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

Saturday, May 31, 2008

My Latest Focus in Writing

Highlight from the morning:
Remember my 3-year-old daughter's trip to the dentist? Where her teeth were wiggly? She bumped them again a couple weeks ago, and this morning, with the help of her big brother and a fight over a blanket, one of her top front teeth came out. Lots of blood. Lots of crying. And just in time for her dance recital.
When I had a little girl, I envisioned long blond ponytails, pink frilly outfits, and Mary-Janes.
My daughter has two large chunks cut out of her hair from fun with scissors, a missing front tooth, and wears only superhero clothing.
And did I mention she's the most beautiful little girl in the world?

OK, enough on that. My latest writing tip? Summarize your novel in one short sentence. In this short sentence show what the main character is trying to achieve. What is the motivation for the novel? And once you get this sentence down, work to incorporate it into your novel as early as possible (The Hero's Journey Call To Adventure). Let the reader know why they need to bother reading the book.

There's been lots of talk about The Lightning Thief recently, so I'll try that one.

A half-god boy searches for who has stolen Zeus's lightning bolt.

Sure, he's working on his relationship with his dad. He's discovering his new world. But his reason for the book is his quest - the find out who took the lightning bolt and return it.

Got one you want to try? And while you're at it, do it for your WIP also!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Five on my Friday

Short week here. Last day of school! Next week I'm looking at a week of bliss with the kids involving The Dinosaur Park, The Austin Zoo, and either Indiana Jones or Prince Caspian (No, Kelly, please don't roll your eyes - my son really wants to go!).

It's been a short week, but not a dull one. So here goes:

1) I started plotting work on T2-KOS. (I love the cryptic acronyms, too). Focusing in on motivation and making sure one event leads to the next. So far, my progress has been great! I'm psyched to start on revisions, but plan to wait until at least most of my open questions are answered!

2) I broke down and bought my 3-year-old daughter Transformers (boy) underwear yesterday. It all started with a morning battle over who got to wear the Transformers shirt. My son won. My daughter cried. And I promised the underwear.

3) I need to point out another Class of 2k8 book is out. Pick up Read My Lips by Teri Brown!

4) The rock tumbler is still tumbling, but this weekend, we get to stop it and move on to Step 3 (which I think is only a couple days). Shiny rocks, here we come!

5) I never do Poetry Friday. I know like a gazillion people do this, but so far, I've resisted the very tiny urges I have. It's not that I don't like poetry. Four years ago I memorized Kubla Khan by Samuel Coleridge and still recite it almost every day to keep it fresh. It's good to exercise the mind!


So this is my Friday Five. How about yours?
Have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Audiobook Syndrome

I touched in this on Tuesday's post, but it's like I can't stop myself.
First off, I love listening to audiobooks.
  • In the car (not with the kids - I do talk to them instead).
  • While exercising.
  • If a book is good enough, I'll even listen while cleaning.
Audiobooks are fantastic. The readers have to be some of the most talented people I know, and being able to read a book while doing something else is such a great use of time.
But I've come to the conclusion I need to stop listening to series on audiobooks. I actually came to this conclusion many series ago, but I can't seem to stop myself. Here's how it generally goes.

First book - I love it. It's brilliant. The narrator gives such life to the characters.

Second book - Small flaws begin to stick out. Adverbs scream out at me. Characters repeat some dialogue which was used in book one. I notice it, and it starts to tickle my brain somewhere.

Third book - Every time the main character does something stupid, I cuss at her/him. They do the dumbest things in every situation, really, they shouldn't be because they've had two books before this to learn from their mistakes. Have they learned nothing? And every time they talk, I want to scream. By now dialogue repeats enough to drive anyone nuts.

BUT...

I really want to point out this is strictly an audiobook thing. The books are really great. And I guarantee that 90% of the time, if I were reading the same books, I'd never notice any of these annoyances. But having someone read it to me makes everything stand out.
(Sidenote: I see things "planted" by the writer - do you?)

So why do I keep listening to series on audiobooks?
I guess secretly I keep hoping I'll find a series where this won't happen. I actually managed to get through about eight Janet Evanovich audiobooks and loved each and every one. Then I finally hit my limit. Her dialogue is exceptional, however, which might account for how I got through so many. I also listened to probably 10 Terry Pratchett books before they changed the narrator. I couldn't go with the change; I loved the old narrator, and had to give up the new books.

So my question - Do you listen to audiobooks, and what's the best series you've listened to?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Five Goals on a Tuesday

Goal for this past weekend: Have fun! After spending much of the weekend hanging out with friends, I'm ready to sit my bottom in front of the computer and relax with everything else.

The last week of school, then it's summer, summer, summer! So here goes.

1) I got hacked! My credit card info got taken (including said sacred security code). So I've spent the better part of today canceling the card and clearing up the charges (which luckily is not a big deal). Once I get new cards tomorrow, I can set up all my auto-charge stuff again.
How could something like this happen to someone as responsible as me, you ask. My best guess is a couple weeks ago when we went outlet shopping, one of the sales clerks made a copy of the card information as the fraudulent charges started the next day. They're all online, under a fake name, and for places like blockbuster.com. Goal: Always watch card when it's out of my hands in the future.

2) Buy envelopes to mail ARCs out in. But guess what - I can't do it today. I've got no credit card! (There's no better way to save money).

3) Work more on plotting for T2-KOS. I came up with some good stuff last week and plan to do more this week. Totally focusing on my MC's motivation right now. Then I plan to write all the plots out in columns and tie them together.

4) I'm getting a massage tomorrow - so long as I can come up with the cash to pay (once again - the no credit card thing). I do have a gift card which will cover the very large bulk of it.

5) Pray the current audiobook I'm listening to gets better. No, I won't name it, but I find it's gotten to the point where I can't stand the MC. I keep hoping she'll be redeemed here any second. It's third in a series, so I'm invested. I have faith in the author to make me like her again, but I'm praying it will happen soon.

Enjoy the weather! Watch your credit cards! And do something fun!

Happy week ahead!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Debating Roald Dahl

My son has reached the age of reason. OK, I know he's only 7, but the other day in the car we had our first real debate. Loved it!

His first grade class just finished reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and now, to celebrate, they're watching the movie. But see, the thing is there's always been something about CATCF that's just needled at me.

Willy Wonka essentially put out these golden tickets to find an heir - someone worthy enough to take over the factory. Each kid messes up and is out of the running.
Augustus falls in the chocolate lake.
Violet chews the gum and turns into a blueberry.
Veruca goes down the garbage shoot.
Mike teleports and becomes six inches tall.
Charlie drinks the fizzy, lifting drink.

So my question is this: Why is Charlie worthy to become the heir? He made a mistake just like all the other kids. Sure, he didn't get carried off by Oompa-Loompas, but he still disobeyed the rules.

This has always bothered my, so I asked my son. His theory (theories):
Grandpa made Charlie do it.
Charlie's mistake was not as bad.
Charlie did not get taken away.

Your thoughts? Am I the only person in the world who's wondered about this very important issue?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Five on a Friday

Happy Friday, everyone! Late post, but I cleaned BEFORE getting on the computer this morning. Really, since quitting the day job and writing/mom-ing full time, not much in the morning routine has changed. I get up the same time (6:00). Shower. Get kids ready for school. Drink coffee. Head to Kung Fu.
It's all good. I love getting up and starting each day fresh!

Here's my five for the week:

1) I met with my web designers to talk about plans for my book page. In the doing, I realized I need a map.

So I started with this:

And ended with this:


I love the power of a the Light Bright and Adobe Photoshop.

2) I went camping. I ate s'mores. I dared the outhouse (um, yuck). Really, is there anything grosser? The main bathrooms near us were under construction.

3) I rode my bike while camping. I completely forgot how much I love to bike ride. Almost 6 years ago, I took an SUV head-on while on my bike, and since then, it's never been the same. Sure, I have a new bike, but let's just say in the last 6 years I rode it enough to count on 2 fingers. This summer - family bike rides.

4) We (finally) met with someone to have wills drawn up. Yay! This has been on the list for a good five years.

5) Five books I ordered from Amazon came!

Bewitching Season by Marissa Doyle

The Lucky Place by Zu Vincent

Shift by Jennifer Bradbury

A Difficult Boy by M. P. Barker

Braless in Wonderland by Debbie Reed Fischer


To order this week:
The Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas
La Petite Four by Regina Scott

Have a great weekend! I'm off the see the Round Rock Express play on Sunday!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Plotting my next steps

Finished revisions for NOTW! Yay! And last night I emailed them off to my editor.
So now I begin the major plot revision for T2 (I like this nickname. It's like Terminator 2, but then again, it's not).
Here are two things I plan to focus on in this revision.

1) Directly from the DVD - Make sure the plot is connected and not episodic. What's the difference?
In episodic, each event happens and it is not really related or dependent on the events before it.

So what's connected? Each event is directly related to the events before it and builds on what has happened and the stakes are increased with each event.

The DVD gave this (very simple) example:

Episodic:
The king died. The queen died.

Connected:
The king died. The queen died of grief.

This got me thinking about the revisions I was currently working on (NOTW). The changes I was making were way more connected than the previous version. This is good, and I plan to do the same for T2.

2) OK, I admit I nabbed this one from Angie Frazer's blog from yesterday.
Really analyze my MC's goal and focus on the conflict of him reaching that goal. And keep this conflict going strong throughout the whole novel, making sure he yearns for his goal the whole time.
In planning, I came up with motivations for all my characters. But at this point (over a month from the last time I looked at it), I'm wondering if my MC's motivation and goals are enough? Is there enough conflict to keep him from reaching them?


These two are good for now. It's enough to wrap my mind around for at least a month.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Monday - Got Five goals?

Camping you ask? The tent rocked. The missing sleeping bags had us sleeping on rocks. I've discovered after the tent, my highest priority is a pillow. What? We forgot pillows and sleeping bags? But fortunately my duffle bag served as my pillow.

Now this is a tent:



Have you thought about your goals for the week? No? Guess what? It's not too late. What Five things are you going to accomplish this week?

Here goes:

1) Upload all photos to Snapfish and order prints. Also back up photos onto CDs.

2) Finish Pretties. Finish Battle of the Labyrinth.

3) Finish revisions on NOTW. Email off to my editor.

4) Get the oil changed in my car.

5) Begin thinking about plot changes to make to to T2. I'm going to draw the plot out on paper and use techniques from the DVD watching of last week to create the perfect plot!


So get to it! Post your goals, and get to work! And have a great week!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Five on a Friday

Happy week to everyone! Hope you had a great one. All good things here, and I'm looking forward to a (relaxing) weekend of camping, birthday parties, and dance classes.

So here's my five for the week:

1) My son started reading The Emerald Tablet. He's already on page 80, which is quite an accomplishment for a 7-year-old. The best part? He's starting to use words like "teleport" and "telekinesis" in every day conversation. Example: Mom, since we'll be camping this weekend, we can teleport to church." Love it!

2) I got together with fellow writers Jane Peddicord and Erin Edwards yesterday for our own mini plotting workshop. We watched Blockbuster Plots and spent time working on our current WIPs. Jane also made us a fantastic lunch!

3) My tent rocks. Did I mention that? It sleeps 8 and has a screened in patio. No shower; I'm still trying to figure that one out.

4) I'm an official Field Day volunteer up at the elementary school today. First and third graders - here I come. "Run faster!" "Jump Higher!"

5) I'm almost done with Pretties by Scott Westerfeld. Have you read the series? Any thoughts? The plot definitely picks up toward the end of this one, and I can't wait to finish.

Have a great weekend. Do something fun! Do something productive! Write! Just do something!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Kung Fu Fighting

Yep, you guessed it. I tested for my brown belt today in Kung Fu. It's a good thing brown is such a cool color; I'll have this belt for probably a year and a half.

So two questions: (1) Why Kung Fu (people ask this all the time); and (2) How are Kung Fu and writing alike?

We'll start with (1) Why Kung Fu?
  • Kung Fu is good exercise.
  • Kung Fu stretches my mind. It's all based around learning and practicing katas which are series of moves. Honestly, it had been ages since I stretched my mind in this way. Growing up I was all about the dance and cheerleading, but let's face it, since then times have changed; there isn't much memory required on the elliptical machine.
  • Kung Fu teaches confidence.
  • Kung Fu teaches self defense. There are 40 attacks and defenses taught as part of the curriculum.
  • Kung Fu allows me to get up in front of everyone and test - a good opportunity to challenge myself.
  • Kung Fu teaches discipline (really good for kids)
  • Kung Fu is downright fun. Sparring is fun. Kicking. Punching. Need I say more?

So now Question (2) How are Kung Fu and Writing alike?

I started Kung Fu a year ago. The first day I learned 2 sparring techniques. Not so much. The second day I learned a couple more. At the end of the year, I know 20 sparring techniques, 30 short katas, 5 long forms, and 40 self defense moves.
Great. But why is this important you ask.
Well, here's the thing. I go to Kung Fu 3 times a week. 2 of the classes are material classes - where I learn new stuff from the curriculum. The other class is solely a conditioning class - no new material. I never go more; my schedule and goals doesn't allow for it. So basically, in two hours a week, one year later, and I'm already a brown belt.
With writing, let's look at the first draft stage. I write 4 pages a night. On a really motivated night, it may be 6. On a less motivated night, it may be 2. So average 4, in about 2 months, I've written a novel. Sure, revisions are needed, but I've got my draft down.

The moral of all this rambling - Be consistent. Set a schedule. Stick to it. Don't skip out on it. And pretty soon you'll have a novel (and a black belt).

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Tags

No, not meme tags. I have about five I've been tagged on and haven't done yet.

What are your thoughts on speech tags?
He said. She said.
I've read to keep them as simple as possible - to let the dialogue speak for itself.
So if someone makes a suggestion, it's not necessary to say:

"Let's go to the park," she suggested.

We already know she's suggesting something. So a simple tag of "said" should be fine and less distracting.

Or:
"I can't believe you ate the whole thing!" he exclaimed.

Do we really need to exclaimed? The dialogue and punctuation tells us this.

As I'm revising, I've found tons of these tags I don't think are needed, and I'm removing them. But when is a tag needed? Ever? I've heard some people mention they've written an entire manuscript and forced themselves to use nothing but "said".

Thoughts?

Monday, May 12, 2008

New Week. New Goals.

I'm thinking the title "Five Goals on a Monday" may get old. But the important thing to keep in mind is that setting goals should never get old. Think about goals every day. Set new ones regularly. I've noticed with myself whenever I stop thinking about them for a time, many things in my life slip. And it's a slippery slope.

So get on it. Set your Monday goals, and get to work!

Here's what I have planned for the week.

1) Test for my brown belt in Kung Fu. That's right. No more brightly colored greens an blues and yellows. If all goes according to plan, on Wednesday I test.

2) Buy a tent. The Hoover family is off for a Cub Scout camp out this weekend, and my son specifically requested a big tent. Actually at this point we have no tent, so anything is better than nothing. But Academy, here I come.

3) In the never ending quest for fun, I plan to buy Guitar Hero for the Wii this week.
*Side note - when kids come over for playdates, the Wii is a super popular item. And remember - kids are all about fun.

4) How about a writing goal. Another round on NOTW. I know, boring. Been there for the last couple weeks. But after this go through, I'll give it one more, then let it sit. But because writing goals are fun, I'm getting together with a couple other authors on Thursday to watch a DVD on plotting. Fun because I get to hang out with other writers and fun because it should help me improve!

5) Actually shower in my redone (or being redone) guest bathroom. The shower faucet is in. I need to caulk. Touch up paint. But it's getting there.

Have a great week, and share a goal!

Friday, May 09, 2008

Five on a Friday

It's Friday again, and the good news is our weekend is pretty calm. A playdate today. Another tomorrow. Sunday? Yard work? Maybe a hike in the woods?

Here's five exciting things from the week gone by (or going by):

1) I got my Smurfs for the year. They're one of the few things I still collect, and the best thing about them is they're reasonable. Each year about 8 new ones are put out. So look at these guys! Even Gargamel and Azriel seem to be having fun at this party! Like Smurfs? Check out Puffins. Or, if your local in Austin, Toy Joy keeps them in stock along with a gazillion other cool things.


2) Airfare prices dropped, and I snagged tickets to Virginia for $230 a piece! Is this good? YES. I'd been looking at $450 as an average before that. The secret to getting good airfare? Start checking early and check every morning and night. And use Kayak.

3) First revision on NOTW - DONE. And now I'm going through again. The major changes are in place, so now it's a matter of continually adding all those fun things that make people want to read it over and over and stand in line for the next one (this is called visualization).

4) I read the greatest ARC I picked up from TLA. Madapple by Christina Meldrum. Honestly, it was so great I still plan to buy the real book when it comes out on May 18th. Highly recommended.

5) I painted my daughter's face and hair like Medusa for the Battle of the Labyrinth release party at BookPeople. She's all about the dressing up, and sat patiently while I put 10 snakes (ponytails) in her hair.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Patience

Random thought: Is it bad I have so much collective dirt in my gutter, an acorn fell in and sprouted an oak tree? OK, I'll put it on the list - clean out gutters.

My son got a Rock Tumbler for his birthday. So Sunday, we unpacked it, got it all set up for Step 1, and turned it on. Tumble for at least 48 hours it said. I thought 2 days would never end; the thing is so loud and obnoxious. But for good measure we gave it three days and went on to Step 2. I cleaned it out, and read the instructions. Tumble for 14-21 days. DAYS! Thankfully it's on the deck, and I only really hear it (loudly) when I go out there.
To deal with it, we stuck a bucket over it to protect it from the rain, and I told my son we'd check back at the end of May.

So what's the best way to deal with things when you need to be patient? I've noticed I'm WAY better at this as I get older. Writing in general requires much patience. Novels can't be written in a night (at least not by me). You have to have faith the pages will grow each day you work on them. But does being more patient make us more sedate? Would adding more of a sense of urgency help? Should we try to finish a novel in a night?
Wow, this is rambling, but I was thinking of a friend talking about his teenagers and how critical things are to them.

So what do you think? Are you more patient or less patient than you used to be, and what do you do while waiting for your rocks to tumble?

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Plotting the next move

Yesterday HipWriterMama had an excellent post on plotting. Lots of people commented on how they plot, how they build structure, or how they do neither.

I try to plot around a basic Hero's Journey structure. To me, the most important parts of this plot structure are the Doorways of no return: two points (or however many you want) during the novel when the protagonist (hero) is put into some sort of conflict, and can no longer turn back.

And because Beth asked yesterday, I've posted my plot structure to my website here.

Happy plotting!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Yes, that made my day

OK, just had to share. Last night I got my first fan mail!
Someone picked up the ARC of The Emerald Tablet at TLA, read it, liked it not only enough to finish it but also to take the time to send me an email telling me so.
Um, Yay!
And, really, yes, this did make my day.

So here's my question. When you read a good book, do you email the author to let them know? I go through phases where I do. Sometimes I get replies, and (hard to believe) sometimes I don't. Not that it matters. If I liked it, it's worth telling the author.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Five Goals on a Monday

Another week. Did you set your goals yet? No? Time to get cracking.

So what's up for me for the week? The birthday party is behind me. I've faced my fears! I still need to buy the phones and books. But anyway, here goes!

1) Go to the awesome release party for The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan at Book People. Are you going also? Did you pre-order the book?

2) Get my shower tiled. As, funny enough, as we speak, two guys are here doing just that. Wow, Monday morning, and I've already (almost) accomplished this one.

3) Really finish a first pass at NOTW. I'm 2/3 of the way through, and just focusing on major plot changes this time around. I'll give it at least two more passes this month, plumping up the voice and show-don't-tell factor.

4) Tour possible new preschool for my little girl. Also, I'll clump this one in here. We have a parent teacher conference scheduled for my son.

5) Begin itemizing some stuff for marketing and publicity for The Emerald Tablet. I know - release isn't until October. But I need to get this stuff organized so I don't get overwhelmed.

So what's going on there? Got any great goals for the week?

And side note - Happy 7th birthday to my son! Ack! Where did the time go?

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Feel the Fear, and Do it Anyway

They say you should do one thing each day that scares you. OK, so I'm not sure who "they" are or why they'd think such an insane thing, but, regardless, the expression stuck somewhere in my mind.

And thus, at the start of the day, I vowed to do this.



And this.


Note: These are real. The scorpion is from Africa and will grow to be a foot long. The rose-hair tarantula is from Chile, and was by far the creepier of the two. It crawled all the way up my arm.

When the party started, I told everyone of my intentions. "Do not let me chicken out," I said.

So what did you do today that pushed your limits?

Friday, May 02, 2008

Five things on a Friday

Here we are again - end of the week. But, actually, for me, we have a packed weekend, so the week is nowhere near over.

Here goes. Five things about me week thus far.

1) I did not get everything done on my Monday list. I did submit the critique piece, but as it stands right now, no way will I be through an initial revision of NOTW. No way. I'm happy to say the manuscript looks very little like the original version. I did not get the phones yet - though it will still happen this weekend. And haven't bought the books yet either! Ack! What have I done.

2) OK, you know how it is. You're cleaning up around the house. You want it presentable for a boy 7-year-old birthday. So when you go to clean up the dining room table and remove the pink (not boy appropriate) tablecloth, you start digging around trying to figure out what table cloth to use. And then creativity (or something) takes over because you start pulling out every random cool piece of batik you have, and within an hour and a half, you end up with this.


3) My editor dropped an entire box of ARCs for The Emerald Tablet off this week. Photo not included as the box has been shoved in a closet in preparation for the party. But wait - party favors? Sigh. Which reminds me I need goodie bags. Can I get away with no goodie bags? Please?

4) Our Austin SCBWI conference was last Saturday. It turned out to be a sold-out event. Way cool, and it's so nice to get away for a day focused on writing.

5) Also on Saturday, we had three (count them - three) social invitations, all at 4 o'clock or after. Really, this is unusual. Life is busy, but it's so nice to know we have friends!

Hope everyone has a happy, fun weekend. And if you need a break from writing, sew something.

On a side note, King Tort is starting to like me/us. He hid in his hidey-hole for the first three days and hardly ate a thing. I called the pet store, and they said he was just adjusting. Now he's eating and doesn't even hide his head when I look at him.