Saturday, December 10, 2011

Calling Robert Downey Jr....

Actual text conversation between me and my husband just now:
(AKA reason #1,984,743 why my husband cracks me up)

Me: Finished another chapter (of edits to my novel) tonight! Just six more out of 18 left! Whoot!

Him: WhooWhoo!

Me: Should I start contacting Robert Downey Jr. to play a lead role in the movie adaption?

Him: He is banned from being near you.

Me: Lol. He's too old to be any of my main characters anyway. They're all teens and early 20s. Might could play one of the parents or soldiers though ...

Him: He might have an accident before it's finished.

Me: Better look elsewhere for actors then, I guess. I want to see more Sherlock and Iron Man for many more years.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Goodbye, Dragonlady

I just realized I haven't updated this blog since July. That's pretty ridiculous of me. I've been spending all my time working on my novel and have sort of let my writerly social presence slide. Well, I'm sticking my head out of my hobbit hole to comment on a piece of news that has really touched me this week: the death of Anne McCaffrey

For years I've been giving the credit for my desire to become a writer solely to the author of the Harry Potter books, J.K. Rowling. And while it's certainly true that Rowling had an enormous influence on my desire to one day to be a novelist, she hasn't been the only one. I realized this today when I was shocked with the news that science fiction/fantasy writer Anne McCaffrey had passed away.
Long before I was enchanted by the boy wizard, I was inspired by the girl who used her cunning to go from a slave-like servant to the most prestigious rank in her world, saving the lives of countless people along the way.

I don't remember exactly how I stumbled onto the Dragonriders of Pern series. I just know that as a young girl with painfully severe social anxiety who spent a great deal of time ostracized from others, the idea of being matched to an intelligent animal, a friend, who not only knew everything there was about me but also loved me despite that was more than appealing to me.

After devouring all of the series I could find, I somehow stumbled into the world of oneline roleplaying. It consisted of groups of people participating in a sort of round-robin storytelling where we would create our own character, join up with a member or two (or more), and take turns creating adventures for our characters. My characters did exciting things like work to survive cave-ins deep underground, help to stop murder attempts and cooperated with others to work through humanity-threatening issues in this fantasy world.

But my favorite things were the hatchings – when candidates would gather around a clutch of dragon eggs to learn what color dragon their character would bond to. For me (and many others), the gold dragon was our ultimate goal. In many games, getting your character bonded to a gold dragon meant that you suggested the most interesting storylines, interacted well with others, had leadership potential, and most importantly (for me) that you were one of the best writers.

I worked tirelessly to try to come up with the most compelling characters and fun storylines to follow with fellow members. Time after time I would get so close to being awarded that gold dragon -- particularly painful were the couple of times that it was down to just me and one another character and I had to watch as the other person got what I so desperately wanted -- validation that my writing skills were the best.

Only later did I discover that through my competitiveness, I had been learning: learning to plot, learning to make characters have believable personalities, and learning how to bring excitement to a story so everyone wasn't just standing around talking about the weather. I was also learning even more vital skills of how to work with others, how to be organized, how to solve disputes peacefully and how to be a leader (when in “real life,” the thought of leading anyone completely terrified me.)

After many years and many different roleplaying groups, I finally got that precious gold dragon. I think I actually cried from happiness, and couldn't really explain to family and friends why I was so happy about a bunch of words on a website. It's still hard to put into words now.

Anne McCaffrey and her world of Pern did so much more than just entertain me with a good story. She helped shape me into the writer and person I am today.

As I work on writing my own novels, my biggest wish is that my stories will not only inspire readers to enjoy their own adventures in the worlds I've created, but that they'll be able to learn things about themselves in the process.

Thank you, Anne McCaffrey, for the magic you brought to my life and the lives of many others. The dragons are keening at your passing, but your legacy is alive in what you have left behind. You will never be forgotten.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Caffeinated Muse

I think my Muse must have been on a caffeine high yesterday because, my goodness, did I get things done!

I got some writing done on a pad of paper while on my lunch break and then when I got home that evening I pounded out the majority of a new scene that I was really excited to write. Then I started slowing down because I realized I was going to have to know more details about each of the individual Greek Titans to do this scene justice.

So I spent the rest of the night using Wikipedia to search any basic attributes mentioned about the Titans (that I will now have to double check with more reliable sources, of course), plus the names of the children of all the Titans and anyone else who was involved in the big war with the Titans and Olympians.

I also decided I needed to make myself a list of the Olympians and their genealogy because I keep forgetting who is related to who (Greek mythology is pretty much a big pit of inbreeding, but I'd like to keep track who is inbreeding with who, you know?)

I also decided I needed to make a list of who was on what side during the war between the Titans and Olympians. (It's not as simple as you'd think. There were some Titans and "monsters" on the Olympians' side, apparently.)

I discovered I really, really like lists.

I was up until 1 a.m. doing all this.

I think I might need someone to stage an intervention. (Nooo, don't take my lists!)

Good news is I got more concrete ideas for how I want the over-arching plot for this trilogy to go. I'm itching to sit down and get all the major things hammered out so I can better hint at things in this first book that will be important in the second and third.

I'm getting the feeling I may be up till 1 a.m. again tonight ....

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Getting There!

So sorry for my long absence. I am a bad, bad blogger.

I suppose I've just been so concentrated on finishing my novel that I've let other things fall by the wayside. Like laundry vacuuming thinking of blog posts.

I'll try to do better!

Good news is I just finished editing my Chapter 5 and am moving on to Chapter 6 starting tonight. This may not seem like a very big deal to some. But I started this novel last November and have a full draft and have finished all major edits on five chapters (I'm sure there will be minor things I'll need to go back and tweak once I get all the way through). In contrast, my first attempt at a novel I spent something like seven years just rewriting the first three chapters. So I feel I'm doing splendidly.

Though I still wish I could finish it faster, of course.

Anywho, I'm excited to dive into Chapter 6 tonight and hope to finish it in the next week and a half (I'm going to have to completely rip this chapter apart and redo most of it from scratch thanks to a much more interesting plot point I added to the previous chapter). I'm determined to have this thing done aside from minor edits by the end of October.

Watch out, publication. I'm coming for you!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Video Book Review!

Presenting my first ever video book review!

This was definitely a learning process. (You would not believe how many re-shootings it took to get this right.) You can tell I feel silly in the beginning, but by the end I relax a little and start to enjoy it more.

My goal for my next video is to try to keep it shorter -- I'm not sure audiences will play attention for 12 minutes of a book review, even if the last few minutes are clips of me making a goof of myself in the bloopers. (Make sure you stay for those, by the way. lol.)

Anyway, hope you enjoy. Don't laugh at me too hard! ;) I do hope to get better at this with more practice.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Still not dead!

My health is back under control and I have been working on something fun I plan to debut next week that I hope will be a regular feature, if all goes well. So, keep an eye out!

In other news, the awesome Shalena from Writer Quirk has bestowed upon me the The Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award!

Thanks, Shalena!

And I'm apparently required to share 7 things about me, so let's see..

1. I am addicted to the Sims games. If I start playing, I find it hard to stop. Which is why I try not to play. Last night I wasted several hours playing. I procrastinated on working on my novel by having my Sims write novels. It was embarrassing and yet so much fun. (Also, they can finish novels in the span of a few days, which is completely not fair.)

2. I have a big sweet tooth. Have you seen the commercial for the new mint chocolate chip Klondike bars? Oh my goodness. Those things are amazing. I told my husband he's not allowed to bring any more into the apartment because I can not stop eating them, and I just lost 5 lbs, thank you very much. I do not want them back.

3. When I'm home alone and doing something like laundry or just general cleaning on the weekend, I like singing loudly along with my iPod. But I only feel comfortable doing so when my upstairs neighbor is gone to work, so I'm sure she can't hear me trying to belt out notes that I really can't hit very well. I always check for her car before I start singing, and periodically make checks to be sure she hasn't come home while I've got my headphones in.

4. Speaking of music, I have the most random playlist ever on my iPod. I've got songs from movie soundtracks, pop, country, Christian, stuff from other countries (Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Spanish, Greek), Disney, musicals, even a few rap songs from a local musical artist. Pretty much everything I listen to is happy, bouncy stuff though.

5. I live in Tennessee now, but I lived most of the first 18 years of my life in Florida (I did live in Ohio for a bit while I was a baby, but I don't remember it.). The hardest part was adjusting to the seasons. Before moving here, I'd only seen snow maybe two or three times in my entire life. I've been here about 10 years now and enjoy looking at the snow, but I absolutely hate driving in it.

6. Like a lot of people, I first decided I wanted to try my hand at writing novels after getting into the Harry Potter series. My first attempt at a novel is still on my computer. I've put it away after years and years of working on it, resigning myself to the fact that the complicated storyline and entirely new world that I wanted to create was above my skill level at the time. I do hope to dust it off someday in the future and do the story justice -- I still am in love with the characters. Right now I'm concentrating on another novel that's more within my skill level.

7. I am terrified of stinging insects like bees and wasps. I blame it on my grandparents who owned beehives when I was a kid and who always seemed to be raiding them for honey when we visited. Therefore the bees were always angry whenever we were there. Miraculously, I've only been stung once, and that was because I was running around barefoot in their backyard (really, I should have known better).

Saturday, June 4, 2011

I'm not dead!

Sorry for my week of silence. I promise it has not been because of laziness this time. It's not even been because of exhaustion from work.

I've been suffering with horrific allergies for quite some time and just recently went to the doctor to break out the heavy duty meds. Well, the good news is my sinuses are ridiculously clear now. I can breathe like a normal person. Bad news is I've been getting a "thrilling" sampling of pretty much every side effect listed on the bottle. A new one each day! Exciting!

I've stopped taking the pills now, so hopefully the side effects will wear off soon (while leaving my sinuses in good condition). I don't have any thrilling posts written up yet, as I've been either at work or in bed for the last week, but I'm hoping to build up a buffer of posts over the weekend. (As my current Symptom of the Day is pretty intense joint pain, we'll see how much I actually get accomplished.)

I do have fun, exciting things planned for the near future, however. So hopefully I can get myself to feeling better soon so I can implement this fun stuff.

Until then, let me leave you with this random thought ... I hate cicadas with every fiber of my being. I was sitting outside last weekend when one flew up and landed on the wall beside me. It let out a scream like a velociraptor before flying away. No bug should ever be able to make a sound like that. This week I also had one fly at my head and try to chew my face off. They are terrifying. I don't typically wish death on anyone/anything, but I wholeheartedly wish for the mass death of this plague of cicadas as soon as possible.

Friday, May 27, 2011

I seem to have missed this week completely...

Sorry for the silence this week. I've been battling sinus issues and some late-night assignments for work, so I've either been too exhausted or felt too crappy to put together posts this week.

I need to get myself organized and pre-write posts. That's my plan for the weekend, anyway.

Anywho, there is a bit of good news: my plants, while not particularly pretty from the cat-smooshing they endured, do actually seem like they will be all right.

Now I'm just hoping I'll be able to tell which is the basil and which is the catnip...

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Miscellaneous Day!

My sister has been driving me crazy to post this video of my cat on YouTube for about a month now. She says it'll make me a YouTube star.

I'm not so sure about that, but the video is pretty funny so I thought I might as well share. I was home alone cleaning my apartment with my cat zipping around like crazy. So I started playing with him and he got even more hyper.

This is the result. (Make sure you have your sound on.)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Writing Progress

Wannabe Writers is a meme started by Sarah of the blog Confessions of the Un-Published!. I am using her wonderful idea to help track my progress as I wrestle with my novel manuscript.

Where I am in the writing process: I've got a rough draft of an about 62,000-word novel aimed at teenagers. It's a retelling of the Perseus myth for teen readers. (You'd think this had been done before, but I wasn't able to find anything in my research aside from the Percy Jackson novels which are modern-day world mixed with Greek mythology.)

I'm also trying to be as historically and culturally accurate as possible (or at least as historically/culturally accurate as one can be when also having Greek gods/goddesses/creatures involved.)

I'm into heavy rewriting/editing now and have about four chapters more or less done. Starting on the fifth now.

My characters will wear more clothes than this.
And my sea monster will not look like a wet dog.

My current problem(s): Had a mini panic attack last night when I realized all my characters are finally arriving in Greece now and I have to now nail down the general time period this takes place in, what's going on there that would probably affect the story (like wars between Sparta and Athens) and how long it would take my characters to walk from Point A to Point B.

I got so overwhelmed that I just closed my laptop. But, having had last night and today to mull things over, I think I'm over the panic stage and ready to calmly start researching the information I need and then start moving forward from there.

Sarah's Question: Thoughts on e-publishing books?
My answer: Although the e-publishing does appeal to my control freak nature, I think I'm still leaning more towards traditional publishing if I can get it. If I really think about it, I'd rather have professionals editing my stuff, creating my cover and getting it in the major bookstores, even if it takes longer. Plus I don't have to shell out loads of money up front.

My Question: Do you get more done when you try to write a little every day or set aside a whole day (or significant part of the day) to write? Or is it about the same?

I'm finding I seem to be more liable to get sidetracked during the week when I'm trying to squeeze in an hour or so before bed. I've been making more progress on Saturdays when I can just more or less tie myself to my chair and make myself write all day.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Completing the Scene

I'm what I call an under-writer, not an over-writer.

After I've written my first draft of a novel and then go back to do edits, I often find myself adding more instead of cutting excess out. I tend to neglect describing much of my characters' surroundings and instead focus intently on their dialogue and the emotions/personalities that are in conflict at that point.

I've found I even do this when I read other people's work. I skim over any long bits of description until I can get back to what the characters are saying or doing.

Usually I can just go back during editing and fill in the "blank spots" in my stories, but sometimes I just get stuck. Recently I hit a part in one of my chapters where a couple of characters were arguing, but somewhere along the way I'd forgotten to add in any description and so the chapter dissolved into nothing but their dialogue. When I tried to go back and edit, I just stared at the screen. I couldn't think of any way to fill out the scene.

Luckily I've devised a solution that works for me every time. I take out a piece of paper (though I'm sure this could be done on the computer, too), and start making lists. Like "What does their surroundings look like?", "Any smells here?" "What kind of sounds would they hear?" And then I go on to questions like: "What is Character 1 feeling/thinking at this point?" "What does he/she WANT people to think he/she is feeling?" "What about Character 2?"

From this, I get a list of physical surroundings that I can start to weave into the narrative. But even better, I get a clearer idea of what's going on in a character's head. So, for example, if I found that a character was nervous about something but didn't want the other person to know, I could weave in details like "She tapped her fingers on her leg" or "She fiddled with her necklace again, but dropped it when she realized the motion was drawing too much attention to herself."

It seems like a simple thing, but it really helps me nail things down instead of trying to keep up with everything I need to remember in a scene.

Do you have the same problem with under-writing? Or do you normally over-write and have to cut? Or are you awesome and do it just right? (Tell me your secret!) Any similar tricks for working it all out?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Miscellaneous Frida- er... Sunday.

Sorry for the belated post. I blame my procrastination Blogger's downtime.

Well, I was pretty excited to be showing off the start of my new herb garden that I was so thrilled about last week.

It looked like this this morning:

Close up!

However, moments after taking these photos, I set the container down on a table and thought "Hmm. I'm hungry. I need lunch!" And as I was making myself a tasty grilled cheese sandwich, I heard a crash in the other room. I hurried in to see my new plants spatted on the floor, dirt everywhere, and my cat giving me a look like, "Dude, somebody totally knocked over your stuff and made a mess. I tried to stop him, but it was just too late."

I nearly cried.

I scooped up my tiny seedlings and tried to put them back as gently as possible, but I fear it is a lost cause for most of them. I do still have extra seeds, but I was so excited to finally be seeing some green, that this was just really disappointing.

I guess I'll give them a few days to see if they're going to bounce back. Somehow the catnip is the only thing that looks relatively unharmed. You'd almost think the cat planed it that way..

Got rid of the basil. Now she has more room for catnip!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Spoken Word

Sorry for a belated post this week. I spent Monday being lazy and uninspired and then Tuesday I left immediately after work to see Young Frakenstein the Musical, which was totally awesome and which also made me get back home at about 12:30 a.m. So I was a little too tired to be sure I was posting something coherent.

So! Onto my mostly coherent post!

I've discovered that I really enjoy hearing novels read aloud.

Not too long ago I listened to/watched Neil Gaiman read his book "The Graveyard Book" aloud at a series of taped book readings. (Which you can listen to here, if interested.) It was fabulous to hear his characters speak exactly how he imagined them (plus everything sounds better when read with an English accent, right?).

Then last year on the way home from a 11 hour or so drive from visiting out-of-state relatives, I got bored and started reading, A Game of Thrones aloud to my husband. I'd already read the book, so it was fun to hear my husband laugh or look surprised at the appropriate parts. After I lost my self-consciousness, I really got into it, trying to do different voices for the characters and speaking with their emotions. I got through about seven chapters in between breaks to rest my voice. I was almost disappointed when we reached home and I had to close the book

These past few months my friend and fellow YA author Shalena of Writer Quirk had been mentioning how she listened to books on her iPod frequently, and I decided to give it a try. I checked out "Jane Eyre" from my library's online selection and have been listening the last week and a half during every spare second. I've listened to it while running at the park, while cleaning my apartment, even for a little while after climbing into bed.

Hearing the words read aloud really seems to reveal the flow of a story and bring into focus the personality of the characters. I've found reading my own novel-in-progress aloud to be incredibly helpful in highlighting what's not quite working. I've found it also brings attention to words I use too often or other mistakes I'd never noticed before.

I still laugh over one particular error I found in my first attempt at a novel that has since been put in a drawer to wait until I think I can do it better justice. I must have read this certain passage a thousand times, but it wasn't until I'd read it aloud that I suddenly noticed I had a character drinking from a gauntlet instead of a goblet. I laughed until I cried at the mental picture of a knight drinking from a glove instead of a glass, and vowed I'd read everything of mine aloud at least once from then on so I would be sure to catch similar blunders.

I love the written word (I read almost anything set in front of me — pamphlets, business cards, ketchup packets...) but I'm starting to really appreciate the spoken word as well. I even read a few chapters from the sequel to A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, to my husband on the way to the theatre yesterday.

Maybe someday I'll get to read my own work to an audience. I'd probably be self-conscious at first, but I'm sure I'd get over it as I went on. I'd might even do the funny voices and everything.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Miscellaneous Friday!

Fridays are going to be my random day, when I post things that don't necessarily deal with writing. After all, authors do have something fun going on in their lives that doesn't deal with writing. Sometimes.

I took a day off this past Monday to take a break from the hectic pace of work and just have a day to do necessary yet often neglected tasks at my apartment like cleaning, doing laundry and buying food. ("No, I'm not making dinner tonight, dear. I'm too busy working on my novel. There's some slices of cheese in the fridge. Help yourself.")

Anyway, I went out to do some early morning shopping and had to pick this up.

There's basil, catnip and mint. Kind of a weird combination, but I'm still excited. I've never really tried growing things before. I mean, when I was a kid, I watched my mom grow amazing flowers like it was the easiest thing in the world, but aside from a a bamboo I recently killed on accident (hey, I'd had the thing for like a year and a half), I've never really tried growing anything.

So, I'm looking forward to seeing if I can grow these. So far they've been in the dirt for five days and I don't see as much as a hint of a sprout. I think my seeds may be defective.

Or maybe I'm just too impatient.
Or the world's worst gardener.
Or both.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Jumping in!

I had another blog before this, which I kept up for maybe three weeks before it piddled out into nothing. I got overwhelmed with trying to make it the Most Awesome and Incredible Thing Ever, that I psyched myself out.

I got discouraged because I couldn't think of anything to post that hadn't been done before (and probably done better). So, I quit and resigned myself to just reading other people's blogs.

But I keep getting this urge to want to join in the author blogging community. It looks fun here, and I want to play too!

I realized that I'm going to have to tackle this blog like I have to tackle my writing. Just start playing with words -- and though a lot of boring things will come out, sooner or later I'll find my groove and fun things will follow.

So, my blog may be a little scattered for a while as I figure out just what I'm doing here in the blogosphere, but at least I'm playing in the pool now and not sitting on the sidelines watching everybody else have fun without me!
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