Thursday, September 28, 2006

A meme of sorts

It's another day packed with activity. You should see my to-do list! (No, to preserve your sanity, you shouldn't.) But I wanted to pop in here for a few minutes to loosen up my brain this morning. Here are two questions I'm going to try to answer honestly. If you have a blog and you're reading this, consider yourself tagged to answer them as well!

1. Name three things about yourself that you dislike.

--I can be bossy (shut it, Kreek!)
--I worry too much, about everything.
--I sometimes get very self-absorbed.

2. Name three things about yourself that you love.

--I am a good mom. I let my kid know I love her, and I take time to play with her.
--I am creative. I love to write, but also to dance, and to act.
--I'm pretty good at dealing with people, and getting things done while keeping everyone mostly happy.

So your turn! I'm gonna do another break later today and do the blog round, to see who else picked this up!

Medieval Word of the Day: fore-wit: To know beforehand.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Hit and run

So sorry for the lack of postings. Everything is so very crazy right at this moment: classwork has really picked up, the GRE is this Saturday (eek), and all sorts of social things are crashing around me. Good things, but crazy.

I may be laying low until after this test is over, and then hopefully things will open up!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Discussion Friday 2

Yesterday was very long, but rewarding. I took the day off work and drove Child to a nearby town (~75 miles away) for a doctor's appointment. We had some time to go to the Children's Museum and play for a couple of hours and have lunch together, and I do love singing loudly to kids' songs together in the car. (Only Sandra Boynton CDs, though. If you are a parent and you don't have Dog Train and her other CDs, go forth and buy them now.) After driving back I dropped Child off at Grandma's and hopped on a bus with my hubby and his co-workers for a work social evening. Could've been bad, but the show we went to was amazingly funny (and raunchy), so all was good. Whew. The bus didn't get back into town until midnight, though...

So on to the Discussion Friday topic. Actually two different, related questions today.

1) What is the period in history to which you feel the strongest connection? For me this is a period I almost feel part of: I love the music, the art, the clothes, the popular culture of the time. If reincarnation could be true I'd think I lived there/then. What is your period?

2) If there was a time/place in history that you could visit, when/where would it be? Why? It might not necessarily be the same answer as #1.

I'll come back and post my answers later, but I look forward to reading yours!

Medieval Word of the Day: tither: One who tithes. a. One who pays tithes; usually with qualification, as false, small, true tither. b. An exactor or receiver of tithes; also, a supporter of the system of ecclesiastical tithes.

(As always, all of my definitions come from the online version of the Oxford English Dictionary)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Another Writer's Story

Miss Snark posted this story today, and I just have to pass it on. Perfect for those of us who struggle with the writing, even if we don't have cats.

Megan Lindholm's story: How I Became a Famous Writer.

Enjoy. :)

Oh, and writing note: I threw out the whole first scene of Chapter 2 yesterday. Why is it that you can read something over and over and over and not realize that it's totally useless, and then suddenly you see it? And chapter 2 as well, gah. Way to stop agents cold. Anyway, I have a perfect bit to put in there instead, about half-written. Yay.

Medieval Word of the Day: alan: A large species of dog used to hunt or bait wild animals; a wolf-hound.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Crash analysis

I just watched CRASH again for my Intercultural Communication class. Man, what a phenomenal movie that is. I know I mentioned it previously, but it is particularly affecting seeing it again within the context of culture clashes, stereotyping, and cultural perceptions that we're studying.

I noticed something intriguing on this go-round too that can be related to a discussion of storytelling choices: there are very, very few names mentioned. Sometimes you see a character's name on a door or a receipt, but mostly the actors don't even USE names. They refer to each other with nicknames or family names ("dawg" or "baba"), or not at all. There are a couple of exceptions, but there are several major characters whose names I don't know, still, after watching the movie twice.

What does this do the audience? Interestingly, in order to discuss the movie people then necessarily need to refer to the actors (Ryan Phillippe's character) or by some other signifier or cultural marker...such as occupation or the very things the movie discusses, racial backgrounds or ethnicity. I wonder if most people would refer to the locksmith as "the locksmith" or "the Mexican"? And if the latter, would they recognize that they themselves are using the same cultural assignments that the movie talks about?

For me this reflects on storytelling choice because as writers we all face the dilemma of how much to tell about our characters. Does the reader need to know his/her name and physical description in the first chapter? Does the reader need to know the backstory to understand the present dilemma, or to care about the character? Does the reader need to know that at some point to feel close to the character? In CRASH (admittedly a movie and therefore a different medium, but still a story) the viewer is dumped into all these situations without background, without even names, and yet there are still close emotional ties created. Can we get away with this in fiction too?


And this time I managed to watch the scene where the little girl gets shot without actually screaming at the television. The first time I'd been dreading and dreading that something would happen to her, and I literally screamed NOOOOOOO at the TV when it did...then bawled uncontrollably in the moment after, and then when she was okay. This time I just cried silently.

Medieval Word of the Day: semi-soun: A slight or gentle sound.

Monday, September 18, 2006

TMT Update

Somebody forgot to turn on the heat in our buildings over the weekend, and it got down to the mid-20s (Fahrenheit) last night. It's c-c-c-cold in here. The heat is just now seeping in, slowly, so maybe I can take off my gloves and coat soon. {s}

I got a surprise rejection Saturday night--for a query I'd sent off in June. Went to check my email one last time before going to bed and boom! A thanks-but-no-thanks. Fortunately it didn't bother me, since I'd nearly forgotten it was still hanging out there. One good thing is that I had to open up my query list this morning to update it, and just looking at the new agents I've marked to send to got me a little energized again.

I said I wouldn't go into details about the query hunt here, and I won't. I can say that the first round had some ups and downs, and after I got some particular feedback I got a little down and frustrated, and put a temporary halt on sending out new queries. I think I have to re-read the first section One More Time and fix a couple problems that were pointed out to me before I send it out again. Once that's done, the queries go out and I concentrate on Book 2. TMT gets one more fix for querying and then I just have to turn my attention to the new one, and let it fly on its own.

A good friend of mine just sent me a link to Elizabeth's Bear's post about when to let go of a book. Read it, bookmark it, and pay attention--I did.

Medieval Word of the Day: viretote: An unsettled state or condition.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Discussion Friday 1

It's Discussion Friday! (A new feature, since I frequently find that on Fridays my brain is mush and I cannot imagine that anything I might have to say could be interesting. However, I love it when I can provoke y'all to talk.)

Topic for discussion today:

If a blessed (and insane and imaginary, but what the hey) publisher came to you right now, and said "I will give you a bazillion-dollar contract to write a book for us, but it must be something you have not yet started at all. No notes, no nothing. Give me a new idea and go for it."

What would you write about? What comes first to your brain as something interesting, worthy of a new book? C'mon and spill. I figure this is a good exercise to get us all thinking about something other than the WIPs we've been slaving over for dog years. Tell us!

I'll come back this afternoon and post mine. Hopefully I'll see some cool thoughts from you guys by then!!

Medieval Word of the Day: wankle: Unsteady, insecure; changeable, unsettled, precarious; inconstant, wavering. Also, weak in health, delicate, sickly.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Shuffle hop! step flap and...

I am not a stagemother, I will not be a stagemother, I swear I will never be a stagemother.

But my 4-year-old had her first tap class yesterday.

For those who don't know, I have a long history with dance. I started dancing seriously at 8, with tap, ballet, and jazz, but dived headlong into ballet. By 10 I was taking classes 3 times a week, by 12 6 times a week. I was in a professional dance company (The Sacramento Ballet) at the age of 14...and quit at 16. Part of the reason I quit was because of injuries, but part was also just being sick of the politics and dealing with all the stagemothers. So I know whereof I speak.

But. Child already loves to dance. She devours Angelina Ballerina, she owns a tutu and ballet shoes (courtesy of Grandma), and she puts on performances for us all the time. So last year we checked out the recitals of the 2 dance schools in town, and chose the good one (I will NOT put her in something where she wears a skimpy costume and wiggles her butt--that's the other school). This fall we enrolled her, tentatively, in the preschool tap class, which is the only class available for preschoolers. Yesterday she went, in her leotard and tights and shiny black shoes, and us parents and grandparents were nervous. Would she have FUN (most important)? Would she want to participate? Would it be stressful, or joyful? We've only committed to one month so far, so no big deal, but I only want to do activities like this if SHE wants to and is the decider, not us. I held my breath a little.

She loved it, of course. She came out grinning from ear-to-ear. She danced "I'm a Little Teapot" right along with her teacher, and got a gold star on her shoe. Because I'm not and swear to never be a stagemother, I don't care how well she actually dances or doesn't--she's in preschool, for God's sake, who cares? But I do want her to have a blast and enjoy herself, and she did. So we'll stick with this weird dance thing for a while.

Oh, and next week she wants to go in her pink tutu. It's all good with me. {s}

Medieval Word of the Day: selth: Prosperity, good fortune, happiness.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

More ranting on tragedies

My ranting post yesterday got me thinking about endings, and what I expect. I've probably already made my main point on that clear: when I take the time to read a book, I expect the author to give me some modicum of a happy ending for at least ONE of the characters--or if not happy, at least she or he should have achieved one of the goals they were trying for. Give me hope, something satisfying, so that I can close the book with a smile.

Agent Rachel Vater just said on her blog:

"Yes, you can kill major characters. It's best if you don't kill the love interest at the very end. (Sure, with literary fiction you might be able to pull off the Romeo & Juliet ending, where love ends at the death of one or both main characters, but it's tough to make that work.) Why? Because at the end, you want the reader to feel happy, satisfied, excited about your book so he / she will tell her friends about it. Surprise bestsellers happen with word of mouth. The best word of mouth is generated by creating a story that readers love while they're reading it, all the way through the ending and beyond."

Exactly. See, I'm not the only one! I'm fine with killing off major characters during the course of the book, if it's necessary to the plot. But please don't end that way, and please don't do it just because it's more dramatic. IMO, a negative or tragic ending just makes the book an unsatisfying read, and it feels like a waste of time. I don't read second books of people who waste my time, and I surely don't recommend them.

How do YOU feel about it? Do you read "tragic" books, and if so, how do you feel at the end? Does it make a difference to you if it feels inevitable and necessary to the plot, or do you just avoid books like that entirely?

Medieval Word of the Day: wellaway: An exclamation of sorrow or lamentation.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Mutterings of disappointment

Well, that was a not so fun weekend.

All three of us came down with some sort of food poisoning/stomach virus thingie, with fevers and all. {sigh} I was out sick yesterday, and hubby is out sick today. We are slowly recovering but now very tired. And joy, I have class until 10 PM tonight!

Anyway, enough of that. I did get to watch my DVD of the Narnia movie yesterday (I LOVE that movie!) and finished THE ILLUMINATOR.

So, SPOILER ALERT! Here it comes. (And if you haven't read it, sorry; it won't make much sense. So perhaps it's just rambling for me!!)

No, overall I did not enjoy THE ILLUMINATOR. I should have. It's smack-dab in my era, within 20 years or so of TMT. It's full of well-researched period detail, and it's well-written. But every time I put it down, I didn't really care if I picked it up again. And at the end, I could have happily thrown it against the wall. Why?

--I didn't really care about any of the main characters. They were all unlikeable, in my opinion. I appreciate that the author did not try to make Kathryn a modern woman, so we saw her prejudices as she would have had them. That was fine. But in the end, she seemed cold to me. She sacrificed Finn and never even really tried to make it right, when she easily could have. Finn was almost likeable, but I just couldn't believe that he would not want his granddaughter. Granted he'd been through a great deal, but at the end he seemed completely devoid of feeling. In fact the only one I liked all the way through was Magda the servant girl.

--As I say, I think it was very well-written. Then why didn't I want to read it more? I'm not sure, still. I think it may have been the characters and the story. I didn't like them, and for most of the time there just wasn't enough suspense to carry me through. I saw the pregnancy happening far before it did, I saw that Finn's wife was Jewish far before it was revealed, I knew that Simpson killed the priest early on. It was predictable. Except for...

--all the #@$ deaths at the end. Okay, what is UP with that? Here's the thing, here's where this author lost me (and it may be only me): unless it's Shakespeare, I do not like tragedies. I feel like when I start a book, I'm making a little contract with the author. I'll read you, please entertain me, and give me at least a somewhat happy ending for the main people. Yes, you can make them go through hell, and maybe you should. But I do not want to read a 400-page book (and TRY to like the characters) and then have boom-boom-boom main characters being slaughtered left and right. Senselessly. For no reason. First Rose--I thought, what the heck?--but I went along with that. Then all the other children too? She wiped out a whole generation. And then Kathryn has a chance to have her happiness still, and throws it away with both hands. For no reason. There was no happy ending at all. The whole thing just made me angry, and made me feel completely betrayed by the author.

So keep in mind this is only ONE reader's opinion. But my hubby told me that there would be another by this author, and I said, without hesitation, "I don't want to read it." Because I don't trust this author anymore; she's broken her contract with me. Why would I want to invest in her characters, if she's not going to hold up her end? Authors, keep this in mind with your books...don't break your reader's trust, because it's awfully hard to get it back.

Medieval Word of the Day: sourd: Of fountains, etc.: To spring up, to issue from the ground.

Friday, September 08, 2006


This morning I was cuddling with Child just after she woke up. She looked me over thoughtfully and said, "Mommy, I looove your shirt. And I love your pants, and your sweater. And I really love your earrings. You look so pretty."

Ahhhh. You can warm your hands off that, you can. {s}

Believe me, I know it will not last long. Soon she will be a teenager, and despise all of my clothing and my attempts to buy HER clothing...but for now, I love the 4-year-old age. Cuddling and compliments.

And because it's Friday, and I'm feeling lazy, and I have to go deal with a work issue, that is all.

Medieval Word of the Day: grot: A fragment, particle, atom. every grot = every whit.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The school thang

Grad school so far has been going well, and going poorly. As is often the case in life, both at the same time.

The poor part was all administration crap. Writing up my fee waiver justification. Getting told by HR that I had to do it again, to justify each class separately, and how does "Intercultural Communication" relate to my job? (It's part of the degree, you...) Writing an extensive justification (so extensive and detailed it would make y'all laugh, no doubt, and was approved). Receiving a lovely bill at my house for $2600 after the fee waiver was approved. Hum, approved but not applied, apparently. Having to fill out a form that I don't want student health insurance, when I have employee health insurance through campus and they darn well know that. Receiving my acceptance letter with notification that I was "provisional" until I completed 12 more undergrad credits in things like web design. Having to go prove that I have a university certificate in web design and used to be a user interface designer as my JOB...blah, blah, blah. You get the idea. One hurdle after another, just when I think I'm done. However, I do think it's all over now and I can concentrate on studying. We shall see.

The good parts are, fortunately, the actual classes. I'm taking 3 this term: first, the aforementioned Intercultural Communication, which is rather sociology-like, studying the dynamics of communication between people of different groups. That one is half online, and involves a great deal of writing already (this is why there was no blog last Friday; I was writing 2 essays for that class and was worn out!). Second is a Graduate Seminar, which introduces all us first-year grad students to the process and helps us in developing our theses/projects. More exciting news about my thesis/paper plan later; I'm planning on tying it to writing, and y'all will be able to help. Third is Research Methods; the first half is all statistics. Creating surveys, evaluating surveys, charting data, all that. I'll admit I'm a geeky nerd and loved statistics in undergrad, so this is kind of sneakily fun, and a good change from writing and reading.

The other thing I've got going, that I'm not so excited about, is the GRE. {sigh} I have to take it and score at least decently to be fully accepted, and I have a test appt. for September 30th. The writing and reading comprehensions parts? No problem. The math part? Arrgggghhh! I was studying my butt off last weekend trying to re-learn algebra. The good news on that is it will be over September 30th. :)

So there you are. I've gone from having a fairly slow workload to completely hopping, balancing classes and homework and GRE studying and work. And of course, work has picked up too right at the same time. Isn't that always the way?

Now once all this settles down a little I can also get back to the writing, and I'm certain my burnout will be happily gone. Keeping busy with other things does wonders for that.

I'm interested in hearing from any of you have advanced degrees? If so, when did you do that, and how did you balance it? Have you found it useful? Or did anybody get their undergraduate degree while working?

Medieval Word of the Day: bey: To bend, cause to bow.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

All grown up

We dragged out the budget spreadsheet again today.

This is something we do when we start to feel that expenses have gotten out of hand. You know, that moment, often after vacation, when you think, "Oh my God, what are all these bills?" It's hard to realize, when you're back at your desk, that you still have to pay for that plane trip that's now over, or the pile of clothes you bought, or all the dinners out. Ahem.

So the budget spreadsheet is, as you may have guessed, oh so much fun. We keep track of every single little penny that we spend, and each gets categorized and recorded in the spreadsheet. Even coffees and movie rentals. We do this for a couple-few months, and then we look hard at it and see if we really are overspending and where. Often the process of recording everything itself does the trick. I'm much less likely to buy an extra coffee if I know I have to fess up about it; it just makes me aware of what I'm doing and why. (I blame all this money-awareness on my Norwegian genes, by the way. I have no idea what my husband's excuse is. {g})

{sigh} It's also much less fun when you're keeping a budget. But you know, it's not always fun to be the adult, is it?

There was a related quote in "The Weatherman", which we saw this weekend, that was particularly memorable for me: "Do you know that the harder thing to do and the right thing to do are usually the same thing? Nothing that has meaning is easy. "Easy" doesn't enter into grown-up life."

Easy doesn't enter into grown-up life. I feel like tacking that up on my wall. {s}

Medieval Word of the Day: chine: An open fissure or crack in a surface; a cleft, crack, chink, leak.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


Hellooooooooo! Sorry for the long absence. I was frantic-busy on Friday trying to catch up--I had 1200 words' worth of essays due, for one thing--and just relaxing (well, and more catching up) on the weekend. I never feel right blogging from home.

So, vacation was lovely. One of my favorite highlights was the hour-long biplane ride hubby and I took. We flew right over our friends' house and did a wing-waggle for them and Child, and then headed out over the ocean and up the coast. Man. It's beautiful from up there.

Science Camp at the Science Center in Balboa Park was also a big hit. Over the course of 4 days, Child and I: made a parachute man and threw him off a balcony; made a rocket out of a film canister and alka-seltzer; made moon rocks; smashed a geode; made twirly helicopters; made a volcano in the sandbox; examined and planted seeds; heard stories; sang songs; and did lots and lots of artwork, and other fun stuff. It was tres cool. We also spent a lot of time at the park and swimming, since those were the things Child most wanted to do. Hubby and I saw 1 play (Othello) and 2 movies each, separately, and we ate tons of good food. We skipped SeaWorld and a couple of other major places, in favor of just hanging out. It was a great time.

Now we're back and hopefully will settle into the swing of fall soon. Preschool started this morning, and I have all my grad classes stacked up today. One other thing I discovered this weekend--it really does set a good example for Child when you go back to school, or take time to do important work. She found me yesterday doing my math review work for the GRE, and got very excited. "I have math too!" she cried, and ran off to get her Dora counting/numbers book. Then she climbed up on the bed with me and did her math work while I did mine.

Oh, and writing? Yes, I have a plan to do with writing. I'm still a bit burnt out, but I'm getting there, and WILL have an even better draft ready by Surrey. (I did submit my query to Miss Snark, by the way, but was not randomly chosen...)

Anyway, I'm off to class in 10 minutes. See ya tomorrow!

Medieval Word of the Day: fumosity: (1) The quality of being full of fumes or vapours. (2) The flatulent quality of various articles of food; the heady quality of wine, etc.