Monday, December 31, 2007

Rolling Out the Old Year

Okay, so I've neglected my cyber life shamelessly. Meatspace demanded my attention for the last week or so. Okay, the entire month of December was a wash. But I've been busy.

Christmas was great. I went to the Christmas Eve service at church and made it home in time to enjoy the go out on the lawn with my husband and kids and view the full moon through my son's telescope. While we were on the lawn, Santa came by to visit on the fire engine. It's a great fundraiser for the VFD and the kids love sitting in the engine and running the sirens.

It was a little bittersweet because my eldest informed me that he knows Santa is pretend but he likes it anyway. This happened without fuss or drama or a big revelation, just the creeping reality that a fat man in a red suit probably couldn't visit every chimney on planet Earth, even with magic reindeer. But we had a great day and everyone got lots of loot and then we all convened at my sisters for a family get together.

This weekend I ended the year like I started it, with a rejection. It was a bummer because my story had made it to the final cuts for an anthology, but the editor sent me an email to say that although they liked it, it just didn't "fit" into the final collection. Oh well. Something more to submit again in 2008. In fact, the weekend was very busy. I celebrated my 15th wedding anniversary, went to a funeral for a friend's mother, overslept and missed Sunday School (and I'm the teacher, oops), and something else. I bought something. I have a new ride.

It's big and shiny and cherry red. I've always dreamed of owning one like this and it's finally mine. It seats three, although more can ride if I shift the panels. It has a changing room and drawers and a place for hay. It's a slant load, but converts into an open stock. 16 feet of beauty! My kids will be riding in style, that's for sure. By now you've probably guessed that I'm talking about a horse trailer.

I don't have to borrow my neighbor's trailer to go someplace. Oh yeah, life is good.

I'll have a special Post-Christmas Kitteh Song for you as a tasty and nootrishus treat tomorrow. Have a wonderful New Year.

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Greatest of These

Advent ends tonight, which is a good thing because I'm terrible at waiting. I'm ready for it to be Christmas now. In a few minutes, I'll leave for a Christmas Eve Service at my church. For the last four Sundays, we have lit a candle for advent. Each candle celebrates one of the reasons Christ came into the world. First came the candles of Joy, Hope and Peace. This Sunday was the candle of LOVE, the ultimate meaning and purpose behind Christmas. So my wish for you this Christmas Eve is that you experience all of these, but most especially Love.

I Cor. 13 (RSV) If I speak in the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

3 If I give away all I have and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful;

5 It is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;

6 It does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

13 So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

So everyone have a wonderful, blessed Christmas and....

Friday, December 21, 2007

Twas Teh Nite B4 Catmus

This one was a ridiculous amount of work to do, but also one of the most fun. I have several more kitteh surprises between now and Christmas. But for now.....

Oh hai. Wuz nite B4 Catmus and all thru haus
No one wuz busy, not even bad maus.
Ceiling cat wuz hiding up high sum where
Hoping Santy Paws soon be dere

All gud kittehs were asleep in dere beds
Tasty and nootrishus thoughts dances in dere heads
Even teh lolrus and kitten who haz a hat
Had settled in fer a nice happy nap

Oh noes! Outside such a clatter
I goez to window to see whut da matter
Whut to my wundring eye appears
But invisible slay and invisible reindeer

And dere was a critter wif teeth an sharp claws
I knew rite away he was old Santy Paws
An faster than Supercat, his hoomans they came
And he squeaked an he squeaked as he calleded dem by name

On Wordsmith! On, Jeanne, now! Carrie, A.J. and Tori!
On, PeeDee! On Kristine! On Ferret and Lori!
Up to the rooftop the hoomans dey flu
With a slay full of cheezburgers, an Santy Paws too.

An den in a moment I hears such a fuss
The hoomans say all Ur cheezburgers R belong to us
I goez back inside cuz I hearz a sound
Oh hai! Down chimney comes Santy Pawz wif a bound

Sneaky kitteh crept up close cuz he smellz a cheezburger
Hiz clothes wuz all furry, but dey had a gud flavor.
Wuz tasty. And nootritishus.
Santy Pawz wuz delishus.

So teh lolrus and kittehs getz burgerz from hiz sack
And den dey goez back to dere nap.
Mah belleh all full an iz quiet again in haus.
Who knew that Santy Paws wuz a maus?

Hope U had fun! KTHXBAI!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A blog about doing nothing

I have accomplished nothing today. Sure, it's only 11:00 a.m., but I've been up since 6:00. I got the kids fed, dressed and off to school. I've watched some T.V. I've taken a bath. Read some blogs. Said hi to a few online friends. Listened to a podcast. That pretty much sums it up and is exactly the reason that the blog and my computer went dark for almost a week.

It's so easy to get sucked in and I'm horrible about chasing the latest shiny to catch my eye. I've been tempted to try the Penman Shipwreck, but I'm afraid that for me, it would be another shiny. I would find myself obsessing over how to count my words and my pages and totaling them constantly and perhaps this pen would work better, etc… You get the picture. That's how it would be for me.

I've got a lot to accomplish in January. I need to be querying First Ghost and to polish and submit some of my short stories that have been lingering in limbo. I should be able to do these things and still participate in writing a new novel, but I know that I can't. I have a set amount of time and I do best if I focus on one or two things. I tend to be very scatterbrained and to take on too many tasks.

So I'm going to stay on the sidelines which is hard for me. I love to play. I love to compete and push myself. But this is my dose of reality. I'm easily distracted (who am I kidding? I LIVE for distraction.)

Bad kitteh. No shiny for you.

Now I'm going to do laundry and write.
Oh--fun stuff to do: Check out AJ's first podcast!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I've been Tagged

Okay, I gave myself a timeout from my computer. There were a lot of reasons for this, some personal and some writerly, but they are many and boring. I'm back like a bad White Elephant gift and blogging with a cat in my lap.

I started cruising a few blogs to see what folks were up to and discovered that I've been tagged by Ed. I'm supposed to list five odd random facts about myself. So here goes:

Five things you would never know unless I was goofy enough to tell you.

1. The quickest verdict I ever got in court was a seven minute Life Sentence on a murderer. He was a very bad man and deserved it, but we sent the jury back to deliberate, I went to the restroom, and put a burrito in the microwave. It dinged and the jury buzzed.

2. I was once a three time Hog Calling champion. Sooooooowweeeeeeeeeeeeee! Pigpigpig. That's all I'm going to say on the subject.

3. I'm double jointed. I can bend my thumb flat against the back of my wrist. My pinky too. I used to be able to do all my fingers, but age and arthritis have changed that.

4. I love Spongebob Squarepants. I think I've seen all the episodes a zillion times, but my favorite episode EVAH would have to be the one where he goes to live with the jellyfish.

5. One of my best friends in high school had a pet ferret named Fred who loved to drink beer. If you left your beer unattended, it was ferret chow. I don't know how many times I got drunk with that ferret. *disclaimer* beer is not a recommended drink for high schoolers or ferrets.

So there you are. Five goofy things. I'm supposed to tag folks, but I'm late and everyone is probably already tagged, except I didn't see that AJ was tagged, so if you haven't been then you are and if you are or rather were then nevermind.

PS: I got a monster amount of writing stuff done while on my time out, but I missed everyone terribly!

Friday, December 14, 2007

I Can Haz Charlz Dickenz?

A Tail of Two Kittehs

Oh hai. Dis kitteh so speshul.
Dis kitteh failz.

Dis kitteh smart.
Dis kitteh, not so much.

Innocent kitteh iz belifing. Cynic kitteh is bored wit U already.

Dis kitteh haz lightbulb. Let him show U it. Other kitteh haz no picktur for him. Iz all dark.

Lolrus haz a buck. Noooo! They stolded his bucket.

Nuff said.

Dis kitteh can haz cheezburger.
Dees kittehs get nun. So sad. Iz tragedee.

Oh hai. Dis de end part. Hope U enjoy teh kittehs. Waz fun 2 do.

Iz a far, far better thing this kitteh do than he evah doez B4. He goez home now.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Fred Pledge

Fred lived large. He was a small dog, but you couldn’t prove it by him. He found me on the streets and charmed his way into my minivan as a young pup. As far as I know, we were the first – and only – permanent home Fred ever had. It wasn’t until later that I found out he was on the hit list of animal control as a beggar and a nuisance around town. He was considered quite a mischief maker. I am certain this was a wholly deserved reputation.

He loved his new comfy life. When the weather turned stormy, Fred would sit at the back door, watching rain cascade. Then he would turn his back and settle onto the couch next to me with a contented sigh.

He fit into our lives seamlessly. Jack Russells aren’t known for their patience, but Fred adored children. My husband coached soccer and the team practiced at our house. Fred became the team mascot. It was impossible to keep him inside if there were children outside. He would stand at the front window, paws on the glass, throw his head back and howl piteously. When my boys went to bed, he stayed with them until they were asleep. Then he would sleep between my husband and I. He got his very own pillow.

Fred loved life. He was always in the middle of everything that happened, especially if it was a fight. If other dogs or even cats got into a skirmish, Fred jumped into the fray for the sheer pleasure of scrapping. He did his best to dig to China. I never really understood the phrase that a terrier was “going to the ground” until I saw him do it. Give the dog five seconds and he had a hole deep enough to vanish in. He loved to roll in my rosemary bushes until he broke off the branches and left the hedges lopsided. Darn dog.

True to his terrier heritage, Fred was an exuberant, hardy big dog in a small body. But he was a hard dog to control. He did what he wanted. Keeping him in the yard was impossible. He dug like the terrier he was, jumped fences, climbed trees, squeezed between pickets in the fence, chewed his way out of leashes or dog crates. The dog had more tricks than Houdini. A collar? He wore it when he wanted to. If he wanted it off? It was coming off. Mostly he wore it.

But living life this way has its risks and Fred’s glorious run came to an end on December 07, 2004. It was a pretty nice day, but I was running late coming home from work. My son had to be back up at the school for the Christmas production of Frosty the Snowman. I rushed home and ran inside to grab up my son’s costume. I should have simply hurried down the street to my parent’s home to grab up the kids, but I didn’t. I had a bad feeling.

Fred had a favorite trick. When I drove up, he would meet me by the door, grinning as if to say “I can get out anytime I want.” And he could. He did. Including on that December day.

When I drove up, I didn’t see him. I ran inside, got the things I needed and came back out. Still no Fred. A frantic search of my backyard confirmed that Fred was, in fact, missing. Not that this was that unusual. He did that from time to time, but never for more than a few hours. And yet, I had that feeling, the bad one. I went searching for him and on a hunch I drove the acre down to the road.

I had driven by his body when I came home and never realized it. He was in the tall grass in the ditch across from my house, cold and stiff. The only indication that he had suffered trauma was the thin trail of blood from his open mouth. His body looked as if it was frozen in mid run. I’m sure he chased a squirrel or rabbit across the street right in front of a car.

I cried and then cursed him for having the gall to die right before the much anticipated school program. I concealed my grief from the kids until after we got home. I'm sure the other parents thought I was Emo Mom. During Frosty, I spontaneously burst into tears several times. They probably thought I was just moved by the show. Either that, or I needed medication.

Fred is buried under an apple tree in the backyard. I’m sure that Fred had no regrets. With apologies to Frank Sinatra, he did it his way. He lived la vida grande, if only for a short while. If he saw a mud puddle, he rolled in it. Food hit the floor? It was his. If a squirrel crossed his path, he chased it. There wasn't a fence that could hold him.

That’s how I want my life to be, without fences. I don’t want to live without risks. I want to roll in the mud puddles and chase the squirrels. I want to be exuberantly alive, like Fred. So that is my New Year's Resolution. I’m taking the Fred Pledge.

I will not wait for opportunities to find me, but find them myself. I resolve to kiss my husband and children every day. I will take time to read and sip tea. I will talk to friends more often. I'll query my books until the agents beg me to stop. I will live and love and laugh exuberantly. And if, perchance, I see a mud puddle, I won't pass up the chance to roll.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Don't take that tone with me!

Tone: In my previous post, I mentioned that I was reading Larklight: A Rousing Tale of Dauntless Pluck in the Reaches of Farthest Space, by Phillip Reeve and David Wyatt. I can't recommend this enough. It's a middle-grade space fantasy set in the Victorian British Empire--if they had developed space travel. It's a rollicking good time and I think a great deal of it's charm derives from the tone. (The rest of it's charm is probably due to the space pirates and enormous, man-eating spiders, but I digress.)

It's a first person narrative, told by Art Mumby, an eleven year old boy, with the occasional intrusion of his sister's diary. The prose is wordy and veddy, veddy English as befitting a proper Victorian lad. But the tone is something more, there is humor, an arch wink and a nod that makes the whole thing just a delightful, frothy read. I'm having such a lovely time in this world.

But sometimes I want something else, something darker and richer. I'm a fan of L.E. Modesitt Jr.'s Forever Hero trilogy. Modesitt is the master of the brooding, thoughtful tone. As we see his character move from a wily young orphan to a weary immortal, the tone progresses so that you feel the character's burden of everlasting life.

When I'm discussing tone, I mean specifically manner in which words and thoughts are expressed. For me, it's often a conscious choice. When I conceive of a story idea, the tone comes wedded to it. I think about the tone, the feel, the mood, as much as I think about anything when I write. I concentrate on maintaining the tone. My greatest joy in both reading and writing isn't the perfect description, the gorgeous prose. While I appreciate those things, I either fall in love with the tone of a book very quickly, or I don't. And that makes it very important to me.

How do you approach tone? Is it a conscious choice or happy accident? Something you concentrate on or completely organic?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Of Books and Boys

I had already started writing this blog when I surfed over to check out Castle Debacle and found THIS post by Pete, which made me laugh. I was thinking of the very same topic, although it wasn't a phone conversation with Lori that prompted this post, but rather the To Be Read teetering alarmingly on my nightstand. I've let myself become too busy to read. How did this happen?

As a child, I spent entire weekends reading. I devoured books eagerly until college. I still read, but not at the same pace. Law school completely stalled my reading. I barely kept up with the workload, much less found time to read for pleasure. I stopped writing as well. Before law school, I was a published poet, but law school squashed the poetry from me. All things that were "Not Law School" passed me by.

After school came work, but reading -- and later writing -- gradually returned to my life. Until lately that is. So this last weekend, I did something for myself as a writer. I put away the notebooks and pens and went offline.

I gave myself permission to read.

And it was lovely.

I curled up on the couch with two warm fuzzy cats and a sufficient supply of chocolate and tea. A space fantasy called my name, so I picked it up and read it until I was completely absorbed into the world of Art and Myrtle Mumby. It was like being a kid again.

And then another though occurred to me. Why is it that so many boys stop reading in the 9-13 year old category? Boys are wired differently than girls. I know this to be the case. Not all boys stop reading, of course, but enough do. Why? An obsession with sports? A lack of books that interest them? It isn't cool? The lure of the electronic game?

I don't pretend to have the answers. As a mother of boys, I do everything possible to keep them reading. Here are a few of my favorite new Middle Grade series for boys.

1. Larklight: A Rousing Tale of Dauntless Pluck in the Farthest Reaches of Space. By Phillip Reve and David Wyatt. This is the space fantasy I was reading. Did I mention it was a space fantasy set in Victorian England? It's great fun and the illustrations are wonderful. There is a sequel out now, but this is the first in what promises to be a fun new series.

2. Percy and the Olympians: The Lightening Thief, Sea of Monsters, Curse of the Titans and a fourth book is due in May 2008 from Rick Riordan. Follow the trials and tribulations of Perseus Jackson, a seemingly normal boy with an unpleasant life who discovers that he just might be the son of a Greek god. These are exciting, edge of your seat, adventures. My husband loves this series as much as my sons.

3. Ranger's Apprentice: The Ruins of Gorlan, The Burning Bridge, The Icebound Land, The Battle for Skandia, by John Flanagan. A more traditional type fantasy, but what sets these apart are the action sequences. Flanagan is an experienced screenwriter in Australia and a martial artist. It shows in his spectacular fight scenes and knowlege of battle.

Someday, I hope to see my own War of the Crickets listed alongside as a classic adventure that is markedly "boy-friendly."

I'm curious to know what books you would recommend for boys at an MG level.

Friday, December 7, 2007

I Can Haz Shakespeare?

I haven't blogged in a day or two thanks to too much day job and the mother of all colds. Blech.
But I haven't forgotten my literary doodle for this Friday. I engaged in a little experiment and discovered a few things.
First, translating really makes you think about the meaning behind words and not just the words themselves. Second, LOLCATZ just won't fit into iambic pentameter.


I have kittehed Shakespeare.
Hope you enjoy. KTHXBAI.

(With apologies to William)
Oh hai. I compare U to nice day?
Oh noes! U iz moar priddy and moar calm.
Iz bad storm did that Ur nice flowerz.
Dis summer FAIL! Wuz too short.
Iz too hot in da sun for kitteh
Shade not so much better, kthx.
Bucketz get losted and cookiez
Get maded and eated U know.
But I haz a kitteh 4 ever
And U haz a gud flavor.
Everyday like a caturday with U.
U can haz mah cheezburger.
I maded U dis poem to readz.
Iz speshul 4 U. I R great writer.

ETA: the formatting is jacked up and I can't seem to fix it. A lesson for another day. Grrrrr!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A Tale of Two Bad Mice

I'm very lucky to have my parents live down the street from me. Being retired, they take turns picking my boys up from school. My youngest gets out of kindergarten about thirty minutes before his brother is freed from intermediate school. Therefore, he always gets picked up first and plays with his toys in the car until his brother comes.

If they get to the parking lot early enough, he is allowed to unstrap his seatbelt and sit on the floor of the car to play until his brother gets there. He vastly prefers this to staying in his booster seat and is correspondingly impatient on the short drive from the elementary to the intermediate school.

Last week, the traffic was slow and he began to fidget. It seemed to him it was taking an unreasonable amount of time. Why were all these cars on the road? They were between him and his Power Ranger action figures.

"Damn traffic," he said.

"Alex," Nana chided him. "We don't say that word."

"Grampa says that all the time."

"Well, little boys do not. It's not appropriate. Find something else to say."

Alex thought for a moment. "Daddy says 'rats'."

"That's better. You can say rats."

"Damn rats!" Alex said.

Which brings me to the topic of rats, mice, and assorted small vermin (with apologies to Ed of course). You may know that I recently put my old barn cat to sleep after his kidneys failed. Tiger was a large, tawny tom of unknown origin and advanced years. In his day, he was a ferocious mouser. I never had a problem with vermin and never gave it much thought, but he had lost a step or two over the last few years and had lived out most of the last year in my garage.

This was brought into sharp focus when it became time to put up my Christmas decorations. We've always stored them in the barn rafters. Most of the items are kept in plastic tubs, but a few things -- such as my Christmas tree -- were stored in their original boxes. I'm using the past tense here, because I won't make that mistake again.

My husband was diligently hauling down decorations when he sent my eldest to come and get me.
"Daddy says we've got a problem. You need to come and see."

We did in fact have a problem. Some little sharp-toothed vermin had made a nest of my Christmas tree which involved a great deal of nibbling and reshaping. Likewise, several wreaths and extension cords were also ruined and a small ratsnake (perhaps attempting to do what Tiger had not) was quite startled when we opened the box he was sleeping in.

So it was off to Lowes. I have a lovely new tree and it was only money, right? Pre-lit Christmas trees are obscenely expensive, but it's better than facing the annual maze of tangled lights. I was happy to shell out the money and it only ate a few hours of my decorating time. The kids were thrilled to pick out a new tree and happily told the story of our previous tree's demise at the jaws of a savage pack of rats to anyone who would listen. The story progressed from "we have a mouse" to that "savage pack of killer rats" in no time at all. To hear them tell it, you would think we had a plague on par with Australia.

I guess it's time to get a new barn cat. Maybe two.

Damn rats.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Lightening is gonna strike me

This is blog was inspired by Pete's recent blog about Office Space and the question posed: Where do you write. The short answer for me is anywhere. Anytime. Anyplace. Any means. I'll use my desktop, laptop, notebook, envelopes, sticky notes, pretty much any piece of paper.
I once wrote a horror flash piece on the back of a church program while sitting in the choir loft. I was the Music director at the time and it was a rather boring sermon. I sold that piece too. I have a lot of downtime in church and it really frees my mind. I hope the Lord doesn't smite me for it, but Church is a peaceful place and I love writing there.

Soccer season makes me very happy for several reasons, not the least of which is that I write very well at the soccer fields. The other parents have stopped giving me funny looks and accepted the fact that Mary always has a notebook and is prone to writing fits. They don't stare anymore, just sigh and give each other that look. But they tolerate me and that's the best I can hope for. That and I wrote an entire children's novel in a month during soccer practice which is only twice a week.

Sometimes I write in my car. (Don't worry, I park first.) I drive a lot for work and I'm prone to squeezing in a little extra writing time after I park. I've written flash pieces and short stories during my lunch hour and I often email myself scenes written while at work to include in my novels.

I do have a desk banished to a corner of the marital bedroom and I'm happily typing away there right now. I also have a laptop, but I’m not such a laptop fan. I dislike the little keyboard and I tend to drop my thumbs onto the touchpad which makes the mouse do odd things. But I have written an entire novel on it.

Since the desk in our bedroom and my husband enjoys sleeping without the constant tap-tap-tap of my keyboard, I'm often forced to abandon my desktop just as my writing gets rolling. So one of the downstairs rooms is my office-under-construction. It's been under construction for about a year now, but I'm confident that I will provoke my husband into finishing with fits of typing at eleven o'clock at night. When else would I write my blog posts?


You think I want to get struck by lightening or something?

Monday, December 3, 2007

My Strangelove for Maps (or how I learned to stop worrying and love the outline)

It's the eternal debate on writer forums: To outline or not to outline. That is the question. Whether 'tis nobler to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous characters hijacking your story or...not. You get the picture.

I've written a lot of stuff. I've tried writing every way possible, from sitting down to write a whodunit without knowing whodunit or why, to carefully planning each scene down to drawing the location. I've come to the conclusion that I'm a planner. That's who I am in life.

I love a *to do* list. Love it. I like having a schedule and knowing what is going to happen each day, even if all I pencil in is : write or play on computer.

And I love maps.

When I go someplace new, I love detailed directions and a map is even better. I'm good with maps. The reason for this is I get lost. A lot. A whole lot. I've been lost all over the world: Greece, Egypt, Japan, France--pretty much anywhere I've been. I have no internal sense of direction. Put me indoors and turn me around and I'm completely lost. I could get lost going to my bathroom during the night. (Hey, things look different after dark, okay?) As a consequence, I've become great with maps and have developed quite an affection for them. My house is full of Mapscos and globes and atlases.

Which brings me back to outlining. I like to know where I'm going and how I'm going to get there. It reduces my stress and lets me focus on other things like the scenery and the interesting people along the route.

Outlining helps me see the structure of my book broken down into scenes, spot flaws, flesh out my characters and think through things in a logical fashion. If I change direction part way through, it's a lot easier to go back and rewrite bits of my outline.

Not everyone is an outline fan. There are many good writers that simply sit down and write. My friend Jeanne claims her entire book is in her head. She knows exactly what she wants to say and just channels the characters. Me? Not so much. Sure, the book is in my head, but I can't reliably find it. The outlining process helps me locate it and draw my fuzzy ideas into sharp focus.

Others claim that this spoils the trip. Once they've hashed out the details and events, they are no longer interested in the story. To me, an outline is simply a plan for the vacation. I'm still going to take the trip because the experience is worthwhile. Even if I know what I'm going to see, the trip can still surprise me with wondrous discoveries made along the way.

I hear that outlines are confining. For me, they are the opposite. They free me from worrying about structure and plot and let me obsess on the actual words instead.

So I outline. It makes sense to me. As far as I'm concerned, if Moses had an outline, the trip would have taken a week. Ten days tops.

How do you write? Pants it? Rough outline? Topographical map? I'm currently working on the Mother of All Outlines: 25,000 words and counting. If I ever reach the point where my outline is longer than my novel, I'll know it's time to turn back. Until then, I'll just keep plodding along, enjoying this leisurely ride.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

A Day Late and a Dollar Short

I know I said I wasn't blogging on weekends, but we've established my utter lack of veracity. I got inspired by a ferret.

Ed had a great blog about THE FRIDAY THINGY debate that has been raging (well not really raging, but earnestly being discussed) over whether to post snippets of writing on Fridays and forfeit first rights. He made an excellent point about doodling.

This is something I originally posted over on Aw in response to a question Lori posed about silly writing. Here it is. 600 hundred words. I don't know what possessed me to do it, but I suspect that the bottle of wine had something to do with it. It's not publishable. Only writers or editors would read it and giggle. This isn't Friday, but here is my Friday post just a day late.

Conversations with a Reluctant Character

Grace paused beside the shimmering pool and glanced at her reflection.

“Don’t call me Grace.”

“Why not? It’s a nice name.”

Eye roll. “Please. It’s just so done. No more puns on saving some chick named Grace. How amazing. Don’t reduce me to a cliché.”

“Okay, fine. How about Helen?”

Gagging noise. “As in Helen of Troy? Blech. No thanks. It’s been done, I told you. No Grace. No Helen. No Lilith. And no Kate. What is it with you people and the name Kate? Enough.”

“Okay, I hear you. What sort of name do you want? It’s got to be strong and meaningful. Something that can carry a trilogy.”

“Oh God. A trilogy. You aren’t going to send me on a quest are you? Please tell me there are no magical objects involved.”


“Oh crap. Why me? I don’t want to drag some ill-matched caravan of stock players around misty plains and mysterious mountains looking for some freaking amulet. Give that line a rest, okay? One book. Just give me one book to deal with. I mean, I never wanted to be a main character anyway. Do you have any idea how much pressure that is? And then you spring the Oh, it’s really three books crap on me. Crappity-crap-crap-crap.”

“Going back to the name….Llanara’th?”

“What’s so wrong with Jane?”

“Jane? Well, it’s not very heroic, now is it? You need a heroic name, something grand. Think stronger.”



“How about we shorten it to Llanara? I’ll even let you keep the double Ls. It sounds kinda made up, but like people could actually say it. Deal? Okay. Continue writing.”

Llanara paused beside the shimmering pool and glanced at her reflection. They said she was beautiful with her long, flowing fiery red locks and her flashing green eyes, but…

“Whoa! Time out. I have major issues with this. Red hair? Green eyes? Do you have any idea how unusual those things are? Those would make me a little conspicuous, dontcha think? Try again.”

“Raven tresses?”


“Silken, honeyed blonde?”



“Yes. There’s nothing wrong with brown hair.”

“It’s boring.”

“It’s normal. Normal is good. If I’m supposed to be a shepherdess swept up into a grand cosmic struggle….um…..that is where you were going, right?”

“Yeah, how did you….”

“You can’t honestly imagine I could slip in and out of taverns unnoticed if I’m a total bombshell.”
“I hadn’t thought of that.”

“Obviously. And the hero doesn’t notice my beauty at first, right? Not until later.”


“Yeah. Oh. Better tone it down. Brown will do nicely, thanks.”

“At least let me say Chestnut.”

“Fine. Chestnut it is. I don’t suppose you would settle for brown eyes, either. They could be hazel. Hazel is nice, but not too obvious.”

“Blue. I’ll settle for blue. It’s pretty, but not as weird as green.”

Shrugs. “I’ll take it. You may continue writing.”

Llanara paused beside the shimmering pool and glanced at her reflection. They said she was beautiful with her long, flowing chestnut locks and her flashing blue eyes, but…


“For crying out loud! Now what?”

“About the reflection business….”

“Yeah, I know. I know, okay. I really do. But I want everyone to know up front what you look like, okay? So you’re just gonna have to deal with this one. The reflecting pool stays. End of discussion.”

“You don’t need to get so huffy about it.”

“This was supposed to be fun. Writing should be fun or what’s the point? Sheesh. I’m gonna just skip ahead to something better. Maybe the scene where you save the hero during the tavern fight. That’s a juicy scene.” Rubs hands together. “You break a bottle over Lord Halpern’s evil henchman’s head and then cradle the hero against your heaving bosom. He looks into your eyes….”

“Yeah, about that whole me liking men part….”

Friday, November 30, 2007

Confessions of an Addict

This will be my last post.

Well, for the weekend anyway. In order not to burn myself out and overextend, I'll only be blogging on weekdays for now. I'm sad that The Great Tea Debacle is ending, but I shall keep the friendships I have made and there is still another book to write. And there are other things to occupy my time when I'm not writing.

I have a confession to make. I love TV. Heresy! How can this be? Shouldn't all writers spend every waking moment elevating themselves to a higher state of learning, pursuing art and music and nobler activities? I can't help that. I love TV.

It gets worse. I am addicted to Reality TV. Stop clutching your chest like that and rolling your eyes! It isn't dreck or if it is, I just don't care. I find it fascinating and I'll give you five reasons I find it so compelling.

Reason 1: I'm in love with the creative process. What does that have to do with Reality TV? My favorite shows are things like Project Runway and Top Chef. A group of talented professionals in their field compete. Each week they are given a specific challenge and someone goes home based on their performances. It's like Survivor, but with talent. I'm fascinated by seeing how the designers and chefs approach their craft, how they view themselves, how they interact with others in their field. I love seeing them take a project from mere idea to fruition. Some are all concept, but lack the ability to deliver. Some have mad skillz at executing, but lack an original vision. Then there is the artist who conceives of unique twist and produces something fresh and exciting.

Too bad there will never be a show titled PROJECT TOP WRITER. Writing is the same, but different. No one wants to watch a writer. The drama is all there, but it's internal. Project Runway shows them running with scissors. Top Chef features flames endangering the contestants' eyebrows. Writing…well, it fries your brains, but it isn't terribly exciting to watch. It's a shame, because I'm probably one of five people who would watch a show about writers.

Reason 2: People are more interesting than characters. Reality TV isn't all about backstabbing and sleeping around and stupidity anymore than SFF is about aliens and laser guns. Sure, such things exist and are a staple of the genre, but that isn't what it is about. It is about people and how they relate to one another and cope with different situations. The best show for this is The Amazing Race.

In TAR, teams of two race around the world for one million dollars. They have challenges to meet and must arrive at designated checkpoints. At each leg, the last team to check in is eliminated. The journey is always far more stressful and physical than the teams expect and the glimpses into the relationships captivate me (as does the backdrop of the world). Who knew that the earthy, crunchy granola team would come so unglued at the idea of milking a camel? Who knew that the glam rockers with big hair, pink spandex and full make-up would fall deeply in love with the people of Africa and commit themselves to helping the children there? Fascinating.

Reason 3: I learn stuff. Dirty Jobs isn't just about watching Mike Rowe's hairy chest. Okay, sometimes it is, but it's also a glimpse into how things truly work in the world, jobs I never knew existed. And it sure makes my desk job much more appealing. He shows you what it means to do the sort of work that makes our comfortable lives possible. Love science? Always wondered if your cell phone could really spark and blow up your car at a gas station? Mythbusters is the show for you. Who could watch Les Stroud in Survivorman and not come away with the realization that most of us would be dead the first afternoon? But I'm amazed to watch Stroud survive for seven days and even more impressed that he is his own camera crew.

Did I say five reasons? Sorry. I think we've already established my tendency to lie. But those are three good reasons why I don't consider Reality TV as a sign of the apocalypse. Any other addicts out there willing to confess? (Yes, I'm looking at you, Muse.)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

How Bout Them Cowboys?

I've previously said I was going to blog about writing and specifically about outlining today. I lied. It's something that I do. I blame the writer in me for that. People pay me to lie. Yes, I'm also a lawyer too. [insert lawyer joke of choice here]. I'm going to blog about a subject that is deeply personal and close to the very essence of what makes my life worthwhile, a subject that can move me to tears of joy or shouts of rage.

Tonight I will watch my Dallas Cowboys take the field and be elated or crushed depending on the results. I'm gonna blog about football. Oh, yes I am. I love my Cowboys and I love football. Football is the very essence of life. You've probably heard all the clichés about the game, that it is about yards and inches, that it is a metaphor for war, etc. But I'm telling you, it is more.

It is about the team. There is no "I" in team. Of course, there is no "we" either. (There is, however, meat, but that's a separate issue.) It's about individuals doing their personal best. Glory is no mere accident, but the result of sacrifice and preparation. Winning doesn't just occur on Sunday. It begins during the blistering summer sun. It continues in sweaty weight rooms and on the field with endless repetitions and conditioning drills. If the game itself can be measured in inches and yards, the preparation can be measured in minutes and hours.

The game is the culmination of those minutes and hours. Sixty minutes of proof that you have paid your dues. Football is played in all weather. Snow or sleet, rain or punishing heat--they play. They play hurt. There is a difference, you, see in hurt and injured. You will get hit. You will be slammed to the turf, bruised, cut, beaten. Shake it off. Get back up. Keep playing.

Football is brutal that way, but it is also poetic and beautiful. Witness the receiver in slow motion, working the sidelines deep. The pass comes in high, a jump ball. This is what those repetitions are for. He knows where the ball will be and his hands close around it just as the corner puts a shoulder into his ribs. Somehow the receiver manages to will his feet down on the correct side of the white line, to drag his toes across the turf, to hold onto the ball as he is driven to the ground. Brutal and elegant, in the very same moment. And the crowd goes wild.

Which brings me back to writing. Did I say this wasn't really about writing? I lied again. It is, because like the football player, the writer isn't created by a single event. Writers start out as readers -- fans -- who cherish the stories and the written word. We learn our craft and hone it one story at a time. The hard part happens off camera, where we sweat over the structure, the perfect word, the recalcitrant character. We write and learn and polish and then hopefully submit our works only to be driven to the ground by rejection. If you are a player, you get back up. Shake it off. Keep playing.

Football is like writing and yet where the two diverge is the team. We don't join a team. We create one. We make our own team of editors, agents and beta readers. We find our own support system through others who understand what it means to be a writer, to be constantly rejected and still keep pursing the craft. Many will fall by the wayside, but the hardy and resilient will find a way to success.

For the first time in my writing career, I am beginning to feel like I have a team. I am not the lone player pushing myself beyond personal limits in a secluded gym. I'm on the field. I have trainers and cheerleaders and coaches. When knocked down, I will get back up and if this is hard, I have teammates there to help me to my feet again. I have the confidence that I will succeed.

I may not have tea, but I have won The Great Tea Debacle.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Getting to Know You

I N C O M I N G : splat.

Oh look, another blog.

Why, yes, thanks for noticing.

Being the first post of a shiny new blog is a lot to live up to and begs the question: Now what? What to blog about? See, I've never been very good about journaling and even less so in public forums. I have a bad case of the doubts. Why would I have anything interesting to say and even if I do happen to think of a scintillating topic, how would anyone notice amid the noise of a thousand hands blogging simultaneously? Yet here I am. I read my friends blogs and I'm trusting them to read mine, or at least to leave friendly comments and pretend that they read every word of breathless prose.

Now what?

How about I tell you a little bit about myself? It will explain a lot and that way, when you're are reading my blog (please come back and read it again) and you're thinking I'm one crayon short of a full box, you can simply refer back to post one and refresh your memory.

Here is the awful truth that not everyone knows about me and I will reveal it to one and all on the great internet. I really am a soccer mom. With a minivan. And a seat on the PTO. And a Labrador Retriever. And a husband and two boys and a full time job as a lawyer. Wait for it, it gets better. I live in a cute, two-story house with green shutters and an honest-to-God white picket fence. Seriously. And that is where my resemblance to the apple-pie-baking, sweater-wearing, competitive mom of your nightmares ends.

Don't get me wrong, because I can bake a mean apple pie, but I'm a redneck soccer mom. I live in a tiny little town that you've never heard of with only 1250 people officially listed in the population. I suspect they count some of the cows.

We like to play farmer and live with a menagerie mostly comprised of rescues and throw away animals that no one wanted. Currently, we share living space with two large horses, a Shetland pony, three pygmy goats, a miniature donkey, three dogs, two cats, a geriatric goldfish, and an attack rabbit.

If you question how anyone can own an attack rabbit, you have clearly never livid in close proximity to a bunny. They are impossibly bossy and vigilant. I have ceded the dining room to the bunny. It is his territory. He allows us in. But he does have to share it with my son's telescope and a giant snake kite that my husband bought at an auction. (Hubby is just waiting for the right day to try it out.) This doesn't leave room for a dining room table, but so what? I'd rather have a bunny and a telescope and a snake kite than a fancy room. Sounds like chaos? It is. I'm that sort of mom and our life in Nameless Tiny Town is odd but satisfying.

So other than lawyering, farming, chauffeuring children and indulging in whatever interests take our fancy, what do I do with all my spare time? Unless you stumbled in here by accident and are diligently searching for a polite way to exit, you already know that I am a writer. That's mostly what I'll blog about. All things writer. What do I write? I write mystery and fantasy in all lengths, from 100 word drabbles (which I suck at) to 100,000 word novels (which I suck less at) and all things in between. I'll post some of my flash fiction and links to stories I've sold to online markets and kittehs.

Oh yes, there will be kittehs.

I'm addicted to LOLCATZ. I've tried twelve step programs, but they don't work for me because I don't really have a problem. I could quit the kittehs anytime I wanted to. I just don't want to.

So that is pretty much it. Now you know all about me. Well, not all about me, but enough that you could bluff your way through a test. Welcome to my thingymablog. Please stop a moment to say howdy. I'll bring cookies. You bring the tea.


This test post will go the way of the Dodo after Mary's REAL first post steps forward. But for now, we need to obsess over color, shape, size and density.

And work on the blog, too :D