Tuesday, July 31, 2007


The Hat Trick post of the day!

I just had to record this conversation I had with Child yesterday. Hubby heard it from the other room and was just as boggled as I was.

We were coloring pictures of the Backyardigans together.

Child: What kind of animal is that one, anyway?

Me: I don't really think it's an animal. I think it's an alien. (see picture--the pink one.)

Child: Oh, no. She couldn't be an alien. She's nice. All aliens are mean.

Me: Hmmm. I don't think they're all mean. I think I've heard a story once or twice with nice aliens. (thinking fast: do I say they're not real? Do I?)

Child: No, they're all mean.

Me, after a while, nonchalantly: I'm not really sure aliens are real, anyway.

Child: No, they are. I've met aliens.

Me, sitting back on my heels: Really?

Child (still coloring): Yes, I met aliens before I was born. That's why you don't know about them, because you weren't with me.

At this point all those theories of children remembering past lives, heaven, etc. from before they were born are flashing through my mind, but I keep my voice even.

Me: Really? How very cool.

Child: Yeah. And did you know...(dramatic pause)...that there's a Disneyland in your belly?

Me: Um...

Child: There's a real Disneyland, inside your belly.

Me: Was that why you used to kick me so much?

Child: Yes! Because I wanted you to come to Disneyland with me.


A nod

Oh...and I put this in the book yesterday. I couldn't help myself. It does fit with my audience.

From The Weirdest Thing about Jenna:

I swiped damp bangs out of my face. Though it was cold as freaking heck up here—the wind was blowing straight at us on this ledge—I was sweating. Nerves. "Wouldn't it be nice if we could just Apparate into the cave, and bring them back with us?"

Neil looked at me blankly. "What?"

"Harry Potter? Hello?" He shrugged, and I gave it up. Who hadn't read Harry Potter?

Let the brain work

The answer for how to get out of the last fix came to me in the shower this morning (and it builds on what I already had, yay!)--and I solved some other plot problems while mowing last night.

I've heard other writers talk about how "mindless" activities can help in plotting, and that's definitely true for me. I suspect it's the subconscious working it out for you, tying things together that you put in there without really understanding why. I love my subconscious. {g} Where do you get your best ideas, or solve your plot issues?

Whadjya eat? Tried a new recipe last night, to rave reviews. Hubby really really liked it. As usual, it's one of Elise's: Spicy Garlic Cashew chicken. You can control how spicy it is--I took out all but one or two jalapeno seeds, so it wasn't too much for Child. I made the marinade the night before and put it on the chicken in the morning, which worked fine. Served with a veggie salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, and avocado and fresh pears. Yum.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Out of the fire...into the ?

Yes! I escaped the corner!

And put them immediately in a worse one. {cackles}

No, I don't know how to get out of this fix yet either, but I'm sure it will come to me--or rather to Jenna. Inventive little chickie, that one.

And...I finished Harry Potter today. {happy sigh}

NO SPOILERS please! E-mail me if you want to discuss...

Whadjya eat? Leftover Italian food. Added angel hair pasta as a side, and mushrooms fried in butter and garlic (and a tiny smidge of sweet white wine).

Friday, July 27, 2007

Painting yourself into a corner...and how to escape

Have you ever created a situation--for your characters, of course--so sticky, so impossible to get out of, that you drop into reader mode and think Wow! How are they ever going to get out of that?

And then reality slaps you hard in the face when it comes time to write the scene. You sit there, staring at the screen blankly. Thinking, Damn. How are they ever going to get out of that? And you don't know. You have no idea. Everything that comes to you seems like cheating, pulling a trick on the readers. You know better than to have a deus ex machina, because you wouldn't want to read one. You could back up a few steps and make it easier...but what would be the fun of that? Do you want your character's struggles to seem easy, meaningless? Of course not. You know very well that for a triumph to be important to the readers it has to be critical to the characters. It has to come through struggle and hardship and sacrifice.

So what do you do? As the writer/goddess, you do have the luxury of being able to go to earlier parts of the book and plant clues, if you need to, for something to help solve the current problem. And that might work--if you only could figure out what the best solution to the problem WAS.

This is where I am today. I set it up, so it's my own fault--and I must say the situation is pretty good. Darn near impossible to do what they need to do, and not succeeding just isn't an option. But now I've got to fix it, help them succeed in spite of the obstacles.

Fortunately I'm not worried, because this has happened to me lots of times before, and I know what I need to do. First chance I get I have a date with my writing journal, where I will throw out ALL aspects of the situation and all the options, sort through them, and start suggesting creative ideas. Most of them will be ridiculous, but one of them will stick. And then, fellow writers, will come that wonderful AHA moment, when every little piece falls into place as though you meant it to happen like that all along.

Because you did, right? Sure. You planned it that way. So did I. {cough}

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Lessons picked up from other writers

I used to avoid reading for pleasure while I was writing, in the fear that (a) it would take too much time away from writing and (b) other author's styles would somehow seep into my own writing. (a) is not really an issue lately, since I write every day at lunch and just know that I can't read during that time. (b)? Not worried so much about that, since I started writing in my own kitchen-sink style.

So I've been reading. And I've discovered that there can be a wonderful symbiosis between reading and writing, when you're writing every day. Though I don't pick up author's styles, I do notice what's succeeding, and what's not, in their books, and I try to note those lessons for my own work. Here's what I've learned from the last 3 books I've read/am reading (yes, I'm still reading HP. About halfway through).

--From Trangressions, by Sarah Dunant: Don't answer the central question of the book two-thirds of the way through. I really didn't care if I ever picked it up at all after that point--the rest was just floppy plot, of no interest. And make sure that the story delivers on the promise implied by the book's jacket. I was (obviously) quite disappointed in this one.

--From Vicki Pettersson: Pay attention (probably on later drafts) to every word, every phrase, you put on the page. There probably is a fresher, more character-specific way of describing something than the first phrase you clunked down. Vicki is a master of original descriptions and turns of phrase, and I love that in her writing.

--From the latest Harry Potter: Complexity is okay. It's also okay to not explain everything for your readers; let them guess. Let them figure it out. Allude to things they don't really need to know about, but the characters do. All this makes for a detailed, real world. Also, let characters speak as they really would, with pauses and awkwardness and occasional swearing. (I did know this, but it's great to see it in print again.)

(forgot) Whadjya eat? Child and I were on our own, so she got to choose. Grilled cheese sandwiches, cantaloupe (her absolute favorite), and veggies with ranch dressing. :)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Whew. That was not easy. But I'm happy with the new blue look. What do you think?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

In the...

Yes, I'm trying out pink. I was bored with green, and must change colors regularly.

Don't know if I like it yet...tomorrow I may go blue instead. :)

Oh, and...um, fix my links. And my wordcounter. {gentle head-bang}

In praise of editors

Gary Kamiya has written a fabulous piece in today's Salon called "Let us now praise editors". Fellow editors, go get a day pass and read it, and revel in the unusual appreciation.

Writers, go read it twice. {s}

Monday, July 23, 2007

What I did for my weekend

I did not go to a midnight Harry Potter party on Friday.

Instead hubby, Child, and I went to an amazing dance performance in Helena. Artisan Dance is a cool ballet company that hosts professional dancers from all over the country every summer for a workshop, then puts on a performance at the end. We saw it last year, and knew we had to go back again. Wow. During some parts I was leaning forward in my chair, hands clasped, trying to just be closer to it, it was SO good. Ahhhh. Ballet bliss.

Not to worry, though, I had my Harry Potter waiting on the porch for me when we got back on Sunday. Of course I'm only about 100 pages in right now, so I'm going to have to studiously avoid all blogs, newspapers, TV, and radio for about a week until I finish. DO NOT TELL ME WHAT HAPPENS! :)

I just glanced at Google Reader this morning and saw about three people whose first lines were "So I just finished Harry Potter..." Yeah. So not going there. I would've brought the thing to work so I could read faster, but I have too many other things I'm supposed to be reading/writing here...

Hope y'all had a fabulous weekend!

Whadjya eat? Leftovers; haven't had a chance to go shopping yet. But on Saturday we had an awesome dinner. I had TWO margaritas (good thing the restaurant was right next to the hotel, eh?). We shared an appetizer plate with shrimp "purses", fried scallops, onion rings, and jalapeno poppers. Then I had a salad with bleu cheese dressing, bread, and my entree: pork chops cooked in peanut oil, topped with pineapple and coconut sauce, and baked potato. Dude. I couldn't even touch dessert.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The big reveal...um, sort of

I've seen a couple of rants lately about critique partners & groups, and how to deal with or give criticism. I've even talked about this subject myself, long ago in blog-land terms. I'm extremely interested in this topic, and I'm about to get more interested. Why?

In the fall, I will start research for my Master's thesis: "Online Critique of Creative Writing: Best Practices from OWLs to Blackboard"

That's right, folks. I'm gonna be researching YOU. The gist of the thesis is that I'm looking at how critiques of fiction writing are handled in different online venues: structured critique forums like Compuserve's Exercises, or the related book critique site; small, private critique groups; critique partners, usually two people who crit each other's work; and online writing labs. I'll be comparing how critiques are handled in these places with traditional methods of critique in the creative writing classroom, and try to apply my lessons learned to (a) help writers and (b) help teachers of online creative writing courses.

I'm just working on reviewing the current literature right now, but soon I'll start pegging sites for research, and beginning to set up studies and surveys. So all you authors in the crowd, please gear yourselves up to be tapped to help. :)

Oh, and keep those rants coming. I'm taking notes. {eg}

Whadjya eat? Leftover turkey slices, cornbread, corn-on-the-cob (me) and sliced tomatoes with dressing (them), and cottage cheese. A nice cool summer meal. Still baking in the 90-degree heat, up here...

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Weird yesterday

Yesterday I came down with some sort of random stomach illness, and had to bolt home at noon. (I'm perfectly fine now.)

You'd think this would give me lots of alone time to write, right? Not really. I spent about 2 hours on the sofa watching Along Came Polly for the second time (my hubby asked why, and I said "because it was on." Yeah, I wasn't feeling well.). Then I took a nap for a while. Fortunately the nap helped, so I did manage to scrape out 428 words just before everybody got home. Still on schedule, with the bonus words I did this weekend.

Life, eh? Never what you expect.

Whadjya eat? Since I was all normal by dinnertime, I made my originally planned meal, one of our standards: vermicelli with roasted asparagus and tomatoes. Perfect for summer; I serve it cold. We had a fresh fruit salad (peaches, blueberries, and strawberries) with.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

A bonus day!

I'm sitting here in Hastings, because it's 100-frigging degrees outside, and we don't have air conditioning. No one does here--we all just suffer through the few days a year when it's hot, because it's just not worth it. But so far we're baking this summer!

Anyway, Child is at her sleepover, and hubby agreed that we could go to a climate-controlled bookstore so we could have iced coffee and I could write. (On a weekend!!! luxury!!!) I added a new scene, about 500 words, and am very happy. Made my weekly goal, up over 37,000 words.

Can I say--oh, just one more time--that I love writing this book? I love this book. Happy happy yay yay.

Okay, enough euphoria. Soon we'll go back out into the 100 degrees, but we are going out to dinner tonight, and then to our play.

Life is sweet today. :)

Whadjya eat? Pizza out. Too hot to stay at our house. Tonight, dinner out again. As hubby said, maybe someday we'll feel like cooking and eating in our house again, but not tonight. {g}

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Oh, I forgot...

Whadjya eat? Grilled chicken rubbed with ginger and garlic (and a teensy bit of light olive oil), packaged Asian salad with orange sesame dressing (my favorite), and fresh fruit. The chicken was a bit drier than it should have been, and didn't taste as strongly as I'd like. More fresh spices next time.

The night before we had quesadillas with leftover steak inside, and fresh-made guacamole. But now the fridge is getting into serious leftover mode. I'm thinking we might eat at the carnival tonight, and have leftovers tomorrow...

Kicking ass

YES! A kick-ass 1150 words today, which _almost_ catches me up completely for missing Tuesday. I could've kept going if I hadn't had to get back to work. :) It was a good scene too (I think), relationship-building/fight. I love writing arguments, for some reason. Fortunately Jenna has lots.

Other news:

--Child is back at Grandma's during the day, so we're in our routine again. Have I said how much grandmas rock?
--We're going to the carnival tonight. Wa-hoo!
--Child is doing HER first sleepover at her best friend's house this weekend, and hubby and I therefore get to go to a grown-up play together. Excitement all around.
--Apparently we purchased an evil, homicidal fish. I told you before about how our big gourami (privately nicknamed Psycho) killed our poor tiger barb, his tankmate. Well, Child picked out two lovely neon tetras on Monday as replacement. Ahem. Psycho chased, harassed, pecked, and then killed one the first day and the second the next day. I am no longer fond of Psycho.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A new experience

This morning Child is here at work with me for a couple of hours, and then we'll take off for home. She's sitting right next to me coloring at the moment. For some reason I thought this would mean she'd not be talking to me constantly, but I was wrong. {g}

It's okay. I like her talk. :)

It'll be a challenge to fit writing in today, though...I've got 700 words as my daily goal...

Whadjya eat? Napa Cabbage Salad. It was good for a summer evening--though not great. Child didn't like it much and made a scrunchy face. I served it with sourdough bread with homemade garlic butter (yum) and fresh nectarines and plums. Child liked those parts just fine. {g}

Monday, July 09, 2007


Hokay. I finished the rewrite of the first half (yay) and wrote 500 new words today.

One thing I discovered in the rewrite, though--I'm, er, closing in on the climax much quicker than I thought. Like...soon. I think this book might not make it to 65,000 words. I'm guessing, from the way it's going right now, that this first draft might come in at around 50k. Around 140 typewritten pages.

I'll have to investigate a little and see if that's fair length for a YA book--it seems awfully short to me. And I could probably expand a little on second draft. But to keep it tight...well, I don't know. We shall see. For now I'm keeping focused on the story, and what the story needs, and we'll do a full wordcount at the end.

Interesting, though, eh? You learn something new every book. :)

The just do it, stupid talk

There have been a lot of inspirational posts in blogland lately.

Alison Kent started a challenge called "Seventy Days of Sweat" to help people push through their novels by September. Diana Peterfreund took up that challenge, and gave herself (and everybody else) a serious bitchslap talk today. Stephanie Tyler wrote about how you make time to write, no matter what.

I totally agree. I'm proud to say that even though I was home with my daughter Thursday and Friday, home for the 4th and home for the weekend--which negates my usual writing hour at lunch on workdays--I wrote every day. I got up an extra hour early to write for two of those days. (Unfortunately this particular strategy didn't work out as well as I'd hoped. Child popped up the second she heard me the first day, wanting to know why the heck I hadn't woken her. I told her why. The second day she let me write for 15 minutes before getting up. {g}) The other days I just told her that I needed some writing time, and she did "homework" while I did writing, and I wrote next to her while she watched TV in the morning. Yes, I CAN do it.

Unfortunately the word count isn't bounding up, but that's because I'm editing this week. I am adding new scenes to replace cut ones, but it's not fast. I'm on page 61 of 87 pages, though, and it should go fast from here, and then I'll get into the new stuff (yay).

I'm not participating in the challenge above just because it doesn't meet with my current goals. However, I am still sticking tight to my own personal challenge. At least 10,000 new words a month, finishing the draft in September. That counts this month too, even in spite of the editing, so I'll really have to push through to get to my 45,000. I do my own form of sweat. :)

I do very firmly believe in the sentiments of the other bloggers. If you want to write, you make time to write. Period. Yes, you may not be able to make as much time as you want to, and different people make different sacrifices that work for them. But you make goals for yourself, and you find the time somehow. If you want it. You know what? I want it.

What'djya eat? Last night it finally cooled off a bit, so we had warm food for the first time in a while. Mouth-watering turkey slices from a pre-cooked deep-fried turkey (OMG, yum. Child said "My tummy likes this so much that it's growling for more!"). I served that with Swedish lingonberries, which are rather like cranberry sauce. We also had peas and twice-baked potatoes (also pre-prepared, not by me. What? It's too hot to really cook.)

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


I'm {cough} down another 2000 words in wordcount.

This is depressing because you know I want to keep that sidebar going up, making progress toward my goal of being DONE with the first draft by Surrey. However, I _knew_ that the stuff I cut out today had to go. It was weak, weak, weak. I didn't like it when I wrote it but I let it stand as a placeholder because I wasn't sure what else to do. Well, I think I've got a better line now, so out it comes. Fortunately tomorrow I get to add words, and try out the new subplot(s).

Eeep, except I'm not going to be at work for the next 3 days, so I don't have scheduled writing time. Guess I'm gonna have to make time some other way and get the word count back up!

A tag!

Renee tagged me--it's been so long since I've blogged regularly that I've very nearly forgotten what a tag is--so look! A post!

(In general, I've just been too life-occupied to post much lately. Summer is busy time, and add on re-working Jenna, reading a very engrossing book, and {ahem} ignoring my thesis work, and poof! No blog time. Oh, did I mention WORK? And holiday/vacation stuff?)

Anyway, on to the tag. 7 random facts about me.

{fingers lightly tapping the keyboard while I stare at the screen}

The problem is, what don't you already know? Hmmmm. {tap. tap.} Screw it, let's just go.

1. I like to swear (see above), and seriously had to clean up my mouth when I had a child. (ooops, my Dad reads this blog, but oh well. It's true. Sometimes swearing just makes you feel better.)

2. In college I wrote some mighty horrible poetry. Some day I will drag one of these out and make you all laugh. Or, more likely, not.

3. I walk like a duck, from many many years of ballet. I also turn my feet out when I stand, and sometimes idly point my toes or even stand on my toes without realizing I'm doing it.

4. I am a natural mimic, and cannot carry on a long conversation with someone with a different accent without starting to unconsciously imitate it. This has gotten me into serious trouble when people think I'm making fun of them.

5. I'm short-ish, and nearly all of my friends are tall. For some reason this surprises people when they meet me after knowing me online. (yes, you, Julie. And Kreekie. And Daryl. And...oh, all the rest of you.)

6. I have recently discovered that I really, truly like bellinis. And mojitos too.

7. When I started college I intended to be a comparative psychologist, and work with dolphins. Or maybe chimps; I hadn't decided. I quickly discovered that the Animal Science major at UC Davis is NOT about that at all. On the upside, I know my grades of beef and how to castrate a sheep, should that ever be necessary.

Done! I guess I'm supposed to tag 7 people, but that's an awful lot, especially since Renee already tagged several of the ones I know. {frown} Lessee:

and Jen.

That'll do. Guys?