Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween All!

Since it's a Saturday and I want to keep it light -- and also because I'm a complete nerd -- how about some Halloween trivia!

1) Halloween is often called Hallowe'en, because it is All Hallow's Eve. And is that a great name for a holiday? I think I'm going to use the apostrophed spelling from now on, just because I like the way it looks.

2) Hallowe'en marks the Celtic holiday Samhain, which marked summers end and the beginning of the darker time of the year. It was said that on this night, the boundaries between this world and the next were at their thinnest. Hence, the ghoulies and ghosties.

3) Because the dead and demonic could roam the Earth on Hallowe'en, the Celts wore costumes to prevent being recognized as humans. Their protective measures have given rise to our costumes. Though I doubt dressing as a pixie could save you from a ghost.

4) To honor the dead on Samhain, people set a place for the dead at the table and told stories of their ancestors. Nowadays, we tell ghost stories of debatable spookiness.

5)The name jack-o'-lantern comes from the Irish legend of Stingy Jack, a greedy, gambling, heavy drinking farmer who tricked the devil into climbing a tree and trapped him in it by carving a cross into the trunk. In revenge, the devil cursed on Jack and condemned him to forever walk the earth at night with only the light he had with him that day: a candle inside a hollowed out turnip. (In America, we use pumpkins, because they are easier to get here than turnips.)

6) In Ireland, these days, it is more common to give trick or treating children money than candy.

7) The story your parents told you about razors in your candy is not actually true. It's just a very pervasive urban myth. Sources vary on whether there have been no cases of such attacks on children or if these attacks are just so rare as to be statistical nos, but it turns out you can, in fact, trust your neighbors. (That doesn't mean you should take candy from strangers, though, kids.)

8) Hallowe'en is also known as All Saint's Eve, because it is the day prior to All Saint's Day, which honors those who have achieved Beatific Vision in heaven. All Saint's Day is also called Hallowmas, which ties to Hallowe'en. (I think, in all days to come, I shall be calling the holiday Hallowmas, because I think that sounds cool.)

9) Hallowe'en is one of the eight Sabbats in the Wiccan Wheel of the Year. It's one of the holiest days on the calendar.

10) Hallowe'en is an excellent day for divination. A lot of traditions involve predicting one's spouse. For example, if you sit in a darkened room and stare a mirror, supposedly, the face of your future spouse will appear before you. If you're fated to die before you wed, a skull will appear. Should you be short a mirror, or if you're hungry, have an apple. Peel it and throw the peel over your shoulder. Supposedly, the peel will form the first initial of your fated one.

11) If you see a spider on Hallowe'en, it is the soul of departed loved one watching over you. Now aren't you sorry you stepped on them?

12) If you want to meet a witch, you should walk backwards at midnight while wearing your clothes inside out. If you don't want to run afoul of a ghost, you should sprinkle salt or oatmeal on your head.

13) Samhainophobia is an intense, irrational fear of Hallowe'en. I am very sorry for these people, because they miss so much.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Quotable Quotes

Once upon a time, in my high school Lit class, whenever we had to write an essay in class (known as Blue Books, because of the ominous baby blue booklets we had to write them in), we were expected to quote the test five times, minimum. And we weren't allowed to have the book with us. What that basically meant was that the day of the Blue Book, there'd be a bunch of us nerds walking around with flashcards that said things like, "Penelope and Women" or whatever. Basically, "[Insert Character Name] and [Insert Name of Theme That We Might Have to Write About]."

Some of the quotes were boring as all heck, which made them a pain to remember for the exam and no one remembered them afterward. Some were a strange experience to learn, so we remembered them easier. ("Holding all I used to be sorry about like the new moon holding water," -- Quentin, The Sound and The Fury. Apparently an old superstition held that the new moon could tell you if it would be a wet month or not.) And some were just so much fun you couldn't help remembering them. (Grendel's mother in Beowulf is known as "swamp thing from hell." Now tell me you wouldn't laugh aloud at that. And I can personally guarantee that at least 80% of my class used the quote "Once a bitch, always a bitch," in their essay on The Sound and the Fury.)

To what does this tend, you might ask? Well, while I'm not sure if I'd ever want my books to be the subject of a literature class (that would basically mean that 85% of the kids resented me and were cursing my name), I would love to be an author whose words worked their way into the readers mind with no intention of ever leaving again.

So, what makes a line memorable?

I'm sure figurative tricks can help a great deal. While I don't remember a great deal from that class that was heavy on alliteration, the rhyme of a poem does make it easier to remember. Also, repetition. I never did count the number of times that Athena is called "silver-eyed Athena" in The Odyssey, but believe me, three months later, we still knew what color her eyes were.

Humor is much harder to forget than anything else. My friends and I used to quote Hamlet in the hallway. (Gertrude: "Hamlet, thou hast thy father much offended. " Hamlet: "Mother, you have my father much offended." Yes, even Shakespeare believed in bitch-slapping people.) Yeah, we were geeks, but when you've been reading Shakespeare for a few hours and you're already a bored high school student, anything funny goes a long way. Basically, people reading books are often tired or bored or stressed, so humor is always much appreciated.

Don't be afraid to tug on heart strings either. If a line is exceptionally moving, the reader will remember that. One of my favorite lines in Ender's Game (Come now, you didn't seriously think I could go a whole post on books and not mention it, did you?) is Alai talking to Ender when they're about to be separated: "Always my friend, always the best of my friends." Even now, I do a little 'aaww' when I read it. And there are other lines that are the same way. Your reader, hopefully, is going to remember the emotional scenes you right. They can also remember the emotional lines that went in them.

The thing that always made lines memorable for me was that they were contrary to what I expected. I don't think anyone who opens The Sound and the Fury to Jason's section expected the words, "Once a bitch, always a bitch," as the opener. (And watching kids try to do a presentation on that section without using the word was one of the funniest things I've ever seen.) And while I still remember Agamemnon saying, "The fame of her [Penelope's] great virtue will never die," -- because you could use it anywhere -- I don't think any of us are going to forget Helen's words, "Shameless whore that I was." Somehow, you just don't expect that in school assigned reading.

The best way, it seems to me, to grab your reader's attention on a line is to controvert what they expected, to amuse them with it, or to hit an emotional note with it. Anything that makes your reader laugh aloud or perks them up after they've been lying on their bed for fifteen minutes or illicts an emotional reaction will stick in their head much longer.

What are some lines from books you don't think you'll ever forget?

Thursday, October 29, 2009


A while ago, I took this crazy notion into my head to do NaNoWriMo. And that's what it was, a crazy notion.

Who was I kidding? I cannot write 50k in a month. I did it back in August, but that was when I had nothing else going on. I'm busy in Novembers. And I'm still typing The Thief Book, which will take me into November. Then, second week of November, I'm in Hell Week for Romeo and Juliet, which I love, though it will probably murder me.

And there is no way in hellogoodbye that I could write 50k in a fortnight. If you can, power to you. You are a god among men. I am no such being.

So, it's official. I'm out. I am not doing NaNoWriMo. I'm going to focus on finishing the typed version of The Thief Book, and then I'll probably jump right into edits on that. So, if I can finish draft 3 of that by the end of November, I'll be as satisfied as if I'd written 50k.

How about you guys? Anyone doing NaNoWriMo?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Food for Thought

Last night, as I was eating dinner, I started chewing over an idea in my head. Part of me wants to start clickety-clakety-ing out this new project before I've even gotten the last one day. It's the masochist in me.

But, the side of my that likes to pretend it's rational urged me to at least make sure I know what's supposed to be coming in the story before it comes. And that's when it hit me: I don't know how it ends.

Well, no, I know already the basis of the story, and I know I want a HEA-esque ending. And there's a way that happens for this story. But I realized I didn't know the key event that takes you from the beginning part of the story to the end part of it. I knew what the hinge ought to be, but I didn't know what it was.

I ended up thinking about it for an hour and still not quite working it out. I've got some ideas that might come into a point. However, I don't think I've had the idea yet. So, more thinking over dinner for me, I guess.

Have you realized all of a sudden that your ideas aren't all where you thought they were? What'd you do about it?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Favorite Symbol

Many years ago, whilst channel surfing, I saw the middle third of a movie entitled Painful Secrets, also known as Secret Cutting. Unfortunately, I didn't know the title, and so it took until, well, today, to find a copy of it anywhere. But what I really remember about the movie is something I learned while trying to find the title (harder than it sounds when the movie has three titles).

What I really remember is that while searching about the movie on the Internet, I found a site that had some analysis of the movie. One thing it noted was a scene in which the main character shatters her hand mirror because she doesn't have any razors to cut with. There's a short shot of her imagine reflected in the broken mirror. It was meant to symbolize the brokenness of her life and mind.

Since I read that, this has become one of my symbols. I find the image so provocative. I love the way the image looks split up, often with parts appearing more than once, everything distorted, sense-making and nonsensical all at the same time. And, quite frankly, I love the kinds of characters you can apply that symbol to. Some of the most interesting characters are shattered and broken, often in more ways than one.

I've seen it in other places than Secret Cutting. Another good movie with it would be Sweeny Todd. In the song "Epiphany," there's a shot with Johnny Depp looking in a broken mirror ( about 1:07 seconds into the song). If there's any character with a fractured mental state, it's Benjamin Barker/ Sweeny Todd.

Do you have a symbol that you particularly love?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Proof Positive?

I know I said there wouldn't really be more jokes, but I hear this one, and it tickled me, so I'm throwing it up here.

A linguistics professor was lecturing to his English class one day. "In English," he said, "a double negative forms a positive. In some languages, though, such as Russian, a double negative is still a negative. However, there is no language wherein a double positive can form a negative."

A voice from the back of the room piped up, "Yeah, right."

Yet Another Saturday

It was my hope that on Saturdays I would be able to post a regular line of writer-related to jokes. After all, we writers all seem to express a certain degree of stress, and I think we could all do with a good laugh.

However, the internet seems to disagree with me, and it refused to provide me with further author jokes. Why is it that people seem to have decided that writers just aren't a funny topic of conversation? I think we're awesome.

If anyone knows a good (or bad) joke about authors, please post it in the comment section. We could all use a smile.

On an unrelated note, The Thief Book is coming along. Once I've done my Saturday typing, I shall have cracked 50k in typed words. Back at the start of the month, I had thought that would put me near the end of the book, except I was very wrong about how long this book is. If everything goes the way I hope, I should be close to the end of the book by the end of the month. I should finish this in a fortnight.

I'm learning a lot with this second draft. Which is good, even if it does just mean that I know there is going to be a third and fourth after it. Okay, so there being more drafts was basically as certain as the sun rising, but I know now I'm devoting whole drafts to solving certain problems. So this is far from finished.

How was everyone else's week?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Impossible Things Are Really Freaking Hard

Unlike most people I've heard mention such things, I do not use statcounter. However, I use blogpatrol, which is basically the same thing, so I'm no better, even in the addiction department. I choose to control the urge to check by limiting myself to just checking on Saturdays.

Now, I don't know if statcounter does something similar, but blogpatrol has a very cruel feature that informs you, not only how many people have checked your blog that day, but also how many people it expects will check it that day. As far as I'm concerned, that's just pain-inducing. "Dear you, yes, only five hits today. Don't worry, we don't expect more." And somehow, it manages to be mute and use a stereotypical witchy cheerleader voice at the same time.

And mine likes to be completely unreasonable. At the very beginning of a Saturday, it's initial estimate for the day is often 48 hits. I can tell you right from the get go, not gonna happen. But it likes to say that anyway, just to taunt me. (Yes, I take it personally.) I'm all for reaching for the stars, but even I know when something is a pipe dream.

Why do I mention this? Because, after all my yammering about goal setting, it seemed important to mention setting reasonable goals.

Before we go any further, I wanted to say that I do believe in doing impossible things sometimes, and that, yes, I am listening to the Rogers and Hammerstein song write now. But that's not the point. Because while I do believe that sometimes the impossible can be achieved, achieving it is really, really hard.

So while I would never tell someone to give up on their dream -- I want to be a published writer. I officially have no right to call someone's dream crazy -- I would advise people not to bite off more than they can chew.

I am the queen of biting off more than I can chew. I am currently burning the midnight oil trying to keep up with my 2000 words a day goal. It's not easy, but I'm trying to stick to it. But I'm always wondering about my goals and trying to make sure that I'm not setting myself up for certain failure.

Because, yes, if you try to take on too much at once (i.e.: learning to fly by this time tomorrow) you're doomed. That's why you've got to break things down, take them one step at a time.

Impossible things can be achieved, but it takes hard work, dedication, and a willingness to tackle the possible first, with the hope that the impossible can follow shortly after.

How do you feel about attempting the impossible? Do you tend to bite off more than you can chew?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


I admit it. Last night, I bowed to the recommendations of people who watch enough TV to know what they're talking about, and I watched Glee.

I have found my new TV addiction. (Odd, since I actually don't live with a TV and watch anything I decide to find time for on my computer.) Still, I'm very happy.

Though sometimes the writing and plot are not as original or possible as I'd have hoped, the characters drew me right in -- actually I'm already in love with Kurt. (Everyone who knows me is probably thinking, 'no surprises there.') -- and I like rooting for an underdog.

Glee :D

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Most Important Thing

Have you ever seen the movie Secret Window with Johnny Depp? I admit, I'm a huge fan of Mr. Depp, and I think he'd very good in this. And, he gets one of my favorite lines in the movie. (No, slash that, I think he has all of my favorite lines of the movie.)

See, Johnny Depp plays Mort Rainey, an author. I'm going to skip over all the parts related to plot so as not to spoil anything, but at one point Mort explains his views on endings: "You know, the only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story, the ending. And this one... is very good. This one's perfect." (If you want to hear Mr. Depp deliver the lines -- and I think everyone should, click here to watch the last scene. If you wish to avoid references to things that occur in the movie, watch only that which occurs in the time slow 1:25 - 1:45.)

I concur with Mr. Mort Rainey. The end, in my mind, is the most important part.

Now, I'm not going to claim that beginnings are not important. (That would be silly. That's when you establish everything and hook your reader.) And I am not about to claim that middles are allowed to be rubbish or that no one cares about them. (That would foolish. Middles are were everyone spends most of their time. They are arguably the largest portion of the book. They have to be good. If they weren't worth reading, then no one would get to the ending.) But I do think that what you really need is, what you absolutely cannot get by without is a very good ending.

Do you know why?

Because in the beginning, they can put the book down. They don't have to get started at all, if they don't want to. And while that might be unfortunate for you, as a writer, everyone is entitled to their opinion, and not everyone was going to like you anyway.

In the middle, they can not like you. They can put the book down, take breaks, or simply give it up. None of those things are particularly good for you, the author, but they are not the worst things. After all, even if the middle, one is not necessarily committed. Promises have not always been made.

But the ending. If they've made the ending, they deserve to having something good. You owe it to the reader. You promised them that you weren't going to blow it. And if you do, they'll upset, and deservedly so.

See, I view reading as a partnership. The writer, by presenting this book to you, has made assurances of its worth and general goodness. The reader, by reading, has made assurances of interest and openness to the events of the story. If you give them a bad ending, you're not holding up your end. You gave them a good most of the story (good work, you), and they got invested, just the way you'd always hoped. Now if the ending is bad, they're going to want to throw the book against the wall. And, even worse for you, they might never read anything you write ever again. And, even worse, they might convince others not to read your work either.


Because you reneged on the deal. Bad. The reader expected a satisfying ending, and they deserve it. And you should give it to them.

Now, I'm not saying that it has to be a happy ending, though we know I love those. I am, however, saying that it should wrap things up, at least most things. If it leaves all sorts of things hanging out there, that's not finishing, that's stopping. That's not the same.

Someone should make it out alive. (Yes, we've heard me say this before.) Why do I say that? Because if every single person the reader has been following throughout the book dies, then you're gonna have to take a few pages to explain to the reader why anything you just wrote matters. And, trust me, if no one is alive to be impacted, that's a hard things to do.

The ending should be foreseeable and physically possible. I do not mean that you have to make it obvious -- that would be much less fun. However, the reader should have a snowball's shot in hell of understanding how it all happened. For example, if it's a murder mystery, don't make the doer some person the reader's never heard of and the weapon and motive should have been something the reader could recognize. Otherwise, why'd you bother bringing them along for the ride?

The ending is what I read books for. While I care about how they get there (in the stories I read, that is often the part that changes), I expect a good resolution. Otherwise, I might just throw your book against the wall.

Tell me, how do you feel about endings? What do you find to be the most important part? Do you share my fandom of Johnny Depp?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Making It Out Alive

Whenever a really busy period of my life comes to an end, I always breathe a sigh of relief and feel very glad that I made it out of it alive. True, I don't usually spend that time dodging spears or running from wicked Mage kings, but I always feel like I escaped some very intense scenario that could have ended with the world imploding.

So, now that my show is over, and my life can begin to once again bear a resemblance to its old self, I'm trying to sort it all out again. I need to re-examine my goals (a few took a tumble during Hell Week) and put them back into good working order.

But, for the moment, I'm just happy that I made it through the week. I'm happy for small successes. :D

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Me Speak English Gooder Than You

English language
Have you ever wondered why foreigners have trouble with the English Language?

Let's face it, English is a stupid language. There is no egg in the eggplant,no ham in the hamburger, and neither pine nor apple in the pineapple. English muffins were not invented in England, and French fries were not invented in France.

We sometimes take English for granted, but if we examine its paradoxes we find that quicksand takes you down slowly, boxing rings are square, and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor are they pigs.

If writers write, how come fingers don't fing? If the plural of tooth is teeth, then shouldn't the plural of phone booth be phone beeth? If the teacher taught, why didn't the preacher praught.

If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what the heck does a humanitarian eat!? Why do people recite at a play yet play at a recital? Or park on driveways and drive on parkways?

You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language where a house can burn up as it burns down, and in which you fill in a form by filling it out, and in which a bell is only heard once it goes!

English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race (Which of course isn't a race at all).

That is why when the stars are out they are visible but when the lights are out they are invisible and why it is that when I wind up my watch, it starts, but when I wind up this observation, it ends.

** I didn't make this up. I just wish I had.**

Friday, October 16, 2009

Whatcha Reading?

People always say that you need to read a lot in order to write well. I concur. Which is why I've been making a conscious effort to include more reading in my mental diet.

At the moment, I'm reading several things, but the fiction on at the top of my For Pleasure list is Emma by Jane Austen. Though it's not Pride and Prejudice, which will always be my one true love, it's so far proven to be a good read. I'm sure I'll profit by it.

So, my question for y'all (yes, I said it) is, what are you reading?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

New Favorite Toy

Okay, in spite of being stupidly busy, I have recently discovered something that makes me very happy. The Online Etymology Dictionary. It tells you how words have been used through history.

This is helpful, since I've been using 1813 as a frame year for The Thief Book. Did you know kid, around that time, was a term for a skillful young thief. That's going to be useful in my revisions. :D And I know I'm gonna be killing time with this site in the future.

Just wanted to pass that on.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Running Marathons and Other Things I Can't Do

Ever run a marathon? It's okay. I haven't either. But they make me think of goals. And not because I think you need goals to get better at running, although I'm sure that's true. It's because of Geometry. I know, at this point you're probably thinking, "And what the who does Geometry have to do with running marathons?"

Well, I'll tell you.

Sophomore year of high school, my Geometry teacher announced that he was going to run a Marathon in the spring. And why did he tell everyone this? (Me, I'd keep that stuff to myself, so I wouldn't have to tell everyone when I was an abysmal failure.) He told us all, because he knew that if he had 150 kids who could, at any time, say, "Hey, Mr. M, how's the marathon coming?" he'd feel more compelled to keep training. Because he wouldn't want to have to admit to having given it up.

I'm sure there's someone really cynical thinking, "Oh my goshness, just lie to the fricking high schooler. They'll never know." But sometimes the lying thing just gets old. And so we rely on good old fashioned guilt to keep us motivated.

I think you can all guess where I'm heading with this.

That's why I'm always yammering about my goals on the blog. Because once I've posted my goal, I feel more compelled to meet it. Yeah, I don't expect any of you to actually say, "Hey, have you been limiting your Blogger checks to only twice a day?" because, after all, you guys aren't desperately trying to fill five minutes before the bell rings, but I feel like I've made a promise, like I've made myself accountable to someone. And I am good at doing work when I am accountable to someone.

So while I'll probably never run a marathon, I might just get one step closer to fulfilling my bigger dreams as a writer. And I'll probably do it by posting about goals on the blog.

How about you guys? What keeps you motivated?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Finding Your Voice

One of my favorite line from The Dead Poet's Society belongs to Robin Williams' character Mr. Keating. "You must strive to find your voice. Because the longer you take to begin, the less likely you are to find it at all."

One thing about writing that I don't know if I'll ever quite get the hang of is Voice. I've never been able to codify what makes good voice, or what mine is, except that when I've read books, I can tell it when it's there. Voice, in my opinion, the most elusive concept in the world, and all I can imagine is I'll know mine when I've found it. And I'm pretty sure I haven't found it yet.

But I'm not done looking for it. I'm still writing, still working, still trying. Because I don't want to give it up only to try again years later and find that I don't even know where to begin looking for it anymore. I have every intention of looking until I can find it.

I'm sure it's around here somewhere. :D

How about you? Have you found your voice yet?

Monday, October 12, 2009

What Do You Want?

Composer Stephen Schwartz once counseled that to create a good musical, one must have within the first 15 minutes (at least by song three), what he called an I Want song. This would be the song that revealed the main characters goals and motivations. His point was that if you didn't clear up in the beginning what everyone was shooting for, then the audience didn't know how they were supposed to feel about what was happening on stage.

I think he had a good point. When I think about musicals I like, they tend to clear the goals and motivations deal up pretty soon. Wicked has "The Wizard and I," a clear I Want song, as the third song. Pocahontas has as its third song "Just Around the River Bend." 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee tells you the goal and a bit of characterization in the title song. "Out There" in The Hunchback of Notre Dame is the second song. (I just realized that 3 out of these 4 are actually Stephen Schwartz, but I'm choosing to overlook that. I believe that other musicals follow this rule as well. I challenge you to name others.)

What does this have to do with writing? Well, I like to apply this rule to my writing as well. In The Thief Book, it picks up in the middle of a fight between the MC and her father where she states flat out the goal that will catalyze the rest of the book's action. In my old crash and burn project, I don't know when I ever got out the motivations. That might well have been one of its bigger problems.

A character's main goals and motivations need to be known up front. If you hold out too long on his or her conflict, then the readers doesn't know who they're pulling for or against of who they should care about at all. That's confusing, distracting, or worse, boring, and they'll probably put the book down.

The first key to tension and conflict is knowing who wants what and why they want it. Without that, without the I Want song, you've got nothing to go on.

How long do you feel comfortable waiting before the conflict and/ or motivations needs to be introduced?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

These Are the Times That Try Men's Souls

I've always wanted to say that.

But, it's also sort of true. Because I'm about to get really busy with a show this week (I'd forgotten why it's called Hell Week) and it's really test my dedication to my goals. But I have every intention of sticking with it.

Well, let's see how it goes.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Writing Hell

A writer died and was given the option of going to heaven or hell.

She decided to check out each place first. As the writer descended into the fiery pits, she saw row upon row of writers chained to their desks in a steaming sweatshop. As they worked, they were repeatedly whipped with thorny lashes.

"Oh my," said the writer. "Let me see heaven now."

A few moments later, as she ascended into heaven, she saw rows of writers, chained to their desks in a steaming sweatshop. As they worked, they, too, were whipped with thorny lashes.

"Wait a minute," said the writer. "This is just as bad as hell!"

"Oh no, it's not," replied an unseen voice. "Here, your work gets published."

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Seven Vice of Highly Creative People

A while ago I read an interesting article about the 7 Vice of Highly Creative People. This is not to be confused with the Seven Habits of Highly Effective Pirates, though that's definitely worth a look-see. If you don't feel like following the link (which I'd recommend actually, because it was an interesting article) I'll cut it down to the bare bones.
  1. Drink
  2. Smoke
  3. Gamble
  4. Eat Great Food
  5. Wear Awesome Clothes
  6. Get Some
  7. Have Massive Debt
Sounds like the life doesn't it? Maybe not my life, but I'm sure a lot of people would enjoy doing all of these things. I was going to ask you all to try to name someone for each of the vices, and then I realized you can answer Mark Twain for basically all of them, or Picasso (can you say Vice #6), so that turned out to be a wash. But the vices definitely worked for them.

I have to admit, none of those is particularly my vice of choice. Does that mean I have to give up the writing? I think choose to believe no.

If any of those is my vice, it'd be number 4. I like food, especially carbs. Good food is great. But, on the other hand, I have an appreciation for greasy food in smoky bars (1 and 2 should be easy to meet in those places, if I partook of either) that doesn't seem quite compatible with the fourth vice. Pity.

I wish I could cultivate an interest in fashion, because then I'd have a killer vice and a killer wardrobe; however, I instinctively tend towards the comfortable rather than the fashionable. I' sometimes tempted to go form a kicking wardrobe, but I'm much too lazy for that. (Thus spoke the girl in mocs and a two sizes too big sweater.) My clothes are comfy, and I refuse to apologize for it.

How about you? What's your vice of choice?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

I Don't Make Promises to Chickens

Once upon a time, I was involved in a theater company that put on Neil Simon's The Odd Couple:The Female Version. At one point in the first act, Florence, the anal retentive one, decides that now that she's moved in it is time to begin planning the menu for the week.

"No," exclaims Olly, an unrepentant slob. "No planned menus. I'm not making any promises to a roast chicken!"

I'm with Olly. While some part of me wishes I were an incredible planner, I just know I'm never gonna be that person. I have a rough sketch of what my week is gonna look like up on the wall, but that's about it as far as planning.

Yesterday, I read a post over at Literary Rambles that asked what we were planning to blog about for the week. My honest answer was, "Well, I don't know. The usual I guess." And by 'the usual' I meant, things about life and writing. I admit it, I don't plan this stuff in advance. If you thought I did, sorry to shatter the illusion, but you were very wrong.

Actually, this week, I discovered that the scheduled post function is back for blogger, and I thought, 'This could be a great tool. You can write your stuff on the weekend, and it'll post it automatically for you.' But then I thought, 'But what if you get really excited about something and want to interject it immediately. Then you'd have to go in an adjust the pre-timed ones. Wouldn't that be a hassle?' And my figuring was, yes, that would. I'd have made a promise to a roast chicken, as it were, and breaking it wouldn't be a simple thing. So if I plan a post, it probably won't be more than 24 hours in advance.

I'm the same way with my writing. I like to know where things are going in the book, and I make a rough outline before I get started, so that I don't get completely lost; however, I don't know what each scene is going to be or where I'm going to break down the chapters. I also will sometimes follow my characters down the paths I didn't know were going to exist, and that'll
shake things up.

Does this sound strange from a girl who talks so much about goal setting? I guess it might. Frankly, the two sides sound a little incompatible to me, too. But that's how I've been doing it for a while now. 'Here's the goal, and the mini goal. Meet them by the deadline, however you think best.' So far it's been working well. And I have no intention of making any promises to any roast chickens.

How about you? Are you a planner?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I'll Keep You My Dirty Little Secret

Guess what I'm listening to right now. Go on, guess. You'll never guess. Unless you read the post title, in which case you know. But that's rather beside the point.

Yesterday, I read a post on Nathan Bransford's blog about personal taste and calling other books trash. It got me thinking.

I don't think I've ever called a book "trash," and if I ever did, I am deeply sorry for it, because my parents raised me better than that. Books aren't trash. Maybe they aren't fun, and maybe we don't agree with what they were about or their message, but they aren't trash. Those books are the product of someone's hard work, and that should be treated with respect.

However, that being said, there are some books that I value less than others. I shouldn't, but I do. And, in that vein, there are some things that I don't want to admit I read, because of how I value them.

Okay, confessional:

~ I read romance novels. Not all the time -- actually, none lately, because I haven't any near me -- but I get hooked on them the way I tend to get hooked on things, and I enjoy reading them. But, if someone asked, I would probably lie and say I don't read them. I wouldn't trash talk them, but I wouldn't admit it.

~I've read manga, generally yaoi, and I liked it. It totally gave me a headache the first time I tried to read it, but I've since got the reading style down, and I liked it. I'd be less inclined to disavow this aspect of my reading, but I'm not exactly saying it loud and proud either. But, then again, some of my close friends read it -- they're the ones who turned me on to it -- so I feel a little more secure in that than it this I got into on my own.

~I loved the Twilight Series. There, I've said it. (Well, actually I wasn't a fan of the fourth one, and the third was only okay, but I loved New Moon, and I ate Twilight with a spoon.) That's my guilty pleasure -- though not quite a dirty little secret. I think of Twilight as my heroin. I don't want to be hooked, but I am. And you know what, I can be okay with that. Everyone has a vice or two or six. I sobbed like a baby during New Moon and read Twilight instead of sleeping. But I can admit that.

Thinking about my Dirty Little Secrets (which from now on I am going to abbreviate into DLS because it'll make me feel awesome) I've realized that these all are love stories. They all feed my desire for emotion and happy endings. Yes, I'm an HEA girl. Say it loud, say it proud. :D I wonder where along the way I thought I had to be ashamed of my gushy love stories. Probably around the point I realized that all those books we are told are masterpieces are all very sad books. Well, I've admitted it. HEAs and Sappy Love Songs for me.

So, I've come clean. How about you? What's your guilty pleasure? What's your Dirty Little Secret?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Day One

Okay, Day One of my new goals went well. First of all, it was a generally nice day. Secondly, my goals went off the way I'd hoped.

Goal 1: I typed my 2000 words. It was harder than I expected, because 2000 words is longer than I thought it would be. But I didn't have to change much in that section, so it wasn't too bad. On the other hand, I did notice that The Thief Book is longer than I believed it to be, (I really blew that whole estimation thing) so this will almost certainly take longer than I had planned. However, I intend to hold onto the Mini Goal regardless.

Goal 3: (Yes, that's out of order, but I'm feeling clever) I only checked Blogger twice today counting this time. Yes, I'm very proud of myself. And I'm at least 95% sure that it freed up time in my life. Now we just need to see if this continues.

Goal 2: The only thing I haven't done at this moment is post my post of the day. But I'm working on it. ;-) So let's call that one checked off the list.

All in all, good day. :D

How are everyone else's goals coming?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Monday is a Goals Day

That's right, more goals. If you've been reading this a while, you've probably figured out I like making goals. I don't always like the work that goes into keeping them, but I like making them. And I like making mini goals, too. And I like crossing things off lists. (Makes me feel powerful. ;D)

Maybe it's because I studied French in high school, or maybe it's because I think of all things in terms of a work week, or maybe it's because I'm just plain odd, but I like to start my goals on a Monday.

So, that's what I'm doing today. I'm setting goals. (Actually, these goals will all come into effect on Tuesday, because last week was a bad week to get a cold, and everything hit today, so I'm playing catching from all my juggling tonight. It's a long story that, trust me, isn't as interesting to hear as it would be fun to whine about it.)


Goal 1 - Finish typing The Thief Book by the end of October.
Mini Goal for accomplishing Goal 1 - Type 2000 words a day. It'll be hard, but I think I can do it.

Goal 2 - Post five (yes, 5) times a week.
Caveat: Not all of these times will be days of the standard work week, because I like posting on Saturdays, and I don't trust myself to be able to do one a day back to back for five days straight. I remember trying a while back, and it wasn't easy.

Goal 3 - Check on Blogger only twice a day.
Note: I will keep up my same level of commenting on people's blogs; however, the Internet is my time vampire, and I could do all of this -- not to mention all of everything else -- a lot easier and better if I didn't go on blogger every half hour. We'll see how this one goes.

So, those are my three new goals. If anyone wants to place bets in the comments on how long they think any of these are going to last, their guesses will be met with much amusement. And, who knows, you might really amp me up for success.

What are you goals for the week/ what's on your To Do List?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

I'm a Writer. Hear Me Roar

"Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate. It is that we are powerful beyond measure."

As much as I'd like to claim I wrote the above words, the credit belongs to Marianne Williamson, and I only discovered them recently, when I saw them written in bold, blue paint on a wall on what I can only describe as some of the most interesting walls I believe I shall ever see. This quote, of all the things written on that wall, struck my fancy.

We, as writers, are incredibly powerful. We build whole worlds in our mind, give birth to whole populations with out fingertips, and change whole destinies with our hearts. When we set out to write a story, there is nothing we cannot do. The most tremendous things have happened because writers have had a dream. As O'Shaughnessy wrote, "We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams."

We are incredibly powerful. But how much of that power to we tap into? The answer cannot be all of it. We toss aside ideas for being 'too unconventional.' Other ideas are discarded as 'too mainstream' or 'too trite.' We belittle our words as they spill forth, erase them, cross them out, delete them on the grounds that they are not 'good enough.' We claim that we can do better, but we censor ourselves if we try.

We can take that which is old and make it new again. We can take what is inelegant and make it artful. We have that power within us. We just need to tap into it. We just need to be willing to draw it out and let it work its magic on our words. Would it be so bad, so scary to put it all out there, no blocks?

I'm not saying that nothing requires polishing or editing or honing to make it the best it can be, that nothing done after we've released all we can do will ever need to be changed, but I think we shouldn't stifle ourselves. We shouldn't shut ourselves down, put ourselves down. We should help ourselves grow.

Because we are powerful beyond measure.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Chapter Titles

When I was in 11th grade, I had to read Grapes of Wrath. It wasn't my favorite book of the year, but I enjoyed it, and you can certainly learn a lot from it about writing. But that's not what I'm thinking about now.

For me, the book really began with the third chapter In Which A Turtle Crosses a Road.

Okay, everyone who's familiar with that book is probably thinking, 'Wait, I don't remember that chapter.' And, you're right. There was no chapter with that name. In fact, none of the chapters have names. But when I reached the third chapter, I started naming the chapters myself. It was fun. (I named Chapter 14 In Which There Is Manself. :D)

My favorite book for chapter titles is probably Stardust by Neil Gaimen. They were so funny, without giving away too much of the chapter. My favorite: Chapter Three In Which We Meet Many People, Most of Them Alive, Who Have An Interest In The Fate Of The Fallen Star.

Yeah, I like chapter titles. Oddly enough, though, I don't use them. I wish I did, because I love them so much, but they never occur to me as I'm going.

How about you? How do you feel about chapter titles? Any favorites, in a book or a book with them? Do you title your chapters?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Burn, Baby, Burn

Near as I can tell, the first commandment of all great endeavors is, "Thou Shalt Crash And Burn." Generally, the first time. Generally, more than once. Not always, but sometimes. Some times, you will do something, and it will be god awful, absolutely horrible, never in a million years will you admit you tried that, and you will crash and burn. Other times, you'll do something that seemed like a good idea at the time, that seemed at least 3/4 baked, that actually seemed like it might be the thing that works, and you still crash and burn. It's basically inevitable that at some point you will be a smoldering pile of wreckage on the ground.

And you know what, that's okay. In fact, it's good. You want to be the smoldering pile of wreckage on the ground. You'll probably feel awful about it while it's happening, but that complete disaster of a failure is actually good for you. It's how you learn.

My first novel, I thought was quite good. I actually set about querying that thing (Mistake number 1. As any agent will tell you, first novels -- at least, one's like mine -- belong in the back of a drawer in a nightstand in the darkest corner of your attic). Anyway, I had some high hopes for that thing. 25 rejections or non-responses later, I had already learned a lot about writing and publishing, and I knew that thing was basically unsalvagable, and I let it go.

But, with the memory bank slightly more full and an ego slightly sturdier after a few right hooks, I know I've learned a lot from crashing and burning on that first go.

~Subplots are our friends -- generally, the way to keep things going in the story, to keep the tension and interest up, you need to have more than one thing happening at once. Don't be afraid to have other plots going on at the same times as Big Plot. Your readers are smart. They can keep up.

~Adverbs, however, are not your friends -- Yep, I made that mistake. I splashed those things everywhere. And I'm not even sure why. I guess this mistake could just be called Using Five Words When One Will Do.

~Know your characters -- Every now and then, my characters would say things or do things that just weren't in character at all. One of my guy characters sounded a lot like a girl, actually. You've got to know them so that you know what they'd do or say and how and why.

And I learned other things, too. That book, for instance, is what led me to reading blogs, which led to following blogs, which led to writing a blog, which led to you reading this post. Now aren't you glad I crashed and burned with that first book?

My point is, everyone is going to fail at some point or another. Most people are going to fail spectacularly. Some might even get rocks thrown at them in the streets for how badly they fail. But it's about how you recover from those failures that matters. Because if you give up after that first book is a wreck, then you could miss the chance to write something totally awesome that you, an agent, a publisher, a book seller, and everyone and his second cousin is going to love. (Hey, J.K. Rowling wrote a book called Rabbit when she was 6. What if she'd given up before Harry Potter. Just the thought makes me sad.)

So, go forth, everyone. Crash and burn. Fail with gusto and glory. Just make sure you take something away from the experience, too.