"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us." —J. R. R. Tolkien

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Middle, End, Beginnning?

I've read and heard from some authors that they writes certain scenes first - like an important scene in the middle, or the end before actually writing anything else.
As I sit here outlining my WIP, I realized I am not one of these people and most likely never will be.
I see the whole thing serially. I have a detailed outline - don't get me wrong. It's just that details build upon what has already happened, and these details even have special privileges from me:
They are allowed to change what will come in the future. In fact, I give them extra credit when they do this for me. :)
They can add plot points. They can increase a character's importance. They can even go back in time and change what has already happened.

I can see why someone would want to write a scene from somewhere in the middle. Sometimes when I'm outlining, the thoughts just scream out prose to me, and I'll jot a couple notes to capture some of the more brilliant ideas. And it's tempting to keep on writing.

And that's when I force myself back to the outline.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Fun Friday - Play with Toys

Seriously - the marble roller coaster is fun. I sneak downstairs after the kids are in bed and roll marbles. I set a marble at the top and see if I can get something done before it reaches the bottom.

It's one thing to watch toys being played with and another to play with them yourself.

Take my coworker. He brought a remote control helicopter into work yesterday (OK, it is a quiet week around the office). We have big open areas here and lots of room to practice flying. So I watched him fly it for a few minutes, and then he let me try. It is so much more fun to do it yourself! Seriously.

So if you haven't done this recently, pick up one of your kid's (or coworkers's) toys, and start playing!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Why I like being an Engineer (part 43)

Because building it is fun (frustrating at points). And putting marbles at the top and seeing them roll down is even way more cool than you would think.
Plus, it glows in the dark. Later tonight, I'm heading back down to play some more.


Countdown to the New Year

How many resolutions do you have so far? You've got just under a week to figure it out! Think of one resolution each day for the next six days.

Today's resolution - Be able to do 5 pull-ups (in a row) by the end of 2008. And not only have I got myself and my husband in on this one, I mentioned it in Kung Fu today, and now the whole class is going to make it a goal!
So I've got a clear measurable goal, a timeline, and accountability!

What's your for today, and think forward to tomorrow also!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Really, I don't read the news

I find it depressing. In fact, even when I headed over to find the link for this article, I ran into at least 10 tragic storylines.

So when my husband told me I HAD to read this article, I did, unsure why knowing about a felon ex-COO of Wikipedia would matter much to me. And then he told me he knew her and used to work with her (we're talking 18 years ago but still). Weird?

Fun Friday (a day late)

So it's Saturday. I can live with posting my fun for the week a day late. Maybe I was too caught up having fun to post?

Topping the week was the making of the Gingerbread House. I loved giving each of my kids a side to decorate and letting them at it. I loved watching my daughter each more candy than she put on the roof.

A second fun time this week came with the home viewing of National Treasure and the theater viewing of National Treasure 2 (at the Alamo Drafthouse and also free thanks to my friend who started SiliconAid). OK, who wouldn't want to be a treasure hunter after seeing these movies?

*Side note on National Treasure 2 - Part of this was filmed right out back of my parent's house. They live almost next door to Mount Vernon and were watching as they filmed the night scene there.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

What's in a name?

Do you ever wonder what your life may have been like had you been named something else? Would you be the same person you are today? Have the same job? The same spouse? Live in the same city?

I'm a firm believer that a name helps form our lives. What if a name is unique? Easy to remember? Does that make you a contact who will never forget you? Maybe that contact gets you a job because they remember you so well?
Maybe your name starts with the letter L, but if it had started with an N, you might have been placed next to someone different in a class (work with me here - let's say the teacher arranged alpha by first name). And maybe you ended up marrying that person you sat next to. Would that be different?

(I think) I was almost named Heather. It was way the "in" name back in 1970. Of course, growing up, I wanted my name to be Debbie (Debbie Boone - You Light up My Life - Anyone remember).
Anyone see the movie Heathers?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Great

Any idea why the word "great" makes the "a" sound? Is this the sole exception to the rule? Is there any other "ea" word which makes the "a" sound?
beat
meat
seat
lean
bean

So why isn't it spelled "greight"?

When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking.

*Brought to you by my first-grader.

** Edited to say we now have

break (thanks, Chris)
steak (thanks, husband)

Any more?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

House Building

This seems to have been a theme in the last couple months. See any similarities?

September:


December:


Note: Not a kit! We got out the measuring spoons and everything.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Why are boys so strange?

I sit here at the computer as my 6-year-old son and his friend play. Um, OK. Let's see. Where to start?

The toddler potty seat on one of their heads.
One of them sticking their own head in the toilet and flushing.
The face in the bowl of popcorn.

I only have a sister, and I don't remember us doing anything like this when we were little.

(And if you happen to be reading, friend's mom, I really am watching them. :) Promise)

Fun for the week

Is it sad when you really have to stop and think what was fun in the last week?
OK, but I didn't have to think long this time around.
Sunday night we had our annual viewing of Jingle All the Way. Yes, I think Arnold is great. And, now that I have kids, there is no funnier movie out there. Everything is perfect. The humor of Phil Hartman is genius. The internal battle of Arnold is priceless.
Have you seen it? If not, and if you have kids, then this one is seriously worth purchasing!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Yes, but where did it happen

The latest thing I've been doing as I go through my outline for my next WIP is fine tuning the location details.
OK, sure, I can have two characters fighting. They can tear each other's throats out, punch each other, and threaten each other until they're blue in the face. But this is just fighting.
Now enter location.
Where are they fighting? Is it in the middle of a field, or can it be somewhere interesting? (OK, a corn field could be interesting, but a little on the overdone side.)
So, good, I pick an interesting place. What weapons can they use from the area around them? What kind of terrain on they on? How does this affect the fight? Furthermore, does the location pose any of its own threats? Back to the cornfield example - does a tractor get closer with every second they fight? Is the ground muddy? If they're outside, are they dressed for the weather? Is it raining? Snowing?
So this is my latest focus. Where did it happen.

BTW, be sure to check out a great inspirational writing post over at HipWriterMama to get you going on your latest greatest idea!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Next Great Thing

OK, I'm seriously trying to wait until January to begin work on my next WIP. I'm doing all the prep work. Character worksheets for everyone including the cat :). Motivation charts. Plot points. Research.
But ...
I'm feeling this overwhelming urge to begin.
Let's see. Today is the 11th. That leaves 20 days.
Here's what I could do instead for the next twenty days:
  • More planning, plotting, etc.
  • Catch up on reading.
  • Catch up on movie watching.
  • Revise previous WIP.
  • Revise it again.
  • All of the above.

Should I wait, or go ahead and start?

Road Rage

Along the lines of anger and frustration (both my small nagging issues dealt with BTW), I saw some serious road rage today. OK, so a truck cut in front of a car. Big deal? I wouldn't think so.
Me? I'd probably reel out a couple choice words and be done with it. Not let it ruin my day.
But this car laid on the horn for a full minute WHILE giving the truck the finger. And he managed to steer at the same time. So we have horn, finger, and steering. And who says men can't multi-task?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Frustration and Anger

Ever have those annoying little things happen to you? A poor exchange with someone? Bad customer service? Bill lost in the mail?
I think we all have. And normally the most frustrating thing about them is our having them nag at the back of our mind until they are resolved or forgotten.
My advice when dealing with something like this? Ignore it. When the thought comes to you mind, initially it's accompanied by anger or frustration. Push these emotions away. Don't give in to them. Don't commiserate with others; doing this will only prolong the negative feelings.
I find this is a true mental exercise. It's not easy to do. Honestly try to do this the next time something happens, and I think you'll be happy with the result (at least the next day you will be).

Bubble Book Research?

Looking for more fun ways to do book research? I always keep my eyes open. So after kid's Kung Fu Saturday, we stopped for our very first Bubble Tea. OK, I know I should have gotten the Green Tea flavored, but I was with the kids, so Strawberry seemed more appropriate.

My thoughts? I LOVE the tapioca things at the bottom. I love sucking them up through a straw! But other than that, it tasted like a basic smoothy juiced with tea.
I'd go again, but as the kids only took about two sips apiece, I'd get the Green Tea flavor for myself.


Things I'm looking forward to in the near future:
National Treasure 2 movie
The Golden Compass movie (and yes, I've read the books)
Finishing my Christmas shopping

Friday, December 07, 2007

World of Warcraft

Does anyone play this game?
I was over at the IT person's desk, and he happened to have it on one of his ten computers.
It looks so cool.
So seriously, the last thing I have hours to waste time on is a computer game, but when you talk about screen appeal, this game has got it.
Something like 60 million players in the world?

--

One positive thing I heard about playing computer games from an author was that when she went for a school visit, the kids were so totally psyched that she could talk "game talk" with them.

FUN FRIDAY - The Deck Manager

I'm going with amusement as the definition of fun this week. And to stretch it a bit, how about something that amused me.

We have swimming on Thursdays for the kids. A deck manager wanders around taking care of any issues. Normally these issues entail taking kids to their parents when the kids need to use the potty. But sometimes there are exceptions.
First a little girl comes into the waiting room sobbing.
"I can't find my mommy anywhere!" Sob Sob. There's just something precious about seeing a 6-year old express how much they still really need and rely on their parents. So the deck manager calms the little girl and helps her find her mommy.

Next the deck manager walks my son out.
"I think he's losing a tooth," she says.
I reach my hand up to his mouth, pull out his (second) front tooth, and send him back with her to lessons.

One day there was a fight between two 6-year old girls. No hair pulling (at least I don't think).

----

On a side note, my 6-year old son is now missing both front teeth. Could the timing be better? I've been teaching him to sing "All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth."

Sunday, December 02, 2007

You've gotta love the South

I tried not to do it. I got down the tree. Moved the Christmas bins into the living room for unpacking. Vacuumed the floor where the tree would go. But an hour after starting, I gave in and switched on the air conditioner.
There's just something that doesn't seem right about decorating for Christmas with the air conditioner on. I'm not saying I expect 30 degrees or anything. Just maybe a cool 65.
Regardless, the decorating commenced.

Random thoughts as we decorated for 2007:

When I design a new house or remodel the current one, I want a closet on the ground floor where I shove the Christmas tree each year when it's not Christmas. For 15 years now, I've been on my own (that is out of my parents' house). Owned my own tree. I've bought fresh. I've stored the fake in the attic. Under a bed. Hanging from the ceiling in the garage.
But nothing has been easy. Today I struggled on the step stool, letting the tree free fall from the shelf in the garage to the ground, knocking over old car seats and a bag of golf clubs. After unwrapping it, the tree had to be repaired (limbs which had fallen off due to compression), and then fluffed. Only then could lights be turned on.

But once the lights were on, and my Sound-and-Lights Star Trek and Star Wars ornaments began to take their proper places amid the limbs, and the lower half of the tree came to life thanks to the efforts of two under-four-feet kids, the struggle became worth it!

Happy Holiday Season!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

FUN FRIDAY - Quest for fun

I'm making it a personal goal to have more fun in my life. So each week, I'll report in something fun I've done. And not to confuse anyone - I have a great, wonderful life. I think I've just gotten out of the habit of seeking out fun.

For our purposes, we'll go with the below definitions:
  • 1. A source of enjoyment, amusement, or pleasure.
  • 2. Enjoyment; amusement.
  • 3. Playful, often noisy, activity.

And now for my fun.

It's been a pretty rough week at work. Wednesday my company had some deep layoffs (thankfully, my job is safe). But of my group of 150, 50 are gone. Friends I've worked with for years. So coming into the office on Thursday was a bit emotional. But as I sat around the lunch table with about eight coworkers Thursday afternoon, we started talking about some random things. Teenage partying. Parties we remembered from when we were younger. One coworker relayed a story of how when he and his wife had gone out to dinner, the Freshman girl across the street had a party (her parents were out of town). My coworker and his wife returned home to find their mailbox stolen. The wife stormed over to the party, barged in, and demanded, "Where is my mailbox?" By the time he finished telling the story, we were in stitches, and, as I'm analyzing my fun-having times, I realized I was having fun. We'd been having tough emotions around the office, and the light-hearted laughter was just what we needed.

So what was your fun this week?

Monday, November 26, 2007

What's your definition of FUN?

Recently my husband asked me if something I had done was fun (I think it was knitting).
My response? "I enjoy knitting, but I'm not sure if I'd call it fun."

This prompted us to have a discussion on what the definition of fun truly was, and when the last time we'd done something fun had been.
When fun came to mind, we both pictured laughing, hanging out with friends/family. This seemed to be our standard definition of fun. There was almost a sense of frivality associated with fun.

But, we decided, we needed to come up with a new definition of fun.

Is writing fun? I love doing it. So does this make it fun?
Is knitting fun? It's relaxing. Does this make it fun?
Is going to the movies fun? No one is talking? We're all just in the dark watching the big screen. Is this fun?

What are your thoughts?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Tooth Fairy ... Unmasked!

Thanksgiving day my 6-year-old lost one of his front teeth. Whoo Hoo! As we were traveling (Chicago/Indiana), we put it in a zip-loc and decided to bring it home with us for placement under the pillow. After all, we didn't want the tooth fairy to get confused.
After getting home Friday and unpacking, we placed the tooth in our tooth box and carefully placed it under his pillow. Then we relaxed for the evening.
Dinner come. My son asks a few questions about the tooth fairy. How does she decide how much to give? Where does she put the teeth?
Then he says, "Who is the Tooth Fairy?"
We ask, "Who do you think?"
He looks right at me. "I think Mom is the Tooth Fairy."
"Did someone tell you that?" we ask.
"No," he says. "I thought of it on my own."
So I 'fessed up. After all, the idea of a strange old woman sneaking into his bedroom at night can't be a comforting one anyway. But I swore to him he can't tell all the kids at school, and he can't tell his little sister when she starts to lose teeth.
Then he disappeared upstairs for a couple minutes and came back down.
"Mom, I think the tooth fairy visited you," he said.
I followed him back upstairs and he had me look under my pillow. He'd taken some treasured coins from his coin collection and put them under my pillow. He wanted to do something nice for me. I insisted I couldn't take the coins, so he gave me some of the jewelry his grandma gave him as pirate booty. I wore the earrings today!

Will Santa be next?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Motivation Matrix

Characters need motivation. And not only do they need motivation, they need plausible motivation.
For example, you can't just say "He wanted to kill her." Sure, it's motivation, but why does he want to kill her? Did she destroy his career? Steal his wife? Embarrass him in public?

So on this note, in planning my latest project via Excel, I've added a new tab. Sure, in each of my character worksheets, I have motivation for each character. But I realized I need to see all the motivations together. And in doing so, I could more easily see how each character's motivation worked for or against the others.
So think about your WIP. Think about your characters. Do they all have a valid, substantial reason for being? If not, can you think of one? No? Do you need the character after all?

Have fun!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Bragging about the kids - Part 50

One small thing I have to say. My daughter is only 3 years and 2 months old, but she can write (very well) her whole first name. Couple disclaimers here. Her name is only four letters. Two of the letters are the same. One is an O. But still. Even the other parents at daycare commented this morning on what a great job she did!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The rest of the year

We always think about New Years as a time to set goals. And there's nothing wrong with this.
My only question - Why wait?
Looking at a calendar, I see we have roughly 50 days left in 2007. 50 days! I can accomplish quite a bit in 50 days.

Sit down today and make a list of five goals you would like complete in the next 50 days. Make them reachable. Make them realistic! And make them fun!

How about one of those home projects you've been putting off for the last ten years? Put it on the list. Seriously, how much time will it really take to get done. Too long? Then make your goal to begin work on it.
Not ready to commit to eating like a monk for the next 50 days? Then how about exercising 4 times each week. Make a chart and keep track of it!
How about Christmas (or Holiday) shopping done in the next two weeks? List out today who you need gifts for and what and then get shopping!
Been pouring over a new book idea in your mind? Make your goal to get those ideas down on paper (or computer as in my case). This doesn't mean you have to have a completed first draft done by December 31st. Or maybe you want that to be your goal. The good news is that you can decide. You can pick today and get started!

There's nothing like accomplishing goals to make you feel great about yourself!

So what are your goals?

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Mind of a Six-Year Old

Raising children and writing for children, I often try to put myself in their shoes. What are they thinking? What do they want? Why are they upset? And much of the time, this works OK. But then, every once in a while, I'm reminded of just how far away my mind really is from that of a six-year-old boy.

Take for example this past Friday. I picked my son and his friend up from school and drove them to my house to play. On the drive home, my son picked up the book I'd left on the passenger seat to read. Egyptian Mythology.

"Look!" my son says to his friend, holding up the book. "This statue is naked."
"Let me see!" his friends calls back, demanding his turn to look at the book.
And so on until we got home, at which point they insisted upon bringing the book into the house.

This does remind me of growing up and finding the random copy of National Geographic around the house. We'd flip through and happen upon a picture of a woman with no shirt on from some tribe in Africa. We'd giggle. We'd flip back to the picture. We'd giggle some more.

I guess not much has changed in thirty years.

Friday, November 02, 2007

What to do between writing projects

I've been thinking a lot about the next book I'm going to write. Trying to collect all my thoughts and ideas. Brainstorm about plot and character development. And if I've learned anything from my last book, it's to take the time at the beginning to think about as much of this as I can. Make sure my characters have motivation and conflict.
Also, I'm heading away for a week at Thanksgiving for a visit to Chicago and to see the in-laws. Visiting in general does not promote a writing atmosphere, and it's always good to take time off.

Combine the two above, and what do you get?

The perfect time to knit something for my daughter. She's all about superheroes, so I'm going to take a darling knitted dress pattern and modify it to make it black with yellow trim and a yellow Batman emblem in the middle.

To me it sounds like the perfect project. Why? 1) I can knit on the plane (and I have no idea why security lets knitting needles through, but they do). 2) I can knit in the car. 3) I can knit while socializing with the family. 4) My mother-in-law is the one who taught me to knit in the first place. 5) I can think about my next writing project and jot down quick notes while knitting.

So I'm off to Michaels this weekend to pick out my black and yellow yarn.

What do you do between writing projects?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Yummiest Character Around

Finding humor where I can.
It cracks me up that when my 6-year old son put on his Darth Vader costume, my 3-year old daughter said, "Where's Obi Wan Cannoli?"

Monday, October 29, 2007

Not sure this will be top on my reading list

Back in seventh grade, I would have waited in line to buy it. But after the release of Scarlett, I think I can pass on this one. Thoughts?
---

Margaret Mitchell fans prepare for the launch of Donald McCaig's prequel to Gone with the Wind, RHETT BUTLER'S PEOPLE. Paul Anderson Jr., part of a committee of lawyers that advises an Atlanta committee that "protects" Mitchell's original says that "the public itself wanted another sequel." He adds, "But this is not like 'Rocky.' We're not coming back every time we think we can make another book." AP

Sunday, October 28, 2007

To-Do Lists

I'm all about to-do lists. Anyone who knows me well enough knows this. At home. At work. By my computer. Everywhere, I make lists. Things I need to do. Things I need to buy. Daily lists. Weekly lists. Yearly lists. If it can be listed, then it's on there.
I never thought much about this. It's something I've always done. My husband has from time to time verbally admired my lists and even gone so far as to make his own. But I never realized the true meaning of "teach by example" until my 6-year old son grabbed a piece of paper and a pen the other night at dinner.
It was a regular night. My 3-year old daughter wouldn't eat her dinner and was dancing around doing what we so fondly call "the poop dance", all the while insisting she didn't have to go to the bathroom.
So my son started his list.

1) Make Sister Poop.
2) Make Sister Eat dinner.
(Neither of these ended up in too much success, so he went on).
3) Get Sister strong.
(At this point, he proceeded to lead her in an entire exercise regime - Jumping jacks. Toe touches. Sit-ups. Sprinting.)
4) Get Sister Smart.
(This lead to him playing Freddie Fish computer game while she watched and "helped").

The items are cute. But the display is astounding to me. My 6-year old made his first To-Do list. See - they do mimic what they see at home :)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Favorite Books

They had these posted at my son's elementary school. Do you think I'm the only parent who took pictures? Anyway, just interesting. I'm still amazed at the books third graders are reading these days.

Third Grade:

Fourth Grade:


Fifth Grade:

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Don't Mess With Electricity

We've heard this all along since the minute we could hear. Electricity is dangerous. It can kill you. Seriously.

I think this little guy didn't take it seriously, or he chose not to listen. So here's what electricity can do if you get too close.


---

* Our lights had been flickering all throughout the house. As an electrical engineer, I tackle small electrical projects around the house. Outlets. Switches. Light fixtures. But serious electricity I don't get near. Why? I want to stay alive.
When the electrician opened the outside breaker box, he found this little guy on the wire.
To quote my son - "Sad for him."

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Things Kids Say #1

Kids say what's on their mind. That's all there is too it.
Take Friday. I went to the elementary school to have lunch with my son (first grade). It's the first time I've been this year, and there are many classmates I've heard about but never met. So I get in the lunch line with him, and he's hanging with this little boy. We'll call him Keith. I'm about to say, "Hi, Keith. It's nice to finally meet you. I've heard so much about you." Or something like that. But just as I get the "Hi" out, I notice Keith is pointing to his teeth and mumbling something.
"What?" I say.
Mumbles again.
By this time, I'm sure he's telling me I've got a big piece of spinach in my teeth.
"What?" I say again. If it is spinach, I want to know and get it out before I get to the lunch lady.
Finally I hear him. "Do you really have four fake teeth in front?" ***
I start laughing, and confirm to him that yes, I actually do have four fake teeth in front.
He continues on to relay the entire story of how I came to get my four fake teeth in front. I guess this is something my son is proud to mention about me at school. My son thought I'd be upset, but I assured him it was fine to share the story of my four fake teeth. Maybe I should have him re-enforce the importance of wearing a bicycle helmet while doing so.

--

*** The four fake teeth are crowns that I have as a result of taking on an SUV face-first while on my bicycle.

Friday, October 19, 2007

So I knew I wasn't a complete nerd

See, cubing is cool.
Next kid's birthday party, they're getting Rubik's Cubes in their goodie bags.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Sharing Dreams

I had a dream last night that one of my co-workers died. No one was sure how it happened, but I like the guy quite a bit, so I was sorry in my dream.

So when I saw him this morning, my initial reaction was to say, "Hey, I think weird dream about you last night."
Uh, but then where would I go from there? "Yeah, you actually died in my dream." Not such a good followup.
So using all the smarts my 37 years have given me, I opted to say nothing.

24-hour Comic

I have a friend doing a 24-hour comic challenge. From what I gather, you basically get locked in a room with a bunch of other comic-book-type people for 24-hours straight and write and draw a 24-page comic book. No planning anything ahead of time. I think you can eat, but if it were me, I'd be afraid to drink for feel of spilling my Diet Coke on my almost finished stack of pages. What's to happen if someone else spills their Diet Coke on your stuff? Do you pull out your closest weapon and duel to the death?
I wonder ...
Is the bathroom monitored?
Are cell phones confiscated?
Do they check your hands for secret plot lines written in vanishing ink?

If your interested, drop by and check it out!

Sounds like a great idea! I can't wait to read the result.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Backup

Anyone use online data storage for backing up? I'm going to start.
Here's one that I've read good things about and may try. XDrive.
Thoughts?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Finding fun where I can

I've mentioned we get free soda and water at work. OK, I've mentioned this about twenty times. So some people find this need to have collections on their desks of all the empty cans/bottles they've had. Some stack them up in pyramids. Some line them neatly on the top of the cubicle walls. Some arrange them on their desk surface. And the main thing I've noticed about the people who do this is that they always drink the same thing (not the same as everyone else, just the same thing.) For example, if they drink water, they always drink water. Apple Juice - always apple juice.
So I've found a new fun way to keep the office lively and exciting (at least for me). When one of these collectors is out of their cube, and I happen to walk by on the way to the recycling bin, I replace one of their empty cans with my own. See, I'm a Diet Coker. So imagine a proud arrangement of Diet Dr. Peppers with a single Diet Coke in the midst.
I know it's a small thing. But I have fun then walking by to check if the cube occupant has discovered the switch.

Got any fun office pranks of your own?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

YA versus MG

I struggle with this question. How do you distinguish a YA (young adult) book versus a MG (middle grade) book?

OK, off for a free soda while I contemplate it.

Good News for the Week

The good news is that I've already read the editing yourself into print book. And though I liked it, I liked Fiction First Aid better, so that's the one I'll be re-reading.

The other good news is that my friend who visited this weekend offered to read my WIP. And did I mention she used to do book reviews for the AP?

And the final good news is that I'm looking forward to a writing workshop next Saturday here in Austin.

So what's yours? Got any good news to share?

Friday, October 05, 2007

Friends in Town = Good Time for a few days Break

It's not often we have out of town guests. Seriously. We sold all our guest furniture, bought a futon, and made it an office. But this weekend, we have my high school friend, her husband, 2 kids, and their nanny. Returning to America from Paraguay. Well, not the nanny. This is her first time to America.

Timing works out well on this one. I've just finished another revision on WIP, and a few nights away from the computer (and WIP) will maybe give me a fresh perspective. Maybe. Why is it so hard to have perspective on our own works?

I'm starting Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: Editing Yourself into Print. Anyone read it? I've heard good things about it, and now seems like as good a time as any to dig right in!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

How do you brainstorm?

I spent a lot of time on my new WIP ahead of time - plotting, character development, etc. But then during rewrites comes the time when changes need to be made. There was a problem and I needed a solution. But not just any solution. A clever one. A creative one. An original one.
First I went and asked my hubby about it. OK, now it's out in the open. I've vocalized it.
Then I went back to the computer and started a fresh Word document just typing. I put down my questions I needed to answer. I put down any and every idea in my mind.
Then hubby came out and brought me a CD to listen to. Something he uses while studying to help him focus. But there's a special part for creativity. So I put it on. I looked through some books. I typed some more. But most importantly, I spent the time doing it.
And then it came to me. An original and creative idea.
I'm not saying it's perfect, but for right now, it will do.

So I'm curious, how do you brainstorm?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Halloween Presents in the Mail

Just in line with our Haunted Playhouse theme, we received Halloween presents in the mail!
Thanks, Cousin!
Two great Halloween headbands - one with spiders and one with bats.
And spooky colored hands that hold place cards - eight of them, and funny enough we have four visitors coming this weekend! Perfect timing.

Now to get to the party store for some spooky spiderwebs and a ghost. We need to find a ghost. (Requirement here is that he can't be too gross. I'm not into the gross Halloween thing!)

Please grant me one small picture for bragging rights

My little 1st grader is Artist of the Week. He was so happy to tell me! So I walked in to check out his work. And I have to say, even if I wasn't his mom, I'd be impressed!


Monday, October 01, 2007

My Haunted Cubicle

So there's a long standing tradition that when people are about to return from sabbatical, you do something to their cube. Thanks to my one of my friends at work, I returned today to find a haunted cubicle, complete with spiderwebs, streamers, and spiders!
Something like this makes me feel wanted. It makes me happy to return to work to see my friends. So, friend, if you're reading this, a great big smile and thanks!

Time flies by

So eight weeks went by. I can't get it back. But I'm happy to say I do have a list of accomplishments for the time off.
1) 3 weeks in Virginia with side trip to Philly and Central PA
2) 1 week in the Bahamas
3) Painted upstairs hallway
4) Stained the deck and playscape
5) Built awesome, fantastic, Haunted playhouse for the kids
6) Hosted a birthday party for my daughter
7) Cleaned the house (once)
8) Read "The First Five Pages" by Noah Lukeman
9) Worked on revisions for WIP
10) Gave two cars loads of stuff to Goodwill

OK, that's my top ten.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

So tomorrow it's back to work

Eight weeks off. So nice. But reality has hit, and tomorrow it's back to the 9 to 5.

Happy October 1st!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Given that it's Friday ...


... I was thinking about this. Born in 1970, this hit when I was 11 (1981 for those who don't want to do the math).
Who didn't love the song "Everybody's Working for the Weekend"?

And it got me thinking, what was your favorite album cover?

Here's my top ten (or at least 10 I can think of now):

1) Loverboy Get Lucky
2) Led Zeppelin In Through the Out Door
3) Beatles Sergeant Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band
4) Prince 1999
5) Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon
6) Journey Escape
7) Rush Moving Pictures
8) Grateful Dead Skeletons From the Closet
9) Led Zeppelin IV
10) Scorpions Love at First Sting

What about you? Do you have you own list? If so post it on your blog and let me know!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Chapter One - ?

Why are chapter names so hard? I don't think this is just me either. The book is rare that I pick up and think - "Wow, look at those chapter names!" But when they are creative, they are great.

In my WIP, I've realized that I need to start thinking some up. The realization came when I submitted to my critique group and got more than one :) that all my chapters were named "Something".

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

All consumed

I tend to get all consumed in a project when I start it. I think about it when I wake up. When I exercise. I sneak away to work on it (just three minutes here and there can really add up). When I fall asleep, it's what I think about right before bed.
But aside from door and window hinges which are on special order, here is my finished project!


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The difference a letter makes

So my 6-year old (1st grader) was doing his homework yesterday afternoon. First grade homework is far from challenging. The goal is to get them in the habit of doing it. The assignment of the day:
Write five words from the "at" family.

So he starts writing.
Bat
Chat
He then asks if he can write ratattat. I say sure, though I'm unsure of the spelling.
Fourth we have Cat.
He then asks if he can write "fat" even though we call this a bad word (the last thing I want is for him to get in the habit of referring to people this way.) But I say sure - it is a valid "at" word and perfectly fine for the assignment. And so he asks,
"Does it start with an "f" or a "ph"?"


After I stopped laughing, I attempted to explain the difference between fat and phat to my 6-year old. But then we looked online and found that indeed phat is in the Merriam-Webster dictionary. He chose to got with fat as the fifth word.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Finding humor in strange places

I don't regularly take pictures in public bathrooms. Not even private ones either for that matter. But once I locked the door and saw this ...

Friday, September 14, 2007

So what's your day job?

After six weeks away from mine, I can hardly remember. And as of yet, I have not written another book on my sabbatical. I have worked on revisions, but not during the day as I'd planned. Still writing only in the evenings. To me, it just feels like the right time.

Do you have a particular time of day you like to write? I get 9:00 - 11:00 pm. The kids get to bed by 8. Talk with hubby. Check email. Check blogs. That brings me to 9. But then I can focus. Sometimes I spend the whole 2 hours. Sometimes less. Rarely more (except maybe during a first draft stage).

And when you don't write, do you have to do something else to pay the bills?
I design chips. Not potato chips. The kind that go into cell phones (smart phones they call them). I like referring to them as Smart Phones because ... well, it just makes me feel smart!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Attention to Detail

So after D.C., I headed for a week long vacation to the Bahamas with my 2 kids and my mom. Have you been? Seen the Atlantis resort? Well that's where we stayed.
The resort was amazing. There was more marine life (sharks, manta rays, stingrays, etc.) than I've ever seen in my life. It was clean. Service was good. The pools were awesome. Slides were scary and fun. But the thing that struck me the most was the attention to detail.

The whole resort was designed around the theme that the lost city of Atlantis had been discovered in ruins underwater. And entire mythology had been developed. Who the inhabitants were. How it sank. How they tried to save it. How they communicated. How they told time. There were maps handed out detailed the city and where each chamber discovered was. The archaeologist work area was preserved.
As if this weren't enough, everywhere I looked, everything fit into the plan. The tunnels had drawings on the walls. The bathrooms had ancient alphabets written on them. The radios were hidden inside rocks along the walkways. The kid's pool even had an Atlantis themed playscape.

Thinking about it, designing a resort like this really doesn't differ much from writing a book. Actually any major project can be equated. Planning is important, but it's the attention to all the small details that will really make it stand out.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Blog Vacation

So I finished Harry Potter last night, and as of today, I'm taking a three week blog vacation! Off to D.C..

Have a great three weeks, and check back on August 24th!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Connections to a Billionaire

Last week we had a few people from Scotland over for face-to-face meetings here at work. And of course, Harry Potter (and JK Rowling) had to come up.

Turns out the one guy lives two blocks from JK Rowling in Edinburgh.
And the other guy's mother who is a teacher taught JK Rowling's daughter for years.

So if you lived two blocks from JK Rowling, would you go out of your way to walk by her house?
Would you hope mail got delivered to the wrong address so you'd have an excuse to ring her doorbell?
Would you bake "all the neighbors" cookies and hand deliver them?
Would you get your kid to try to sell her girlscout cookies?

Would you drop your ARC on her doorstep?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Not yet

OK, so I haven't finished Harry Potter yet. In fact, I've only made it to page 100. Then my husband made me turn out the light, and my drooping eyelids didn't complain. And even as I read it, I'm trying to imagine how hard it's got to be to end the series at all. Not because of wanting to just keep pumping out the Harry books. But trying to wrap up every loose end. Trying to make fans happy (or at least satisfied).

So no spoilers yet.

On the WIP Revision 1. My first drafts are really just that. I've managed to get the story down on paper. The writing may suck. The characters may need some life breathed into them. But the bare bones are there. So, I figure a few good revisions, and then I'll send the first chapter off to the critique groups for review. I plan to re-read Fiction First Aid, and I also just got The First Five Pages. So watch out, group!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

I'm finished ...

... with WIP draft 1.

I'm so excited! I love my story! And I'm looking forward to revisions. But none until I get back from Virginia in three weeks. Then I'm allowed to start.

In the mean time, I can finally read Harry Potter. Is Darth Vader really his father?

College Memory Number Two

I had so much fun recalling college memory number one. So why stop at one? Why limit to college? No good reason for either, but in the spirit of the last post, I give you my other college experience with ... exposition.

From sophmore year on, I used to have this job as a security monitor. Ok, my job wasn't to tackle intruders and pin them to the floor to be handcuffed. Basically, I worked from 10 pm -6 am on weekdays and 12 am -6 am on weekends (not every day) in the dorms. The doors got locked and I was responsible for checking people's IDs before letting them into the dorms after hours. If their ID didn't match a name on the list, they didn't get in.
(I could go off on a side note here of what I actually would have done if someone refused to obey me. Most people trying to break the rules pretended to play stupid when I told them to go away - like they didn't know they couldn't get into the dorms).

Anyway, I always brought my five pound Maltese, Killer, along with me, and we'd stay up all night doing homework, reading, talking to other people, or watching TV. If only I'd known back then that I wanted to be a writer!
So one night I working. All my friends had gone, and it was just me and Killer hanging in the lobby. It was a co-ed dorm - boys on one wing, girls on the other. Suddenly, the door from the girl's side opens and out walks this guy into the lobby. He had his hair frizzed out, his face painted green, white paint around his eyes. And he was stark naked with a huge erection!
He didn't look at me, though I have no doubt his show was for me and me alone (unless you count Killer). He simply looked straight ahead and walked from the door of the girls' side to the door of the boys' side.
I found myself speechless - mouth hanging open. I'm guessing he was checking my reaction out of his peripheral vision, and I'm sure I didn't disappoint. Killer lifted her head from the pillow she slept on, looked at him, and went back to sleep.
Me? I was certainly alert the rest of the evening. I called my boss, who came and hung out with me for the next few hours. And trust me - we got plenty a good laugh out of the whole thing.
So thank you, weird face-painted-green-guy, for giving me something to laugh about fifteen years later!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Do I have to stop reading blogs ...

...until I read the final Harry Potter? I mean, is everyone and their brother going to post spoilers on their blogs? Please, no!!!
OK, I know I don't stand a chance here. I'd planned to wait until I finished the first draft of my WIP before I read the book. But sadly, I believe I may need to change my plans.
I've having a hard time thinking I'll be able to make it even a day without seeing a headline, hearing a passing conversation by the coffee machine, glancing at a blog entry about how someone's predictions were accurate.
And so I'll buy the thing tomorrow. I have to admit - I can't wait to read it, even though I'd planned to.

So when are you going to read it?
(And don't comment at 6 in the morning Saturday and tell us how you bought it at midnight and just finished it. OK, you can comment, but no spoilers!)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

I run into writers everywhere

It amazes me (and I love it) when I meet people who write. Or I find out people I've known for years write. It's like instantly there's this bond. There's so much to talk about. First drafts. Rejection. Conferences.

I'm at a birthday party for my little girl, and it turns out the dad of the birthday girl is an author.
I'm at the coffee machine at work, and it turns out our technical writer is an author.

And the funny thing everyone says?

"I hope to be able to write full time."

Me too!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Did you go to ...

your high school reunion?
I know Robin Brande talked about this a while back, but now it is my reality. You see, I'm having my twenty year reunion this October. I live in Texas. It's back in Virginia. There's so much planning going on. So many people I haven't seen in like forever. It would be great to catch up. But I'm not sure about hauling the whole family of four back for the weekend.
But thinking about reunions gives me a few laughs.

My aunt is attending her sixty year college reunion this weekend. As she puts it, you go at that point just to see who's still around.

My coworker just attended his twenty year. Four years ago, he was the arm wrestling champion of the world. I'm not talking America here. I'm talking he flew to Russia and won. (OK, first on his left hand, and second on his right hand). So it's gotta be pretty cool to walk into your reunion with that as bragging material. I asked him if he bragged, but he's just not that kind of guy, and admitted he didn't bring it up.

My dad attended his fifty year reunion a few years ago, and wondered who all the old people there were.

So tell me, did you go? Got a good story?

Monday, July 16, 2007

College Memory Number One

Writing for kids and young adults - and reading much of this genre - always brings back some of my own memories. Some are share-worthy and some are not.
I'll let you decide on this one.
---
My freshroom college roommate and I knew each other in high school and decided to room together. We got out room on the first floor with a window facing away from campus.
Anyway, we used to have friends who would come rattle on the window to visit. We'd open the shade and let them in to talk.
So imagine my surprise when the window rattled late one night and I opened the shade only to reveal a guy dressed in camo taking pleasure with himself!
"Katie!!!!" I called. "Come look at this!"
(OK, cut me some slack - this was really my first experience with someone actually doing this).
She ran over and we watched for a minute - trying to really believe with our eyes what we were seeing. Could we be mistaken? Was the guy really three feet from OUR window? Was he really doing what we thought he was doing?
OK, finally common sense took over and we put down the shade and called all our friends to tell them.
A month later, the same thing happened. But this time, we called the campus cops. They came, took our incident report, and left. Our friendly visitor was long gone by the time they arrived. I guess the fact that we deliberated on whether to actually call the cops or not may have contributed to his getting away.

Got any good stories of your own? If you do, write about them on your blog and let me know!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Our Bedtime Story

I've been telling my kids a new bedtime story lately. OK, and it all comes back to book research. But also, please keep in mind my son is six and loves this story. And learning about mythology is a good thing, right?

It's the story of two brothers - Set and Osiris. And Osiris is married to Isis.
Set hated Osiris because Osiris was king. And so on the day Isis and Osiris married, Set went to Osiris and chopped him into fourteen pieces which he then scattered about the earth.
Isis was devastated, and searched all over the earth, finding thirteen of the pieces. She never found the fourteenth piece which nicely enough was his penis.
So she took the thirteen pieces and created the first mummy. Then she prayed for a baby for she and Osiris had never consummated their marriage (OK, I glance over this a bit). And she got pregnant and had Horus.
Horus hated his uncle Set. So he and Uncle Set got in a fight. Uncle Set poked out one of Horus's eyes. And Horus tore off one of Uncle Set's testicles.
The End.

Data storage

So what's the best way to back up your work?
I hear horror stories all the time of authors who have lost their entire hard drives. Disk drives didn't work. Overwrote files.
So here's what I do:
Each night, I work on a new file with the date at the end. Yep, that means I have every version at the end of each day of everything I've ever worked on. And seriously, why not? I think my hard drive is some insane amount of gigabytes.
Every other night, I burn a CD with my writing stuff on it. I then store these CDs in a fireproof lock box.
On the other nights, I back up my entire hard drive onto a backup hard drive. The first time takes a while, but after that it only copies the changes.

So I'm talking about this with my coworkers the other day, and one of them mentions that the fire boxes are only rated to like 200 degrees or something, and that any house fire would get hotter than that.

So I could email myself my current working version every night - uploading to yahoo in a way.
But I've also thought about looking into some sort of off-site backup storage system. Does anyone do anything like this?

What do you do for backups?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Rewrite

Since I joined this fantastic online critique group a couple months ago, I've been getting some great feedback. What I'm submitting is the second book in my trilogy. I don't think I've really revised this book in probably about 8 months.
When revising, initially I go through and try to do some pretty major changes. But then each subsequent revision gets just a little bit less, then less. Then I have no idea what to revise at all.
Enter critique group and 8 months of time.
And now I think I'm ready for another revision. A major one. The time off is crucial. I know we've all read stuff where it says to put the work away for a week or two between revisions. But even after a week, there's no way I'd be having the ideas I'm having now.
Major changes. That's what I'm seeing. Especially at the beginning. Not just trying to do a better job with Book 1 backstory (though that is a major part of it), but new plot ideas, seeding for Book 3, character name changes, place changes.
And I love this type of revision. For me, it's my second favorite part of writing a book.
1) First draft - I love just getting the ideas down on paper - even it they suck.
2) Major revision where I have some sort of vision in my mind of how/where I can change things.

What's your favorite part of the writing process?

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Hatshepsut Mummy

So the mummy of Hatshepsut was recently discovered and identified. And turns out she was no beauty queen - just a queen. She was fat, balding, and bearded - and ruled all of Egypt.

Read all about it!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

I am spellbound by this book

OK, maybe I'm the last person to read it, and I'm not quite done, but I can't put down Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. Can I say amazing? Does the second book live up to the first? And a third coming out next month.

Here's why I think it's great. The book is written for YA; the protagonist is I think 17. And I'm 37. Twenty years difference, and when I'm not reading the book, all I'm doing is thinking about reading the book. I want to be the main character, and that's amazing to me.

And here's my question. Are books whose ending are not always happy better? I'm willing to bet many of them are at least more memorable. Kind of like Titanic (the movie). I remember watching that and being sad for a week after because I wanted Leonardo and Kate to be together. But they weren't. And that makes an impact.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

New Habit to Form

Back in May, HipWriterMama hosted a one-month-to-form-a-habit. At the time, I picked drinking enough water each day, but put it off as we were heading to Disney (which would already be enough time in the bathroom with a potty-training toddler).
But now I have a new habit I will form. I've been talking about this for ages.
Meditation. For five or ten minutes a day.
I've been wanting to do this forever, and I'm going to start. By August, I will have a new habit formed.

Out of curiosity, does anyone else do any kind of daily meditation? Any suggestions? Techniques? I'm thinking it needs to be something I can incorporate during the middle of the work day in my cube farm. Possibly an escape to the bathroom or Mother's room?

Monday, July 02, 2007

One Month Down

So it's been a month that I've been working on my new WIP. And aside from being totally excited about writing it, another great thing has been happening. I'm re-excited to go back and do more revisions on books 2 and 3 of my Forgotten Worlds trilogy. This is based on great feedback I've been getting from my critique group along with better understandings of plotting, character development, etc.

WIP research done to date:
We just finished the 1930's The Mummy with Boris Karloff tonight.
We've watched The Mummy, The Mummy Returns, and The Scorpion King.
(And just an aside - all are fine for kids. The Scorpion King has maybe a couple "questionable" scenes, but is pretty tame).

WIP words written:
~37,000

Time left for first draft:
4 weeks (about 30 days)

Sunday, July 01, 2007

The best efficiency improvement so far this year

Back in January, I set a number of goals. Call them New Year's Resolutions if you want. And so far, I'm doing ... OK.
Once resolution I made which has made my life worlds easier is this:

I clean my own house. I know, so many people have maids come in, but I have some weird issue paying someone else to do a mediocre job cleaning my house when I know I'd do a better job. But long stretches of time between cleanings made this a monumental task.
So I made a calendar.
See, my downstairs really doesn't need to be dusted more than once a month. And my kitchen counters only need to be scrubbed every three weeks.
So I listed each item, and put it on the calendar, spreading out the tasks so they didn't all fall on the same weekend.
Now my calendar tells me what to clean.
For example, this past weekend my calendar told me to wipe the stairs, vacuum the downstairs, and dust downstairs. Next weekend weekend, I wash the sheets and clean the toilets (this gets done every two weeks).
The best thing about being on top of cleaning like this is that a clean house is much easier to keep clean. If I don't dust for four months, I have to scrape dust off the furniture. If I dust every month, a swipe with my electrostatic duster more than does the job.

Once I finish a task, I highlight it on the calendar to mark it as complete - giving me the nice sense of completion.

So, if you're like me on the cleaning front, try the calendar.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Class of 2K8

Have I mentioned the Class of 2K8 yet? Well, we've formed and are ready to go.

What is it, you might ask? It's a group of first time novelists with their first YA/MG books coming out in 2008 and is the next class after 2K7 started by Greg Fishbone last year.
We plan to do great things and have spent the last couple months brainstorming.

And let me tell you something else. There are going to be a ton of great books released next year. I love the variety we have. Some serious. Some funny. Some for older YA. Some for younger MG. Start planning your reading list now.

Have you ever done any group marketing, and if so, how has it worked?

Also, which conferences/expos/events do think are the most important to attend?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Tortoise Method (and goals update)

In some things in life, I act like the tortoise. And in some, I act like the hare.
Guess what.
In the tasks where I am the tortoise, my success rate is much higher.

Like writing. I write every night. Not a lot, but every night.
Copying of VHS to DVD. Two tapes a day. Every day. And soon all were done.

So this brings me back to a meme we did a while back. The 4x4 (or something like that - I can't find the link).
It went like this - Give four things you accomplished in the last four years and four things you will accomplish in the next four years.
One of my four years goals was to start taking Kung Fu. And I had in my mind that maybe I could start over my sabbatical (in September) because I'd be able to go every day.
Well this weekend, the obvious hit me in the face. Why wait until September? Why not start on Monday? It would be better to take the tortoise approach - after all, I plan on doing this for a long time. Start now. Go two or three times a week. Heck, by September, I'll have gone thirty times.

So I took my tortoise approach and started yesterday morning.

How have you been doing on your goals? Can you apply the tortoise approach to any?

Monday, June 25, 2007

Writing Tip of the Week - Make Life Difficult

I've read this and am putting it into complete practice in my new WIP.
Never give your characters anything easily. Make them struggle for everything they need.
Why? To create conflict. Life needs to be difficult for them and they need to grow and overcome the difficulties. Otherwise, they'll be boring to read about.
I guess this is kind of the reason the only news you see on TV is bad news (generalization here) Sure, we all love the feel good story about the little girl who wanders for three days in the woods and then turns up healthy and happy. But what makes this story interesting? That she wandered alone - facing all kinds of danger - is what makes it a story. The fact that she came back safe and OK means we'll talk about it for a couple days. Sad, but if she'd ended up missing forever, it would leave way more of an impact (but that's not the point here).

Thanks to a critique group member, I've added a new *TIP* on the white board in my office.
Conflict on every page.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

SFF Inspirational Photo of the Week

Did anyone else watch the original Journey to the Center of the Earth? It's in my top 5 favorite movies. Possibly even number one.
Today's journey took us to Inner Space Caverns here in Austin, TX, where we came upon this room.



If anyone doesn't know the story of the caverns, when they were testing the land back in 1963 to build the interstate (IH35), they drilled core samples to see if the land could withstand the highway. They kept coming up hollow, and so they drilled a 24 inch hole and lowered a construction worker into a pile of bat guano (pretrified of course). But they also found these amazing caverns.

The best part of the tour is when they turn out the lights. Total and complete darkness. You can't see anything. Nothing. Not even an outline.

We had fun telling the kids about the monster that lives in the caverns. The monster never came out, but I swear I saw beady eyes peering out at me.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

What's your favorite post?

HipWriterMama tagged me to republish a favorite post from the past. I looked back through and settled on one with a little humor. If you want to play, visit HipWriterMama to link yours over there. Then click on all the others for some great reading time.

-----

Lord of the Flies (October 12, 2006)

So here's my funny story for the day. My son came home from school (kindergarten) the other day, and somehow, right before bed, he starts telling us how out on the playground at recess, between 10 and 13 other boys (not his friends) start pushing him. He says one boy was holding him so tight he couldn't move and the others were shoving him. And he hit his head on a bench and got a big bump. Of course, in my mind, I've pictured the worst. Images of Lord of the Flies come to mind. With my sweet little innocent boy at the center of the torment! Does bullying really start this early? Kindergarten? Am I just so naive that I didn't realize this.
So I email the teacher to ask her about it. We exchange a couple emails and she does a little more digging, bringing in a couple of the perpetrators. And so, pretty soon, a much more realistic story comes out. Apparantly, a girl was trying to kiss my son, and the other boys were trying to 'protect' him and keep him from getting kissed. They were holding him and surrounding him. I can see the connection here, and even see how this could get misconstrued in a 5-year-old mind. And when I asked my son about it (including the kissing) he got pretty embarrassed and also seemed to agree with the story. So not quite Lord of the Flies.
Of course, this did lead us to a discussion about what to do if someone is pushing you around. We told him to warn them once - maybe twice - and then shove them right back. He might get in trouble with the principal this way, but not with us.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Plots and Other Predictable Things

We finished up watching The Mummy Returns last night. And before I go any further, let me preface that I love this movie. I love this kind of movie.
But throughout, my son would ask questions.
A new character came onto the scene. He filled the "comedy relief" role.
My son asked, "Is he going to die?"
"No," I said.
"Why?" he asked.
"Because the comedy relief character never dies." (OK, maybe rarely he does, but then he's nto funny anymore.)

Then the (minor but ferocious) bad guy starting fighting the good guy.
"Mommy, is that guy going to die?" he asked.
"Yep," I said.
Not a second later he got sliced open by the good guy.

Then the mom got killed.
"Mommy, is she really dead?" he asked.
"Yes," I said. "But she'll come back to life."
Five minutes later they used The Book of the Dead to bring her back to life.

How do I know these things? Because I've seen them over and over again. And I don't mind that they are predictable. It gives me a warm, comfortable place to sit back and relax.
It's like the Hero's Journey. There are roles which need to be filled. There is a basic plot structure to follow. And it works.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A perfect night of book research

Hubby had a cub scout planning meeting, so the two kids and I planned our night.
First we made popcorn. The real kind with the swirling dome popper. Not the microwave (easy-but-not-as-good) variety.
Juice for the kids. Diet Coke for me.
Then we crowded onto one Lazy Boy chair along with the dog, popcorn bowls in lap, juice cups within reach, and flipped on "The Mummy Returns."

My favorite part is watching the kids watch it.
My (6 year old) son says, "Oh, the scarab beetles eating that man! That's my favorite part."
My (2-1/2 year old) daughter pipes up ten seconds later. "I love the scarab beetles. That's my best part." (She wants to be just like her brother).

Other favorite quotes:
"Mommy, where's Imhotep. He's the monster." - My 2-1/2 year old daughter.
"Mommy, is Akhenaton in this one?" - My 6 year old son.

I told him that by knowing who Akhenaton is, he already knows more than most college graduates.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Interested in writing about an adoption experience?

If so, check this out.

What I love about museums

A recent post I read asked what people liked about libraries. It got me thinking, and then some book related research brought to mind this question.
What do you like about museums?

Here's what I like:

And this:

It's the secret, hidden places that are off the beaten path.
I think my favorite museum is the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. OK, growing up ten mintues away from the Smithsonian may have spoiled me for life on museums, though I have to say the year I lived in Chicago provided some excellent contenders. The Art Institute. The Museum of Science and Industry. The Field Museum. I think it was the Field Museum that had an entire Egyptian tomb on the ground level. Way cool. And the coal mine exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry.

What's your favorite and why?

Friday, June 15, 2007

Exercise for the Week - Make a difference

Here's the exercise for this hot/blistery week (at least here in Texas it's hot and blistery).

More and more, I realize how important it is to touch people's lives in a positive way.
We may leave a closet of treasures and a pile of photos once we're gone, but something better we can leave is a positive impact.

Think of someone. You don't have to love the person. Heck, you don't even have to know the person.
Now think of a way you can touch that person's life in a positive way.
Now do it.

** Small actions can have large consequences. Make all your small actions good ones. **

Research for my WIP

I've been throwing myself into my new WIP - both in outlining/writing it and in researching it.
I've mentioned it has some Egyptian elements. Here are some of the fun ways I am researching it:


1) Read Don't know much about Mythology. Great, great, great book.
2) Watched Mummies IMAX movie with my son.
3) Placed large scarab beetle on my working area
4) Going to see King Tut exhibit in August in Philadelphia
5) Going to see Egypt Treasures exhibit in September in Houston
6) Order movie three pack - The Mummy, The Mummy Returns, and The Scorpian King

7) Ordered original The Mummy five pack of movies
8) Ordered first remake of The Mummy movie
9) Bought myself a Lapis necklace.
10) Bought pretty Book of the Dead from Barnes and Noble

11) Had my mom ship me every book on pyramids she owns
12) Plan to go up Washington Monument in August
13) Watched Egypt on the Potomac DVD

OK, I wish I could say I was visiting Egypt also, but this will have to wait.
The real question is how much is necessary for book research, and how many things are just because I want to?

What ways do you research for your writing?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Critique Group

I've joined an online critique group. In the past, I've played around with this idea, so given a chance, I leaped. And so far, the results have way surpassed my expectations.

1) I never have to leave my house. No leaving my kids at bedtime to meet at the bookstore.
2) No worrying about running over, or not having enough time spent on my work.
3) We have ten members, all writing MG or YA novels. The critiques I've been reading on not only my work, but on every one's work are amazing. Everyone views things just a bit differently, and provides feedback as such.
4) With ten members, I'm learning how to be a better editor. This is one of my writing goals. Reading books on craft is great, but sometimes it takes someone pointing out a problem for me to say, "Duh! Why didn't I see that?"
5) Being online, the rules are set, and it's hard to stray. Two people submit each week. Critiques for the two submissions are due at the end of the week. I work well with structured systems like this.
6) I get to read 9 other books! And I'm finding myself looking forward to the next submission of each. This is great because many are not in genres I would normally choose.

The online thing may not work for some, but I think in some way, it provides for more honest critiquing. Accepting comments on your work can be hard sometimes. And sometimes an initial reaction is to defend every point made. What I'm working on it to digest (not defend) every bit. I don't have to agree with everything, but it is my responsibility to myself to look at every comment. Otherwise I'm wasting my time and every else's too. And with this methodology, what I've found is that I have a lot to learn.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Is this awesome or what?


Did you see this amazing book cover for The Titan's Curse in South Korea? It makes me wish I knew Korean.

Word Count

Do you ever get caught up in the whole word count thing? Like you know a middle grade book should be 30K-50K words or something like that? So you start writing and the whole time you have this word count in your mind. And you keep track of where you are, and have no idea how you'll come up enough words? And then you're pretty sure you'll have to publish it as a novella or short story?
Or am I the only one?

P.S. Don't let the post fool you. My first draft of my WIP is going great. I just have these thoughts from time to time.

So how did he make it up here anyway


Walking from my desk this morning at work to get some coffee, I came across this little guy. And when I say little, I really mean about 2 inches long.

And sometimes I'm such a girl. I ran fast, sure he'd decide to fly through the air and jump into my hair. But first I took the picture. (He looks small because I didn't want to get close.)

I get in early, and thankfully, so do a few guys also. This is one thing about being a girl. If there is a guy around, it's his responsibility to kill any bugs which may creep around.

After gawking at it's size, one guy took off his shoe and that was the end of Mr. Roach.


We then theorized how he got up to the fourth floor in the first place. The elevator? In someone's lunch bag?


The funny thing about Texas is that you don't have to live in the ghetto to have roaches in your house. They are everywhere, and since I've accepted this fact, I have my wonderful pest control guy come out regularly.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Writing Tip of the Week - Scene

I set a goal this year to read something like ten books on writing craft. So far, I've gotten through about six.
And now, with starting a new project, I actually can put many things I've learned into play at the start of a new book. So useful.
One thing I've been focusing on in this first draft, and will pick up more of during revisions, is scene. I read in one of the books that you should never just have two heads talking.

Talking + no action = bored reader.

So if your characters need to talk, give them something else to do also. Give some background drama. Have them talking in a car while going through the car wash. Have then talking in a restaurant with a band in the background. Have them involved in a high speed car chase. Maybe they can be mountain climbing.

For me, my characters were talking in an apartment. I introduced some snakes. This up'ed the scene a notch.

Monday, June 11, 2007

My Catalogue (and other things kids say)

My son was excited a few weeks ago when I showed him the picture of his creation on the computer. I told him it was my blog and that it was the photo or inspiration for the week.


He was terribly proud, and when I pulled out the creature parts yesterday for him and my daughter to play with, he went straight to work.



I give you Cheetah-Saurus. When my daughter threatened to destroy said genetically-engineered creature, my son ran from the room carrying it screaming, "No, that's for Mommy's catalogue."



Blog. Catalogue. I see the connection.



And because he then went to work on another creature, here is Headless-saurus.








Kids say the greatest things. My daughter is now at the age of "playing" with words. This is when I should write down every word she comes up with for future use in a book.









Saturday, June 09, 2007

Monthly SCBWI Meeting - Improv

I actually got to attend our monthly SCBWI meeting here in Austin. I've been a little absent this year due to my son's Kung Fu class, so since class was cancelled today, I headed to the meeting.
We have a great group, and some very strong speakers. Today's subject was Improv.
The speaker, Sean Petrie, is an author in our group who'd taken two improv classes, tried out for a group, and been accepted.
What I learned is that there is a whole world of research involved in everything. Even improv.
He went over a series of exercises used to warm up, and produce new, fresh humor.

The "Yes, and" exercise was a good one.
If someone makes a statement, for example, "That's a nice lawnmower," there are basically three types of responses.
1) "It's not a lawnmower, it's a baby stroller." Funny. Gets a laugh. But the scene is dead after this.
2) "Thanks." This is the 'yes' response. Not funny, and the scene ends.
3) "Why thanks, mom, and did you also know it cuts hair?" Here is the 'yes, and' response. Adds humor. Relationship is quickly established. Continuing story line provided.

Another exercise was the "New Choice" exercise. Given the start of a basic scene, the actor comes up with a line. The director can always say "New line". The actor then has to come up with a different line. This is a great exercise to do while planning writing projects to prevent cliches.

The list of exercises was great, and aside from helping in my writing/author life, I think some of these will be fun games to play with the kids.

A final note on the improv exercises. Here is a prefect example that you will get better at something if you practice. Everything requires practice. OK, sure, some people may be born funnier or more quick-witted, but everyone can work at it and improve.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Exercise for the Week - Go through you files

We all have them - those small little office/house clutter type tasks which remain undone. And I'm a firm believer that an uncluttered office makes for more productive writing time.

  • Going through your filing cabinet - clean out and file away
  • Organizing your receipts. I have a stack of writing receipts I still need to categorize and file away.
  • The Junk basket/drawer/whatever. You know what I'm talking about.
  • Sorting through your child's artwork. Should you save it all?


Here's your exercise for the weekend.
1) Pick one of these things. It doesn't have to be on the list above, and it should be accomplishable in a relatively short period of time.
2) Get it done.

I'm not sure if I'll tackle the junk basket in my hallway, or go through the scrapbook pictures, but whatever I pick, I'll get it done!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Life tip of the Week - How to memorize something

I have a trick for memorization. A few years back I decided to memorize Kublai Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
I printed out a copy and placed it in a large ziploc bag. I then taped the ziploc in the shower where I would see it every day.
By working on only one or two lines a day, I had the poem memorized in under a month.
This works well for song lyrics that you want to learn so you can sing them to your kids also. And speaking of this, have you ever noticed how well you sing when only your kids are listening. Or when no one is around? I have the best voice ever.

Book of the Week - A Short History of Nearly Everything

I'm listening to all 20 hours of this book on MP3, and I'm about a third of the way done.

If you haven't read it, pick up a copy of A Short History of Nearly Everything.

I know this book made some list - like in the top 10 books for guys to read. And though I'm not a guy, I'm finding it fascinating.

The book gives a great overview of
  • Quantum physics
  • Relativity
  • Energy
  • Geology

And that's only in the part I've been through. And aside from all the intelligence I'm gaining from reading it, think of the fodder for writing. There are so many ideas for science fiction and fantasy derived from real things in our world. And that fact that physicists don't know everything about the universe we live in, makes the realm of the unknown so much more believable.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Goals Meme

This is a great one.

List 10-15 goals (personal or professional) you plan to accomplish over the summer.

I'm cutting my summer short. I start an 8-week long sabbatical in August, so for the purpose of these goals, we're talking only June and July.

Here goes:

1) Write first draft of new WIP.
2) Blog daily.
3) Finish A Short History of Nearly Everything.
4) Read new Harry Potter, Titan's Curse, and Skulduggery Pleasant (though these may wait for August/September sabbatical).

5) Finish my (electrical engineering) work deliverables before starting sabbatical (I have a separate list here).

6) Eat healthy every day.
7) Exercise 6 days a week.
8) Drink 8 glasses of water a day (no, I haven't started yet :))

9) Sod the front yard.
10) Transform my daughter's room from a baby room into a little girl's room.
11) Price wood flooring for my downstairs.

12) Do three fun major family activities (like Sea World, San Antonio Zoo, beach ...)
13) Encourage my son to write in his journal three times a week.
14) Listen to books on tape with my kids.

Summer Reading Program

Magic Treehouse is hosting a summer reading program for elementary age children. You can pick up a form at Barnes & Noble.
Basically, your elementary age student has to read 8 books over the summer. They then receive a free book and are eligible to win an autographed copy of a Magic TreeHouse book.

We've got two Captain Underpants read and two more pending for the list so far.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

What words are OK?

Sometimes my characters just want to say "Oh crap!" Or "This sucks."
Is this OK for middle grade (older middle grade)? Or must I look for more clever ways to say things?
I totally get (and agree) that true "bad" words shouldn't be used. But am I destined to have to write "Oh darn," when everyone (including fourth graders) know this isn't what my character would really say?

And is scrotum now officially on the OK list?

Monday, June 04, 2007

It begins!

So I've officially started writing my new project. I'm 870 words in. That's right - 870 words (which is roughly 3 pages).

Beginnings are hard for a number of reasons:

1) You don't really know your characters yet. You're trying to figure out what they sounds like. I mean, it's one thing to write ideas down on paper, but then to translate that to actual prose is totally different.

2) There's just so much to tell. Trying to eliminate backstory is something I am working on. Just because I know something about my main character doesn't mean the rest of the world needs to know about it. Or at least, they don't need to know about it in the first 870 words.

3) Progress seems slow. 870 words may seem like nothing to the overall manuscript. Let's just say the complete manuscript will be 60,000 words. Unless I have my math wrong, that's only 1.4 percent. But on the other hand, that's already 1.4 percent. 100 days of writing like that and my first draft will be done!

4) I'm trying out first person. This is new for me as I've stick with (close) third person in the past. Now I have to figure out how to convey feelings in a different way.

5) Do we all face the "this sucks" feelings when we start writing? But then, if I remember right, a reread months later will translate to "OK, this isn't actually that bad." And a "Wow - look at all these pages covered with pretty words!"


So here are my goals:

1) Stick to new project. Getting a (sh**ty) first draft done is the most important thing.

2) Write every night. 3 pages * 100 days = 300 pages.

3) Who cares if I can't solve every problem in the first draft. That's what revisions are for.

4) Let my critique group suffer through my revisions with me :)

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Sci-fi Inspirational Photo of the Week


My son painted it. He said it was a crab. I'm back to my genetically engineered species on this one. Or maybe a mutated shrimp. Or a cross between a shrimp and a lobster. A crossbreed (like a broccaflower).

This one will definitely be saved in the "good" artwork folder.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Back to Reality ...

... and just in time for a Meme. OK, two Memes. Thanks to Christine and HipWriterMama for the tags.
And if you haven't been tagged, consider yourself done. It looks like the Meme made the rounds pretty well.

I'll do one over here, and the other at my other blog.

The rules: You have to share four things that were new to you in the past four years. Four things you learned or experienced or explored for the first time in the past four years. New house, new school, new hobby, new spouse, new baby, whatever. Then you have to say four things you want to try new in the next four years.

So here goes ...

In the past four years (from June, 2003 - present) I have:
1) Given birth to my second child. A darling little baby girl who is now a darling little almost-three-year-old girl. I managed to hit the two biggest Mexican holidays with my kids. My son was born on Cinco de Mayo, and my daughter was born in Diez y seis de Septiembre.

2) Wrote a trilogy and had it accepted for publication!

3) Learned to solve the Rubik's Cube(s) (3x3, 4x4, and 5x5). When it comes to impressive party tricks (and we're talking the thirty-something crowd here), this is pretty impressive.

4) Memorized Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. I thought about The Rime of the Ancient Mariner but decided I didn't want to invest the time and thought energy.

In the next four years (from present - June 2011) I will:
1) Write another book (or 2 or 3), obtain an agent, and have book(s) accepted for publication.

2) Begin taking Kung Fu

3) Be able to quit my day job and write full time

4) Learn to play Foozball (because I think this is an impressive party trick also)

Monday, May 28, 2007

T minus five days

Until I start on my next writing project! I'm really looking forward to starting something new. New writing project. Drink 8 glasses of water a day (thanks HipWriterMama). What else?

How do you mix revisions on an old project with something new? I figure I'll chunk out a first draft of the new book, then go back a revise the second book in my trilogy. By then, my critique group will have gotten through a substantial amount and I'll have some great inputs to incorporate.
Then it will be back to (major) revisions on the new project.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Disney Blog number 2 - Fireworks

These are the best fireworks in the world. I admit I never thought fireworks could be so good. The first night we watched them from our hotel with the door closed. They were OK.
But the next night we were in front of the castle, and I'm a believer! Perfectly coordinated music, lighting, and fireworks. And Tinkerbell shoots down a high wire with a lighted costume.
I could watch these things over and over.
So I'm thinking, how much does a fireworks display cost? 30K? 100K? And how many people go to Disney each day? Does charging each person $1 more cover the cost of the fireworks?
The third night we made it back to Main Street Disney for the fireworks again.
Tonight my husband wouldn't let me go again. He insisted the kids needed sleep. So we watched from our balcony.
My favorite part is the Fantasia section. The castle is lighted blue with a moon and stars cast on it and the fireworks shoot up synchronized with each beat.
Who's seen a better display?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Disney Blog Number 1 - Autographs

OK, slight diversion from the regular weekly posts.

I notice many kids here at Disney carry around autograph books trying to get various character's autographs.
Is this what it will be like when I autograph my books?
But anyway, it got me thinking. What famous people have you gotten autographs from? Let's leave authors aside (unless they are WAY famous) as I have started attending book signings whenever possible.

I saw Donovan in (a small) concert back in high school and got his autograph. It was this awesome little smoky bar just like you'd imagine. And if you don't know who Donovan is, google Sunshine Superman.

I went to (only) one Star Trek convention and got Worf's autograph. No, before you ask, Captain Kirk was not there, and I did not dress up like a Klingon (or a Borg) though many, many, many people did.

And, finally, I got all the members of the group Sqeeze to sign a concert t-shirt. The only problem with this is I never wanted to wash the t-shirt and it started to stink.

Got any famous autographs you want to share?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Book of the Week - The Titan's Curse

This week's book is The Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan. I haven't read it yet, but it's on the top of my bag for Disneyworld.
I mentioned it before, but I attended Rick Riordan's book signing this past Sunday. He read aloud from the book and captivated my 6-year old son. And though this is slightly above my son's reading level, I'm wondering if the audio version might be appropriate.
And I love that the first book in the series - The Lightning Thief - was picked by Al Rocker for his Kid's Book Club this month (thanks Fuse8).

If you haven't read the first two books in this series, then do so immediately. Me? I couldn't put them down.

I'm off to Disney in search of blogging inspiration!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Writing Tip of the Week - Confidence

This past Sunday, I attended Rick Riordan's book signing at our local Barnes and Noble. My son and I got there about 15 mniutes early, and lemmie tell you - it was standing room only. Not that I'm surprised by this, but I just want to point out what a crowd he draws. People started getting there at 9 in the morning.
OK, now let's put that all aside for the moment and focus on the presentation.
Mr. Riordin was introduced, came ot to the podium, smiled, and immediately started telling a story about his life. He didn't hesitate. He didn't look scared. He didn't wonder if people were listening or check how many people were there.
He presented.

Here's how the presentation went:
Short story about how the books came to be
Short Question and Answer sessions for him.
Quiz on Mythology with t-shirts as prizes.
Thank you and book signing.
It was run like a well-oiled machine.

The fact of the matter is that this guy is confident. He know's he's in charge when he's up there on the stage.
I think as writers (especially ones just starting out), we tend to think we aren't worthy of the title. We don't think we are good enough. But unless we ourselves think we are good enough, then why should anyone else think we are worthy.
Act professional. Act confident. It may seem like an acting game at first, but they say to reach your goals, pretend you already have reached them and live that life.