to the same made-up world, but the rules have to be a little different in each book to make the story work, so that only one book will really survive in the end. I have written equal amounts on both. I'm tempted to just keep working on both Tess and Rachel, and see what happens. WHO WILL WIN?