Thursday, June 30, 2011

Scared and Looking For Bad Guys

My parents have always been huge believers in going on a date every Friday night. Which pretty much meant that as kids, we got to be wild and crazy and watch TV even after bedtime.

Maybe we were slow to learn, because more often than not, we'd be in the family room when we realized it was eerily dark.

And none of us were certain we'd locked the doors.

And we were pretty sure we heard a noise from somewhere in the house.

And we were convinced it was a robber.

So my older brother (we'll call him Genius Brother, to protect the not-so-innocent) grabbed the poker from the fireplace tools with the intention of poking the bad guy in the stomach. When the robber was bent over from the stomach poke, I would hit him on the head with the fireplace shovel. Then my younger brother (we'll call him Convincing Brother) would use the fireplace broom to hit him on the back, then Organized Sister would spray him in the eyes with spray starch (which, for some strange reason, was always on the fireplace), and Happy Sister, who was a toddler, would be protected by anyone not currently using their weapon on the bad guy.

Then, with Genius Brother leading, we'd delve into the deep, dark unknown to search for the Big Scary, even though we were all too afraid to leave the room. But it was even scarier to stay in the room and wait for the bad guy to come to us! We walked in a shaky line, weapons at the ready, as we searched upstairs and downstairs, turning on every light and locking every door as we went.

And do you know what? Once we got all the way through the house, made sure it was free of any robbers, and completely secured and brightened, WE FELT GOOD. Like really good. Go-shout-and-dance-like-your-parents-aren't-home good.

When you've finished the first draft (or even the second or third or fourth draft) of your manuscript, sometimes you get an inkling that a certain part isn't quite right. You shy away from the thought, because to figure it out, you have to delve into the deep, dark, SCARY unknown. What if when you delve, you actually find something really bad? Something you uncover might require you to use every weapon at your disposal to fix it. Heck, it might take weapons you don't even own yet. And that's what's scariest of all.

Scary and hard. You might even need to take back-up support along with you. But when the Big Scary is routed and your manuscript is left all bright and shiny, it'll feel GOOD. Real good. Sing-and-dance-in-the-streets good.

And if you ask me, that's so much better than sitting in the room, cowering at the thought of the Big Scary's presence.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Writing Spaces

Oh how I love seeing people's writing spaces! Maybe because mine is blah. And has stacks of stuff that need to be done, and holds more To Do lists than I can count.

But it doesn't stop me from dreaming about awesome writing spaces!

Like this one. Because even with that hard chair, I think I'd be inspired here.

Okay, so maybe I couldn't put this next space in my basement, but I could totally write here. And I'd get lots done. Really! I wouldn't be staring out at my surroundings most of the time. I swear.

Give me clean, organized, happy colors, and lots and lots of LIGHT, and I'm in heaven. Oh, and a desk somewhere. That'd be nice.

I've always wanted a house with a glass roof. Or have the ceiling charmed to show the outside sky like in Harry Potter-- whichever. Check it out! This writing space has a glass ceiling! Bliss.

I'm generally a desk/table and chair kind of writer. Give me a couch like this, though, and I could be convinced to kick back with a laptop and write... and write... and write... and possibly doze off... and write..

And yes! This is an ACTUAL couch, not just a huge pile of pillows. People who design cool things like a couch made of pillows should go to a special place in heaven.
And now for a writing space that very likely could kill me:

So what's your writing / office space like? But more importantly, WHAT'S YOUR DREAM SPACE LIKE?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I've Got a Theory: You're Getting Older

Some years when your birthday comes around, do you feel like you maybe aged more than a year's worth?

I have a theory about that. It has to do with sleep, actually, and I'm going to channel my inner math geek to explain it.

Because feet need sleep, too.

The number of hours you SHOULD sleep - The number of hours you ACTUALLY sleep X 365 ÷ 24 +365 = how much you age in a year

Now stick with me here-- I'll do an example. Let's say your body wants you to sleep 8 hours a night, but you only sleep 7 because I have to get this book written RIGHT now, and if I spend so dang much time sleeping, that's never going to happen! or something like that. So, 8-7=1. Pretty simple so far, right?

Now, if you do that every day for a year, you get 365. Still with me? Since there are 24 hours in a day, we divide by 24 to see how many days that equals. And it's 9. Add that to the understood 365 days you were going to age anyway, and you aged 374 days in a year.

Which, if you ask me, isn't a bad trade-off. I mean sure, you aged an extra nine days, but you gained an extra 365 hours! That's PURE GOLD! (And right now, once again, I'm finding myself insanely jealous of people who only need to sleep five hours a night. You know who you are-- make sure you are completely enjoying that particular superpower.)

The theory is that if you sleep MORE than you should, you would age less. But seriously. Has anyone ever tested that theory?

When I was in high school, my dad always referred to waking up early and going to bed late as "burning the candle at both ends." (I think that maybe the message he was attempting to convey was that if I continued to do that, I'd get burned. But I'm a HUGE fan of light, so pretty much all it accomplished was to make me think "Ooo! Brightness! Burning candle double = good.")

So how do you feel about sleep? Do you fall in the Hey! Youth matters! camp, or the I think I need a bigger candle so I won't get burned camp?

Monday, June 27, 2011

What's in a name? Everything.

Some characters have THE most awesome names. And let's face it: it makes the character themselves just a little bit more awesome.

Some characters have just okay names. And that's okay.

Some have completely forgettable names. And that's... okay, too, I guess.

But oh, to have a great name! A name that's perfect for the character. A name that tells so much about the character all on it's own. An unforgettable name. A name that's golden.

That's the real trick.

I glanced through some books on of my Read shelf on Goodreads. These are the ones that stood out.

Kvothe-- Yes, hard to say, but it really fit the strong, powerful character it was attached to.
Joe Solomon-- Pair a name like Solomon with a name like Joe? You get a strong guy who is easy to relate to. I liked him the moment he walked on the page.
Zach Goode-- I LOVE that it has the word "good" right in his name. You can trust that, right? Right?!
Rachel Elizabeth Dare-- I'll admit. You give me a middle name, and the first thing I'm going to do is see what their initials spell. RED is a red-haired girl. And that makes her name that much cooler.
Hermoine-- Can you seriously get a more unique, unforgettable name?
Mary-- Mary is a fine name, really! It's just that... I don't know... characters need to be a little larger-than-life, and Mary is kinda forgettable. Especially when it comes in a first person book, where you tend to not hear the name so much. First person automatically means the MC's name is going to be a little forgettable by its very nature, so their name shouldn't be.
Katsa-- The onomatopoeia attached to this name makes it perfect for a girl who has the grace of killing, don't you think?
Po-- When I see this name, I think of a little short and round, roly-poly creature. I'm just sayin'.
Alcatraz-- All hail Brandon Sanderson for naming his good guys after prisons, and his bad guys after mountain ranges. Seriously brilliant, fun, and totally NOT forgettable.
Bastille-- And not only did he name them after prisons, but perfect-for-their-character prisons. Like Bastille. She has the word "steel" in her name, which fits for a knight.
Piper McCloud-- Perfect for the girl who could fly, if you ask me.
Hiccup-- Can I just say that I am in awe of some people's brilliance? How do they come up with these perfect non-names? I want to know.

No, seriously. I want to know. I've got a whole cast I need to name, and names don't come quickly or easily for me.

I know this question is going to sound completely self-serving, but I'm kinda okay with that. So how about you? When you're naming a character, a child, a pet, or (like my daughter) 357,000 stuffed animals, where do you get your inspiration?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Quotes and Cookies: Being Wrong

In honor of Favorite Quote Friday, one that makes me happy:
"You should never be ashamed to admit you have been wrong. It only proves you are wiser today than yesterday."
~Jonathan Swift

I don't know about you, but I'd much rather say, I am SO MUCH WISER today, than to say Gosh, I've made a lot of mistakes!

Because let me tell you. I am SO MUCH WISER TODAY.

In honor of how wise we all are today, take a big virtual bite out of these! They're called Comfort Cookies, which if you ask me, is kind of redundant yet perfectly named. 

Photo courtesy

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The cure for escapists

Everyone has places where they tend to get ideas more frequently. For me, it’s either while I’m in the shower, or while I’m folding clothes. (Sadly, though, this doesn’t tend to make me fold clothes any more often...)

As tammy mentioned in the comments of the escapist ideas, those dang flighty ideas can be gone by the time you dry off! For my fellow Shower Idea Getters, we are not alone. Someone brilliant fixed this problem for us! I lead you to Aqua Notes.

Isn’t that the coolest thing EVER? You can order yours here.

If ideas tend to come while you’re driving, someone thought of you, too. You can put a full-sized notepad on this bad boy.

But I cannot, in good conscience, give you the link, because I think your daredevil gene might just be on steroids.

So where do you get your ideas from? And how do you get them written down before they escape?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

I've Got a Theory: The Daredevil Gene

As part of our city's celebration, the carnival was in town last week. As I watched my nine-year-old daughter climb aboard the cage of the Zipper, get locked inside (while I focused on breathing so empathetic claustrophobia didn't take over), then spin around uncontrollably in the cage while the cage spun controllably around the ride, I came up with a theory. Here goes:

There's a daredevil gene, and everyone's got it.


There's a self-protection gene and yes, everyone's got that, too.

Sometimes the daredevil gene is teeny, and the self-protection gene is a giant pair of hands, locking fingers around the daredevil gene, trapping it in a giant cage. And sometimes the daredevil gene is enormous, and the self-protection gene is a little tiny hand, wrapping itself around the pinky toe of the daredevil gene, attempting to hold it back. Sometimes they're evenly matched and it's anyone's guess who'll win.

Me? My daredevil gene is pretty darn huge. But sadly, it's too easily swayed by logic, and my self-preservation gene is very good at talking logic. So, as much as it's always dying to break free, it stays tethered to that dental-floss thick hold Self-Preservation Gene has on it.

Maybe it's because of that, or maybe it's not, but I LOVE me a good daredevil character! I love watching them, reading about them, writing them, vicariously being them.

Maybe a daredevil character works because we like our characters to actively DO STUFF. Or maybe because a daredevil character tends to get themselves in trouble, and thus adds to the conflict in a story.

Or maybe it's because DEEP INSIDE, we really just want to do those things, too. We want our daredevil gene to break free a little more often. Only in a controlled environment. You know-- without the possible unpleasant side effects of getting into trouble or dying or being maimed.

I don't know about you, but Self-Preservation Gene is saying right now, "Seriously. You don't want to be maimed." Daredevil Gene is inclined to agree.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Plotting Drive

Currently, I am in a van, in the middle of a 10 ½ hour car ride. Rest assured that I am in a state of bliss right now, and not conked out against the door, drooling, with the door lock pressed into my cheek, because I stayed up too late last night trying to get to the very end of my To Do Before Vacation list. I would NEVER procrastinate like that.

I *heart* vacations. The uninterrupted family time, the inability to work on a To Do list and therefore a lack of guilt about it. That’s why seven-ish years ago, I managed to talk my hubby into us buying a timeshare so we could be GUARANTEED a vacation every year.

Usually we go somewhere in the state, because I'm the ONLY one who likes long drives. I love them, actually, because plotting while driving is almost as good as plotting while showering! (My family already laments my thirty minute showers— I’m pretty sure I could never get away with a 10 ½ hour shower. Besides, the hot water runs out after 40 minutes, and then there's the whole issue with grandma toes.)

So, 10 ½ hours there and 10 ½ hours back... I’m thinking I could have my entire next book figured out by the time I get home!

Now let’s just hope the next book doesn’t have an “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” theme.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Quotes and Cookies: Escapist Ideas

In honor of Favorite Quote Friday, here's one I love:
“I don't know where my ideas come from, but I know where they come to. They come to my desk, and if I'm not there, they go away again.”

~Philip Pullman
Of course, I don't believe you have to be AT your desk, because ideas come in a million different places. I think he means that they aren't going to come (or at least stick) if you aren't ready to do something with it. If you aren't ready to WORK.

And if they come to you and you don’t write them down, they’ll go away again! Ideas are like that. Flighty. Little escape artists just waiting for you to turn your back. Or you know, sometimes they're just waiting for you to blink.

And hey, everyone— it’s Friday! Let’s celebrate getting great ideas by having a virtual Almond White Chocolate Chunk cookie! Yum.

Photo courtesy

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Ugly Pants

I write for 3rd - 7th grade kiddos, so this is the section where I write about a [possibly embarrassing] thing that happened at that age, and relate it to writing. And chalk it all up to a lessons [hopefully] learned.

One evening as fifth grader, I realized that my last pair of clean pants were on me, so I put in a load of laundry. Thinking I could be uber-prepared, I also changed into pajamas so I could add the pair of pants I wore to the mix.

Then, like the kid that I was, I didn’t think about them again. At least not until I woke up the next morning and went to put on a pair of pants and realized I had none! After a frantic search of my drawers, I found a "Saturday" pair of pants. You know the kind-- only meant to be worn when outside doing yardwork, or helping my dad clean the garage-- NEVER meant for public viewing. The other problem? They'd already been downgraded to Saturday pants a good two years before. They were red corduroy with different colored flowers, both knees had holes, and they weren’t pretty even when they were brand new. And oh, yeah. They were also about a foot too short. Not having any other options at the moment, I pulled them on TEMPORARILY, along with a way cute purple patterned shirt, ran to the washroom, and put my load of pants into the dryer.

Just like the night before, I DIDN’T THINK ABOUT THEM AGAIN! I got ready for school, then left. In the disaster pants! Apparently, I didn’t think about clothes much after I put them on, because it wasn’t until the teacher called us all to the back of the room to sit in a circle on the carpet and I spied Perfect Dresser Debbie staring at my clashing self with a look of disturbed fascination on her face, that I’d realized what I had done. Then, one by one, everyone else’s attention was drawn to the flowery, motor oil and grass stained, short-enough-to-be-called-capris-except-there-wasn’t-such-a-thing-yet, holey-kneed (except the holes were now closer to my thighs than knees), pants. And by then, my face was the same color as my pants and it was way too late to do anything about changing them.

My pants? They were kind of like a rough draft. I needed someone to point out that areas should’ve been longer. Or that there were [plot] holes. Or that red really doesn’t go well with multi-colored flowers. Or that stains really distracted from the state it could be in. Or that the theme of my shirt really didn’t go with the concept of my pants.

I NEEDED SOMEONE TO TELL ME. And that’s why it’s so important to have good, honest critique partners that will look at everything! Sure, it’s nice to have people that tell you that you [or your manuscript] look GRRRREAT! It helps with the morale and the self-esteem and the freaking out moments when you feel like your manuscript sucks beyond the telling of it. But unless you want cringe-worthy elements in your manuscript when it’s too late to do anything about it, you also need people who are willing to say the writing equivalent to “Are you really going to wear that?”

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Welcome! Welcome!

I finally have a blog!

Okay, I've had a personal blog for several years, but after three-and-a-half years of serious writing with the unwavering goal of getting an awesome publishing contract, I now finally have a writing blog! I know-- it's about time, right? So, welcome! Come hang out. We'll have fun together. And we'll eat cookies. The virtual kind that you can eat with your eyes and salivate over without any of the calories. Who am I kidding? Virtual eating of cookies makes you want to physically eat cookies. So I guess you can call our shared eating of virtual cookies inspirational.

I've just finished revising and revising and revising my fourth full-length novel (the first three were for practice. And fun. They were totally fun to write.), and I'm about ready to find myself an agent.

But first, I think I'm going to go bake some cookies.