Sunday, January 31

My New (Internet) Home

I'm now babbling inanities over at Please visit me over there, and make sure you change your bookmarks and blogrolls accordingly!

Monday, November 23

Telling Moments

Listening to: "Audience Of One", Rise Against

I was talking with a friend a while ago, and we were discussing our favorite classic films and their best moments. Roman Holiday, of course, came up in this conversation. I can't say it's my favorite Audrey Hepburn film--that would be like picking my favorite star in the sky or my favorite sunset--but it's a film that everyone should see.

Especially writers, if only for the opening scenes.

You see, there's a moment of absolute brilliance in the opening scene. While discussing our favorite moments, my friend recalled the Mouth of Truth scene:

Which truly is great. Especially since, according to some sources, Gregory Peck ad-libbed the bit where his hand disappears, so Hepburn's reaction there is real.

The vespa scene is pretty darn good too, as she recalled:

And then there's the haircut scene, which reminds me of every time I've walked into a salon wanting a drastic change. "You sure? You sure?"

And of course, I can't find the scene I want on YouTube. But I'll describe it, for those who've never seen the film:

The Princess is visiting yet another city on a whirlwind goodwill tour. In Rome, as in the other cities, a formal reception is held. The Princess must stand for probably hours as the country's most important people come forward to meet her. A thrill for them, an obligation for her. In a formal gown, hair perfectly coiffed, she has everything a princess should: dignity, regal bearing, an inner calm that shows on the surface.

And her feet are killing her. The camera goes beneath her skirt to show her carefully slipping from her shoes and stretching her toes. This, right here, is the telling moment. Here we delve beneath the character's perfectly designed exterior to see what's going on inside. She's tired, she's feeling incredibly stifled, and the weight of her responsibilities is bearing down. Without a word from the princess, without even a change of expression on her part, we see everything we need to know.

This is a telling moment (don't confuse "telling" in this case with its usage in the popular adage "show, don't tell"--as we are, in fact, being shown quite deftly what's going on in her mind). It's a single action by a character used to tell us his or her state of mind.

And it's the most brilliant telling moment I can think of from film or literature. Perhaps that's why, out of all the wonderful moments in that film, that first scene is my favorite. It's a stroke of genius, and it's funny, to boot--as the princess loses control of the situation when she can't quite get her shoe back on before she's required to sit. So there sits her shoe, just beyond the hem of her gown, and her calm exterior is ever-so-slightly ruffled as she begins to panic. Her handlers do their job and handle the situation, as one of them asks her to dance and gives her the opportunity to quietly slip back into the shoe. But the audience knows, now, where the protagonist stands.

What do you think of this scene as a telling moment? Can you think of any particular moments like this, from film or literature, that so beautifully illustrate a character's starting point? And, most importantly--if you've seen Roman Holiday, what's YOUR favorite scene?

Friday, November 13


Okay, so I know very few of you have read the most recent novel, FLAWED (the novel formerly known as THE PINK BANDANA GIRLS)--especially since it only just went out to my betas and CPs--but I'm gonna post the playlist here anyhow.

Why, you ask? Well, personally, I'm constantly on the lookout for new (to me) music. I rarely listen to the radio, because it just seems to be the same ten songs over and over. Even the Sirius-XM radio stations we get with our satellite dish can get repetitive.

So this playlist has a decently wide variety of music, most of it alternative but from different genres. This is the final, official playlist, whittled down from the fifty-odd songs on the original and arranged to follow the plot.

Here's the Rhapsody version, which is the full list. Supposedly you can get a Rhapsody account and listen to 25 free songs/month--but I can't for the life of me find the link for that.

And here's a version I made on via a playlist site, which is missing a few songs that weren't available. The bulk of it is there, though.

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

Maybe give some songs a listen and see if there's something there you like--because there are few things better than opening your world to new music.

Monday, November 9

Guest Blog by Tim, with Special Guest Star Jeff Goldblum

Sometimes I don't fully appreciate how weird and wonderful my friends are, both online and IRL. They find humor and joy in the strangest of places and encounters, and that's what makes life so incredibly interesting. I was given a reminder of this late Saturday night, as my Twitter buddy/former fellow J-towner Tim sent me a Facebook message:
I just had an epic duel with a fly.

What followed was a story so hilariously harrowing that I had to share it with the world. Tim wrote it up for me in very short order. I must note that we discussed the tiny bit of, um, slightly "coarse language" at the very end of this, the type not normally found on this blog, and after some discussion decided it really completes the story. So I apologize if anyone's sensibilities are offended, but hey, the story's SO worth it.

And so without further ado, I present Goldblum's End by Tim Snyder.


Let me preface this account with a bit of an admission. I'm no “Star Wars Lightsaber Master” or “Lord of the Rings Duel Fanatic,” but I was hella' pumped over what transpired in the mirror area in my apartment's bedroom. In fact, the limits of my “swordsmanship” understanding extend as far as fighting with foam swords for two years (a fine hobby if you get rid of all that roleplaying fluff).

It's about eleven thirty at night on November 7. I'm sitting at my computer, enjoying the Internets' splendor. I suddenly hear the cacophonous hum of an insect's wings nearby. I grab the only swingable thing near me, a huge pad of newsprint paper, and go to the source of the sound. I spot the creature instantly: as I thought, a bug. I kept my distance, as it was unclear just yet if the little guy was a hornet or just a giant fly.

As luck would have it, I stood face to thorax with a giant fly.

It was perched on the mirror until I rose my pad to smash it against its platform. Once airborne, I could tell that my unwieldy art supplies would do nothing to this winged little bugger. I decided on a tactical retreat once I figured that nothing in my room was up to snuff for the task of fly-slaying.

I approached my roommate and his friend, then, who were playing a guitar and a bass.

“Hey, do you guys have like a flyswatter or something? There's this giant fly on the mirror.”

My roommate laughed.

“Oh,” he said after a brief coughing session, “you mean Jeff Goldblum.”

Jeff Goldblum. Har har.

He handed me a newspaper and wished me good tidings in the battle ahead, not in the traditional ways of wishing my safe return and whatnot.

Oh heavens no. He just said, “go kill it.”

My roommate and his friend returned to their music, providing me with a little psych-up. Rolled-up newspaper in hand, I took up position before the mirror, and nudged the door shut. I realized that what I was going to do would look hardcore against an opponent not a fraction of my size, but just ridiculous against something as tiny as a fly.

Feet T'd off like a fencer, knees bent, offhand up to slap the fly, newspaper up and wrist making small circles, I remembered what it was like to hit someone with something, and the whole kids-beating-each-other-with-foam-swords thing came back to me like riding a bike. Or maybe a triceratops.

The battle began. Buzzing wings and whining guitar strings blended together, the percussive snaps of my weapon meeting solid surface throwing snare hits that punctuated every subtle motion with a big, bold exclamation point. Alas, for each hit, a miss was all that waited beneath.

That's not to say I didn't absolutely nail the thing a few times, though. Goldblum took his blows like a champ, and came back for a few more. After three, though, he started feeling the wrath.

“Did you kill it,” my roommate yelled into the room.

“I got it limping!”

I heard him mutter from the living room, “... How does a fly limp?”

“It's an expression,” I yelled after yet another angry slap at the mirror.

Each impact put more and more of that animalistic sheen into my eyes. It took maybe five more swings to bring it down flat on the medicine cabinet's top. I went for the terminal blow, but missed. Instead, the fly, perhaps in a diversionary tactic, spun in circles on its back. I went to the living room and herded in my roommate and his friend to introduce them to my fly little fly.

I hit at it again. This time, however, he didn't dance; instead, Goldblum made for his great escape. My roommate's friend took the newspaper and smashed the grounded fly, hopes likely as trashed as its squirming body was. It bounced off the ground, to the center of the three of us. I gave it the final blow, a vicious curbstomping that would make anyone cringe.

I kept stomping on it, maybe for effect, maybe because I really didn't think that'd kill it. It took my roommate saying, “It's dead dude, it's dead,” to stop and lift my foot to view the corpse beneath me.

“Aw, Tim. Now you got raisin juice on your foot.”

Later that night, my roommate played Taps for the fly. I wasn't present.

Goldblum was a dick, anyways.

Friday, October 30

Grammar, Em Dashes, and a Cameo

As anyone who's glanced at my Twitter feed during the editing phase will know, I have a slight em dash problem. Like my other writing tics (I have a whole list), it's a problem I clear up during revision, and then I complain about it on Twitter.

Elizabeth Ditty, one of the Evil Cabal, just so happens to list improperly-used em dashes as a copyediting pet peeve. And so, to help us poor em dash addicts out, she blogged about the proper and improper use of them. Get thee to the post, post-haste, as not only is it a very helpful bl0g -- but I make a cameo.* I even have dialog! And it's quite appropriate to my character.

What are you waiting for? Get over there!

*Couldn't help myself. Had to use one.

Thursday, October 29

Why I Changed My Mind

Listening to: Kings of Convenience, "Power of Not Knowing"

Note: After I write this, I am fully prepared to go into hiding and save myself from the Evil Cabal of Evil Alter Egos, who are all going to KILL ME.

So, uh...I decided not to do NaNo.

Now wait, before you pile on...this is a decision made with much thought and consideration, and not a little regret. And I have pretty good reasons why it's just not for me, aside from last year's debacle (which actually turned out pretty well in the long run, at least I think, as I'm about to send the novel I messed up for NaNo last year out to CPs and I'm still pretty in love with it).

Let me put this out there: I love writing. I mean, duh. We know this.

And like a lot of writers, I get a lot out of the first-draft-period. That spectacular rush when the characters start becoming people, the euphoria when the story starts telling itself, the supreme satisfaction when everything just comes together. That feeling of being in the story, so deep inside it that it's all you can think of no matter what else you're doing. I love every second, and I revel in it. Sometimes I turn into a hyper little kid, when everything's going so well and the words are really flowing, and I bounce around in my seat and grin like an idiot and maybe dance around a bit.*

Now, let's talk about editing and revisions. I think I heard a few groans out there, seeping past the music playing on my headphones. I mean, at first when I'm revising, I'm kind of excited to fix all the things I know are wrong with the story, and there's the satisfaction of polishing my dirty, rough gem into, one hopes, a flawless diamond that will sparkle and shine and make people cry with its sheer beauty.

Ahem. Anyhow. That high wears off pretty quick, and then it's a long hard slog to the end.

So, as I've stumbled the last steps in the revision marathon these past few days, I've been thinking about all this and NaNo.

And I realized that NaNo compresses the part that I love, the part that turns me into a slightly tired ball of happiness and sunshine, and extends the part that turns me into a crotchety old lady who glares at little children and kicks puppies.** It takes away a month or two of writing and adds a month or two to editing.

As fun as the communal writing and the crazy rush to the end and the flurry of caffeine are, the writing itself is what really fulfills me. So why should I shorten that period (unless I'm on a deadline or something)? I should enjoy it. It goes fast enough as it is.

Now, a few things:

  • In my preparation for NaNo this past week or so, I've done a great deal of brainstorming. Character profiles, worldbuilding, backstory creation, all that fun stuff. Far more than I've done for any previous novel. In the process, my throwaway idea has turned into something that really excites me. Funny how that happens, huh? I also feel very prepared to write it. I'm probably going to stop short of outlining the plot, because my brain just recoils at that idea. Maybe I'll try, who knows. But I've gotten something wonderful out of just this week of preparing for an event I won't even be participating in.
  • I got my baby brother into NaNo's Young Writers Program. He's only ten, and he hasn't written much, so he's set a goal of 50 words/day. So even though I'm not really NaNoing myself, I'll be guiding a young soul through the process. And he's two years younger than when I wrote my first "novel", so I'll be helping one of my siblings beat the family record I set. And, you know, family bonding, sharing the love of writing, passing it on to the next generation, etc.
  • I WILL be writing. I'm still pretty much on schedule to start the new project on Sunday. I'll probably go pretty fast as the rush of a new novel sets in and as all the words piling up in my head this past week finally tumble onto the page. I just won't be setting an arbitrary word count goal.
  • The Husband, when I told him my reason for not NaNoing, said, "That's why I thought you shouldn't do it." I think he really just didn't want to deal with a wife who was pulling her hair out by the roots, screaming about tangled plot threads in the grocery store, or sitting in the corner muttering, "50,000 words, 50,000 words, 50,000 words." But whatever.
There you have it. Those are my reasons. I'll still be here on the sidelines, cheering all you brave folks on, encouraging you to OD on energy drinks, and laughing at the crazy. And everyone needs a cheerleader, right?

So, uh...please don't kill me?

*This may be more related to my innate dorkiness than my love of writing.

**Hyperbole alert. I don't do these things, even at the worst parts of revision. CALM DOWN, PEOPLE.

Monday, October 12

PIE! (and other things)

Listening to: KaiserCartel, "Favorite Song" (This song is so adorable & sweet, I recommend you give it a listen)

Here's the pie from last Thursday's Fall Bakeoff on Twitter. Apple with a crumb topping.

It was pretty good, but I'll do a few things differently next time. Thinking of making another one this week, and I'm going to get to the country market and get good apples. Grocery store produce is never as good as what that place offers. I have some Triple Berry preserves from there, and OMG is it the best thing on toast ever or WHAT.

Also, I don't think the recipe called for enough butter. The crumb topping could've stood to be...crumbier? I don't know. I'll try more butter next time, and we'll see where it goes.

So. In the "other things category...

Those of you who were around last year may remember the hellish time I had with NaNoWriMo. And how I decided afterward that it wasn't for me. I mean, sure, a few good things came from it...mostly blog posts. And I eventually finished my NaNovel, after some major plot restructuring. And I think it's halfway decent. Time will tell if others agree with me, but whatever.

So I mentioned on Twitter the other day that I saw everyone gearing up for NaNo, and now I had to resist the temptation--and then some of my buddies pounced on me, seeing a carcass ready for picking. "You know you want to!" "All the cool kids are doing it!" "Be optimistic!"

Gah! And then we started assigning evil alter egos to the instigators, who then told those of us who were on the fence that we, too, could have evil alter egos if we'd just do NaNo. And then someone assigned Maleficent to me, and she's like the most badass Disney bad guy ever, and Sleeping Beauty was the first Disney movie I ever loved.

I totally lost my first tooth while watching Maleficent be all evil.

Double gah! There was some grumbling about all the Disneyfication of our alter egos, and discussion of perhaps making them all literary characters (and if anyone has any evil literary characters in mind that they think will fit me, leave suggestions in the comments), but I'm sort of already in love with this one.

Okay, so I'm thinking about NaNo. It's just so tempting, what with the communal writing aspect, and using a word count spreadsheet, and getting that much writing done in thirty days, and then thinking about it helped me get some details for an idea that's just been a vague concept in my head for several months. And, you know, having an evil alter ego.

So I've already gotten something out of it.

And I'm going to be project-less in November anyhow, because I plan to give the latest WIP to the betas & CPs (oh hey betas & CPs, this is probably the first you've heard of this, I'll be in contact via email soon to discuss your availability).

Here's my tentative plan, then:

Do NaNo. Give myself permission to write badly, knowing that getting the words down on paper is the goal and editing will fix that. But watch out for plot problems. Because those can become a big tangle that is nearly impossible to fix, or at least harder than bad writing. At the first sign of bad plotting, slow it down or take a few days off to consider new directions. So, in this scenario, I would be doing NaNo very carefully, and with the option to bail if I think it's hurting my idea. It's hard enough to do a good idea justice, so I don't want to risk ruining it altogether.

I've got to admit, I'm excited, and this has urged my brain to really think about the new idea...which led to some serious brainstorming last night when I was trying to fall asleep. That's always a good sign.

So what about you? NaNo, or NOOOOONaNo? Who would your evil alter ego be? And do you like my pie?

Monday, October 5

This & That

Ugh. I've been down with the DeathCold* for about a week. Finally starting to feel like a human being again, as opposed to a massive hulking CoughSniffleSneezeMonster, as of this morning.

I have a million things on my to-do list,** because I've been slacking (read: sleeping and/or sitting on the couch watching Buffy marathons and sipping mass quantities of chamomile tea) for the past several days. Finally got back to the writing on Saturday; it's not really writing, per se, so much as going through the many notes I've left for myself and making sure all loose ends are tied up. These generally fall into two categories:

1.) Random things I wasn't sure about, but was either unable to research due to lack of Internet access or unwilling to research due to wanting to keep writing;

2.) Notes about specific scenes, characters, etc.; reminding myself to take a look at something that I feel falls short, doesn't add up, or that I may have dropped in later scenes.

Examples of #1 that I spent Saturday evening researching: the Dewey Decimal system, colors of granite flooring, the effect of bumpy dirt roads on vehicles. Oh, what an exciting life I lead. I also rocked out to pop-punk and sang so loud I scared the cat away, if that makes you feel any better about my Glamorous Life. In addition, I spent 40 minutes on the phone with my brother, who is currently traipsing about Alaska with AmeriCorps. So, even if my life isn't necessarily exciting, I'm related to people who are doing interesting things. That counts.

Examples of #2: When your protagonist hits her head hard enough to black out, you may want to like, put a bandage on that later or something. This pales in comparison to the moment I realized that she'd sustained a moderately debilitating injury in one scene, and then two scenes later was running around doing all kinds of stuff like she wasn't even hurt.

And when I say "it's not really writing, per se", as I did above, that doesn't necessarily mean that I didn't do a bit of rewriting on my opening. It's not right until I've rewritten it twenty times, yanno.

I would say that I'm done with the notes, except for how I'm NOT. I have this bad habit of leaving notes for myself EVERYWHERE. Comments in the document, a separate document of random notes taken while writing and another of Notes for This Particular Revision, and notes for particular scenes/chapters in yWriter. This seems disorganized, and it kind of is, but trust me: I have a system. It may be a pain in the neck, but it's a system.

So I'm going to finish attending to those notes and the six million other things I have to do, and then what? Well, I'm going to take a breather from the manuscript for at least a few days. This cold threw me off schedule, so I think I might enforce this breather by working on something completely different: a short story set in the Grim Light world. No particular ideas yet, so maybe I'll just take some dialogue and run with it. It looks like Jen is thinking of doing something similar--great minds and all that.

Also, because serendipity is serendipitous, an old friend came along recently and asked for some editing help with an essay she's submitting with her Master's applications. So I'll be working on that, as well, and flexing the ol' editing muscles as well as the academic-paper muscles. I think the latter are located somewhere near the gluteus maximus.

And more fun! I just decided to join Twitter pals and fellow writers Dan Faust (@danfaust), Elizabeth Ditty (@ditty1013), and Mary Wachsmann (@mwachsmann) in a Twitter Fall Bake-off on Thursday. We'll be posting our results on TwitPic with the tag #falldessert, and I'll be sure to post pics here, too. I'm thinking an apple crisp of some kind, but if you have any other suggestions, I'm open.

So what's been keeping you busy these days?

*While talking with my brother, we determined that my cold is the same cold he just got over. It migrates back and forth between your head and your chest, it seems to go away and then BOOM it's back, and your neck hurts for some inexplicable reason. So...I got my cold from Alaska, without ever leaving PA. I AM MAGIC.

**And here I am, blogging. I'm funny like that.

Monday, September 21

Polish Wedding

Listening to: Silversun Pickups, "Panic Switch"

Every region, I suppose, must have different wedding traditions. I've only been to one wedding outside of Pennsylvania (my half-brother's wedding in Florida), so I can't be 100% sure about this, but it seems like a natural side effect of that whole "melting pot" thing.

I never saw the Polish version of the money dance (also known as the dollar dance) until I went to a western PA wedding. Since I moved to this area permanently, I've been to many weddings, and almost all of them have featured this crazy, awesome, exhausting version.

The money dance is traditionally some combination of giving money to the couple,* dancing with the bride or groom, and getting a shot of liquor. At my wedding, we did it just like that--money, a dance, and a shot. It was a great chance to get face-time with our guests, and it raised a few bucks. And then it was over.

My brother-in-law and I get feisty during the money dance.

My mom and one of my best friends do the shot portion of the tradition.

The Polish version includes all this (except dancing with the groom--he has a special mission that will be explained momentarily), but after you've had a quick dance with the bride to this song, you join the previous dancers in forming a circle around the bride. You dance/run as others dance, and the circle gets bigger or other circles are formed around the inner circle. It gets pretty crazy, as you have to disconnect or raise your arms occasionally to let people in, and the circles get nuts or turn into the outline of an amorphous blob because some guy had one too many drinks and keeps pulling the circle this way and that.

So you're running/dancing in a circle for a good while, sometimes shouting "Hey! Hey! Hey!" And then the real fun begins.

Once everyone has danced with the bride and joined the circle, the groom comes along. And his mission is to get past everyone to get to his bride.

Generally, it's considered good form to make this as hard as possible for him. It's also fun.

It's also a tad dangerous, but whatever.

The wedding I attended on Saturday, at which TH was best man, had the best money dance I've ever seen. We were crushing together around the bride, screaming at the groom, telling him to go OVER the crowd, calling for backup in emptier spots. The groom was pushing people, fighting his way past people stacked five deep. He kept circling and diving, looking for a weak spot.

I'm proud to say we probably kept him out for a good 45 seconds.

I'm also proud to say that my wrist was killing me for the remainder of the night.

It's one of the most fun, most unique wedding traditions I'm aware of, and I'm always a little sad that I didn't know about it before my own wedding.

Any interesting wedding traditions where you come from, or that you've seen in other regions?

*Apparently, some people think it's tacky, but I've never had a problem dropping a dollar into a bag for the couple. I mean, come on--it's a dollar. And if you're like a lot of the people at our wedding (and now us), you tie that dollar up into a nice tight knot before you toss it into the bag.

Wednesday, September 16

The Internet & Publishing

It hasn't, in the grand scheme of things, been that long since I started writing my first novel and stumbled over to the Internet, about halfway through, because I suddenly wondered what to do with the thing.

And yet so much has changed since then.

When I started querying that first novel, I needed a boatload of stamps because so few agents took e-mail queries.

For GRIM LIGHT, I still have stamps left over, because I miscalculated and bought too many (also, because my querying was successful, but I'll shut up now). And I definitely noticed, when I was doing my super-OCD spreadsheet of agents, that the number accepting e-mail submissions had increased significantly.

And when I first started looking for publishing blogs, Miss Snark and GalleyCat were about the only games in town. There may have been a few others, but they don't stick out in my memory. But if my (admittedly faulty) memory serves, Kristin Nelson and Jenny Rappaport came around not long after that. And of course, there's always Publisher's Lunch and Publishers Weekly,* which bring news of the more formal kind.

Then something happened. New blogs started popping up here, there, everywhere. It was like a game of whack-a-mole trying to hit them all.

Nowadays, you can't throw a gin & tonic without hitting an agent, editor, or general publishing blog. Keeping up on the news and everyone's opinions on it can be a bit daunting. Of course, you can follow many publishing folk on Twitter, and have a better chance of catching that bit of news you missed, but again...there are so many.

Thankfully, a few of these blogs have taken to posting weekly news and article roundups. I've found these such a timesaver--someone else is out there sifting through the blogs for the important stuff, so I don't have to. Bless 'em.

Every Friday, Nathan Bransford posts "This Week In Publishing", which gathers up newsworthy bits from the publishing world. And QueryTracker has its "Publishing Pulse", also posted on Fridays. This is more of a blog roundup, in addition to a listing of new agents and agency moves.

ETA: From the comments, Robert W. Leonard gives us Pimp My Novel and Market My Words, which also do weekly roundups; R. K. Charron points us toward Jane Friedman's blog, where she also does a weekly summary. Thanks guys!

For how notoriously slow** publishing is, it sure moves pretty fast sometimes. Thank the stars there are people out there keeping an eye on it.

What are your favorite publishing blogs? Do you know of any others that do weekly news roundups?

*I know that this publication doesn't use an apostrophe in its name. But I can't help but put one there. It just looks so wrong otherwise. And don't think I didn't debate about whether it should be a plural or singular possessive. Publishers Weekly gets off the hook because you could potentially look at it as a plural noun.

**I like to say that publishing isn't that slow, it just plans really, really far in advance.

Thursday, September 10

Frog Blogging

Listening to: Paramore, "That's What You Get"

So I've been doing something a little out of the ordinary lately.

Frog-handling and frog-sitting.

I know this photographer from my time down at the cafe where I write, and his latest project revolves around frogs. He shoots them with flowers, vegetables, fruits, and various miniature items.

Of course, since he has to be behind the camera, he needs someone to position the frog and then jump out of the way before the frog himself can jump. When his regular assistant is unavailable, he calls on me and I help out. It's definitely an interesting gig.

He has three red-eyed tree frogs (two adults and one baby), which look something like this:

Seriously, how freaking cute are these things? I mean, COME ON. Look at that little face and those little hands.

And then there's the poison dart frog, who looks like this but CUTER.

Seriously, he's teeny tiny. He also has, at least I think, prettier coloring than the photo above. His blue is deeper and darker. We call him Little Blue. He is, to be honest, my favorite.

And then there's the miracle frog, who escaped eight months ago and was presumed dead. Steve (the photographer, in case you didn't click the above link to his site) was fixing his washer a few weekends ago and, when he went to move the washer, found the little guy under there. He survived for eight months on whatever water and bugs he could scavenge down there. Pretty impressive, I'd say!

He's a fire-bellied toad, by the way, and they look like this:

Not cute in the same way as the tree and poison dart frogs, but cute in his very own way.

He's also the only one I get to watch hunt when I feed them.

That's right, I also feed them on occasion. I did it twice this past weekend, and boy was I nervous. All it really involves is changing their water dishes, giving each frog the correct number of crickets or fruit flies, and moistening their soil. I only had to do it every other day, but I wanted to be there at other times just to make sure everyone was still alive.

That might have something to do with the fact that I already kinda-sorta-maybe-a-little had something to do with the demise of one of the original tree frogs.

Those of you who have followed me for a while may remember a few mentions of the little disorder that I bear, hyperhidrosis. Yeah, I'm sweaty. Quite sweaty. And tree frogs, like most or all frogs*, drink through their skin, and so they can only come in contact with spring water. My sweat would probably kill them, seeing as how it's not really pure and it's probably salty. So I wore rubber gloves whenever I assisted with a photo shoot.** And I did that for several days in a row.

Which had never really been done before, so we didn't know that, as Steve suspects, the latex in the gloves would affect Carlos. His coloring started to go bad, and then one morning--boom. Gone. I felt pretty horrible about this, even though Steve insisted it wasn't my fault and neither of us could've known. And I really liked Carlos. He was a good little frog.


Super-tempted to put "Frog Handler" on my resume. I mean, come on. It at least guarantees a call to ask what the heck that is. Have you ever had any particularly odd jobs or side gigs that just begged for a cryptic title on your resume?

*Look at me, making an assertion and being too lazy to do the research to back it up. Yeah, I'll admit it.

**Embarrassing fact: The first day, I realized I could actually sweat through one pair of rubber gloves. Without an opportunity to blot, it just gathers and gathers and finally seeps through. After that, I doubled up.

Thursday, September 3


Listening to: The Thermals, "Now We Can See"

I picture a couple of yodelers calling that post title out from a mountaintop like in the old Ricola commercials.

Okaaaay...moving on.

Finished the first draft of PINK BANDANA GIRLS last week. Damn, did that feel good. All told, it took me just as many months to write as most of my first drafts (between five and seven)...except those months were spread out over a year and a half, and I worked on GRIM LIGHT, its revisions, and a few other ideas in between.

So now I'm getting ready to revise. Judging by The Husband's* reaction to the first third or so, it starts off a little too slow, so I need to throw some more conflict in there. I have a few good ideas for that.

But what I've really needed was a good synopsis. So I opened up yWriter, which I've had on this laptop and my last and never actually got around to using. I think it's going to be a huge part of my revision process from now on, though. Here's why:

yWriter has a chapter and scene breakdown feature, which essentially requires you to summarize everything. You can make files on characters, locations, and items, and insert them into each scene in which they appear. You can specify the date a scene took place and how long it lasted, as well as whether the scene involves the plot or subplot, is action or reaction. You can rate several different elements--relevance, tension, humor, etc.**

All of this was huge, and as I went along I picked up on several places where I didn't have enough conflict, or where a plot thread disappeared, or where a character acted...well, out of character. You can make notes on specific scenes or the whole project, and then you can make yWriter draw up a report using several options.

It's beautiful, in short.

It allowed me to do something very important for revisions, I think: see my story both as a big picture and on a detail level.

And now I'm ready. I'm pretty excited about it, too. I want to make this story good, dangit!

So, two things to take away from this post:

  1. yWriter: highly recommended
  2. It's revision time!

*He's the only one who gets to read stuff before I revise. That poor soul, he had NO idea what he was getting into when he married me...

**You can also change what elements you rate. For instance, if you're writing a romantic thriller, you might want to rate romance/sexual tension instead of humor.

Thursday, August 27

On Poetry

Okay, so the title right there probably turned some of you off--but wait. Hang in there.

This is gonna be good.

You see, I have this sick love of poetry. Not writing it--I mostly got that out of my system in high school, thank God. Lo, what angst through yonder window breaks? It is the teen years, and Kristy is the emo. But in all truthfulness, I can't possibly write good poetry. It's a strange art, requiring both precision and soul. Meter, internal and external rhyme, assonance and alliteration,* all of that--plus trying to condense an idea or feeling into just a few words--plus the insight required to even find an idea or feeling that merits such expression--just no. I don't have it in me.

I do, however, recommend that writers take at least one poetry class--be it reading or writing poetry--in their career. Even if you can't master all of the above elements, understanding and appreciating them helps your writing so much.

And because I appreciate all of those things, and I'm always looking to get high on words, I love reading poetry. I could while away hours and hours just searching for lines that uplift, illuminate, sting, charm, or destroy. Such is the English major way.

When I find those lines, I save them. I have three separate documents on my laptop, all containing poetry I love and nothing but. And because poetry is a love that's meant to be shared, I'm going to throw some of the best stuff I've found right at you today.

From one of the American masters, Mr. Frost:
Love at the lips was touch
As sweet as I could bear;
And once that seemed too much;
I lived on air

-from "To Earthward"
That last line intimates so many things, and can be interpreted in so many different ways if standing alone. But reading the rest of the poem, you discover that he's talking about the pain that comes with joy. Be it the pain of knowing it's transitory, or the pain of love itself, even when it's good, or the sweet sting of beauty...and Frost prefers (needs, even), after getting his fix of joy/pain, to come back to earth and be grounded.

Derek Walcott thinks being grounded is the only way to survive.
When have I ever not loved
the pain of love? But this has moved

past love to mania. This has the strong
clench of the madman, this is
gripping the ledge of unreason, before
plunging howling into the abyss.

Hold hard then, heart. This way at least you live.

-from "The Fist"
"Hold hard then, heart." I could say that all day and not get tired of it. Of course, then I'd look like the crazy person I am, and we can't have that.

But the question that arises is, to be grounded or live on air? To give in to the fist, or to harden oneself against it? Which is preferable?

Wallace Stevens knows all about questioning one's preferences.
I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.

-from "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird"
I can say with all certainty that lines two and three of that snippet are a vital part of my love for poetry. But within that snippet, within those choices he offers--which do you prefer?

But I guess no matter what we prefer, nothing is permanent. So do as Wordsworth suggests and use what is left...
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind
-from "Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood"
What's that? We're getting too serious? Oh, all right. A quick Dorothy Parker break:
Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
A medley of extemporanea;
And love is a thing that can never go wrong;
And I am Marie of Roumania.
Back to it, then.

But wait, what's this? A poem that celebrates life instead of examining its pain? Oh yes, Gregory Orr--give it to us!
To be alive: not just the carcass
But the spark.
That's crudely put, but…

If we're not supposed to dance,
Why all this music?
-from "To Be Alive"
That's how I feel about poetry, and a number of other things. Be the spark, and dance.

And we'll close with a bit from Charles Baudelaire on the necessity of poetry (and other things):

You have to be always drunk. That's all there is to it—it's the only way. So as not to feel the horrible burden of time that breaks your back and bends you to the earth, you have to be continually drunk.

But on what? Wine, poetry or virtue, as you wish. But be drunk.

And if sometimes, on the steps of a palace or the green grass of a ditch, in the mournful solitude of your room, you wake again, drunkenness already diminishing or gone, ask the wind, the wave, the star, the bird, the clock, everything that is flying, everything that is groaning, everything that is rolling, everything that is singing, everything that is speaking. . .ask what time it is and wind, wave, star, bird, clock will answer you: "It is time to be drunk! So as not to be the martyred slaves of time, be drunk, be continually drunk! On wine, on poetry or on virtue as you wish."

So go ask the wind, the wave, the star, the bird, the clock what time it is. And get drunk on some poetry.

*You see what I did there.

Monday, August 10

When You Can't Stop

Okay, so the tale of the epic road trip will be continued at a later date.

Why, you ask?

Because there's only one freaking story I'm interested in telling, and that's the one I've been writing for months. This thing has pulled me in so deep that it's practically all I can think about. I'm still fulfilling my normal obligations, even having a social life, but no matter where I am or what I'm doing, I'm thinking about this freaking story.

I wrote until 3:30 a.m. this morning, and even then, I didn't want to stop.

I don't know that I've ever been so wrapped up in telling a story, in finishing it, in seeing the end. Maybe it's because I don't actually know how this one's going to end...yeah, probably. Most of the time, I at least know where I want my characters to end up, even if I don't quite know how to get there. This time I have no clue. It keeps shifting as I write, their fates as changeable as the wind.

Okay, enough with the freaking poetics.

It's almost like reading a book that pulls me in so deep I can't see outside of it, and I reallyreallyreally can't wait to see how it ends. Except, of course, I'M WRITING IT. So I have to work much harder than if I were simply reading a book.

It's almost become an obsession. I say almost because, as I mentioned above, I'm still doing other things. I'm just kinda sorry I have to do them. For instance, tomorrow I'm heading north to my hometown, and I will go to the ol' county fair. I'm excited to hang out with a friend up there, and for us to go around being snarky at everything, as has been our wont since we were little.

But I keep thinking, "I won't have a chance to write. I'll have to stop for like, a whole day!"

Even though I know that, at this point, that's probably best. A long drive, some time away to think, to let everything simmer in my subconscious. When I come back, I'll sit down at the keyboard, and it'll just flow out with no urging from me.

Still, I can't help but feel like a petulant child. It's very hard to resist the urge to stamp my foot, cross my arms, and whine, "But I want to wriiiiiite!"

I'm a grown-up, though. So I won't.*

Okay. Off to write now.

*Except for real quiet-like. *Stamp* *Cross arms* But I want to wriiiiiite!
If you don't feel that you are possibly on the edge of humiliating yourself, of losing control of the whole thing, then possibly what you are doing isn't very vital. If you don't feel like you are writing somewhat over your head, why do it? If you don't have some doubt of your authority to tell this story, then you are not trying to tell enough. --John Irving