Friday, January 29, 2010

Awards, Intervies and the stuff a happy girl makes or in the end the love you take is equal to your blogging cohort

Misguoting The Beatles, but according to wikipedia they misquote themselves. So I'm okay.

I have a busy busy day ahead of me but I'm not complaining because I am in the best of spirits!

I woke up at 5:45 to write with my buddy Heather. Got a few words in and then decided to head on over to her blog because I'm featured there in an interview!!! And I have to be there to respond to your questions!!! Please go on over and ask me questions, I love questions.

Then I headed over to my good new friend Jon's place, because I like to be the first, but you have to get up early to be the first! I didn't make it. I read his about plans and such, and then there I am! So lovingly described. He gave me the creative Writer Award, and that is just what I like to call my self. Aw, shucks! Thank you, Jonathon Arntson, I don't know how my day could get any better. Well, except look what else he gave me: [Photos missing.]

Yes, that is right, purple sparkles and cabbage(making my spot here on the internet a little bit more beautiful)! How does he know me so well?  And he shines his sparkley countenance upon me!! I am blessed.

But then I discover that Jen has given me a happy award(that is the second award in a day and the third in a week) and there couldn't have been a more apropos day for that kind of thing. I am extremely happy. Thanks, Jen. I have just discovered your blog and I'm looking forward to more!

I don't have the time to do this all justice, suffice it to say, you all have love coming your way.

As Always (making lunches for my kids, off to yoga, back to blog later),

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

No Rest For The Wicked(and you may get tired reading this post)

This is what Heather Kelly has done for me:

Approximately 1000 words every morning. (We have a virtual meeting in the AM.)(Is is virtual or is it real? It is real but it is not actually in person. But it is very early so you never know.) My fantasy about writing that early was that I would roll out of bed and suddenly have my dreams at my fingertips and I would tap into some deep secret well of my imagination. In reality I just write a bunch of musing gobblity goop, which has included a couple really good helpful necessary scenes, but it seems that those morning words do provide some kind of alchemy and the next morning a few more ideas come of it, full scenes and problems solved, more clarity.

This picture on my living room wall. Not pretty, I know, but look it! the whole first half of my book is right there on my wall and it was inspired by her lovely VISUAL arrangement on her carpeting. My picture is about the size of me, drawn on a large piece pf tissue paper. The tissue paper is affectionately called bumwad. My sister is in Landscape Architecture school and apparently knows how you use bumwad. She has informed me I could add another layer of bumwad on top of this bumwad drawing and illustrate more of the novel's grand design(the second half of the book perhaps, or dissect a scene?) and as Anita’s son knows and I now know, it is seriously fun to draw on your wall with marker (Anita, you are an inspiration).

Heather is also partly responsible for this outline of the first half of my novel. You can’t see it well in this picture of my desk top. Sorry about that. But that is Scrivener right there with the table of contents on the left side and the first half of my novel in its new outline form in the middle, each chapter has its own title complete with synopsis and what not. On the left, Scrivener allows you to make notes, assign keywords, fun stuff like that. Things that are either very helpful or time consuming. Like blogging. You understand.

Finally, she gave me this award. It is lovely for her to think of me and I’m honored to be among the ranks of those near and dear who have received it of late. Heather herself, PMM, TEW, the great Jonathan Arntson. Their various posts have been models for me. Not only in response to this award (they all did it graciously and with thoughtfulness) but also in their everyday posting. I don’t know how I will use this award. But in her kindness, Heather said I should do with it what I will, and as of yet I have no will.

More on that later.

As for the revision: A little bit, by little bit I am letting myself near the scary stuff. Hopefully it will be a better book because of it. For sure it will be a truer book, if you know what I mean. Have you had those times in your writing where you found you had to face what you had been resisting? All of a sudden a character opened up and you saw something deeper and more pungent about them.

 I can’t help it. I have to go back to onions again.

If you saute an onion well, it can make anything taste good. Sauteed lettuce, not so much. But what about this, you saute up an onion and serve it to a bearded guy. That is when life is real good. Um, that is what my life is like about 100 percent of the time. Lots of onions, sauteed by me (mostly added to other things unless I am caramelizing them and then we eat them on pizza, or in these little corn flower pockets called arrepas). I saute onions just about everyday and serve them up to hubby (and my children, who most days are unimpressed, which keeps me humble). But cooking is easy and writing is hard. Either way, both requires me to apply some fat, some heat, some time. I have to watch onions/words closely to make sure they don’t get too burned. Most people stop before they are done. Cook it a long time, it will be delicious. This is what I know.

As Always (don’t even get me started on cabbage),

Monday, January 25, 2010

Something to keep you busy while I'm revising.

Like you really need me to keep you busy. Boys in beards. Inspired by Lady Gaga. Think of this as an ode to the men in beards who populate my life. Thank goodness for them.

Okay, It's pronounced noy-tra-face and in my nerdiness, I actually knew the proper pronunciation  before I read it on You Tube.

I'm revising and I'm going to take pictures and prove it, but for now a little music and parody will have to do. Thanks to Jonathan Arnston for the inspiration.

As Always (back to work),

Friday, January 22, 2010

An Onion by any other name, well it's not the smell that matters (for my purposes)

So I have made it past another funk (thanks, Heather Kelly, for getting me working) and I think I can write again. I was feeling a little messy for a few days, like my fingers couldn't even move. One of the things I love about writing is the epiphanies. They don't happen nearly often enough. The moments when everything seems so clear, when this writing is like you're god making the onion one layer at a time.

So I think the epiphany began with Fire and thinking about characters making entrances. It continued with Mr. Dahl, and thinking about POV and narration. And finally was pulled all together with Jesse Lee Kercheval and her book, Building Fiction. I love all writing books and hers is one I've turned to over and over again. I've read these chapters more than once, but the wiser I am about writing, the more I get out of her examples. I read the whole chapter "Continuing Conflict," but the section on "Internal Conflict Development" was exactly what I needed.

When I was in grad school, and before that really, I learned the show, don't tell rule and I learned it hard. Internal character thoughts felt like telling (so, you know, instead of being confused they scratched their head) but a first person narrator talks about thinking. Does it not?? But learning how to do this effectively has been like pulling out my teeth. It should be kind of elementary(my dear Watson) when I look at it now.

But if I think of the story in terms of the onion, or, wait, do I think of myself like an onion? Because maybe I can't see that part of the story, until part of me is peeled away? I'm not sure of the onion metaphor, But, finally, my characters' thoughts are part of the conversation, where the conflict speaks and my MC responds with something that, like good dialog, furthers the tension. Or at least she will soon.

Can you tell that I'm learning to pull everything apart? That's why first it was the entrances with Fire and then that breaking down the smart little narrator for FMF and now this, the thoughts. So the story is the onion, but I am too.

As Always (working it out),

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Fantastic Mr. Fox

I read this Sunday afternoon.

Here was my favorite selection: They all sat down panting for breath. And Mrs. Fox said to her children, "I should like you to know that if it wasn't for your father we'd all be dead by now. Your father is a fantastic fox." Mr. Fox looked at his wife and she smiled. He loved her more than ever when she said things like that.
She smiles, and then the narrator touches Mr. Fox, so lightly in the above line, showing his little surge of gut feeling. It seems that this little surge of appreciation he feels at her appreciating him allows him to be heroic and narcissistic. And perhaps its that little bit of vulnerability shown with such a slight of hand, even love from the narrator makes me love Mr. Fox. And the way Mrs. Fox gives it to him with that little smile, makes me love the book.

And as far as entrances go, Roald Dahl sets the stage with the bad guys. He introduces them in the first chapter as a group. Then describes each in turn, by what they eat and how they're shaped. Mainly Boggis, Bunce and Bean are mean. And the language sets the attitude. Rhyming and alliteration equals fun and these guys are fun to hate. In the second chapter, we get the fox, his hill, his tree, his hole, his family and his stealing. Every night, first he asked and then, when Mrs. Fox had told him what she wanted, he would creep down into the valley in the darkness of the night and help himself. Well put, Mr. (or Ms.?) Narrator. And right away the war begins.

A lot of eating, chivalry, politeness and appreciation in this little book. There is also a lot of scrabbling through the dirt making holes. 

Comparison to the movie: the movie was light and winsome, and the book seemed darker(in a Dahl, nose-picky kind of way) and simpler, but I could see where Wes Anderson pulled the light and winsome from. The narrator had a loving eye not unlike Wes Anderson's. And the scrabbling remained. But the movie was bigger, which seems to be the trend these days (see Where the Wild Things Are), and I guess I prefer it this way, at least this time, because the book was beautiful in its simplicity.

As Always (couldn't revise, thought this might help),

Friday, January 15, 2010

Fire By Kristin Cashore

I just finished Fire.

My biggest criticism of Graceling(as in Cashore's first book) was at one point toward the end of the story I felt it slowed down. But I gave Cashore a pass on that, because it is pretty amazing to write such a readable first book. As I recall her whole road to publication was amazing, not that I could tell you what it was right now. Fire is a companion to Graceling, so only one of the characters overlap. Fire takes place in a neighboring land divided from the world of Graceling by mountains that are almost impassable. So as an entirely new world, it has entirely new magic. Instead of Gracelings, there are Monsters. The premise of the book is that these monsters, animals identical to regular animals except for their amazing color, have ability to mesmerize onlookers and then prey on them. There is only one remaining human monster(Fire, our protag). I was worried the book would be a little too Rainbow Brite for me. (I’m a little more dystopian than fantasy world, but I got over it and read it all the way to the end.) It had a lot of depth. I think Cashore really plumbed the psychology of this dangerous beauty.  That Kristin Cashore has an imagination on her.

Here’s what I learned from the book:  A writing tip I once came across advised every time you introduce a new character, that character making an entrance. As in a play, lingered on for a moment, give him or her some stage time. It’s been a helpful tip to me and I want to thank whomever is responsible for it (I have no idea). But Cashore made me think of expanding that tip to new ideas and concepts. This is probably really simple and you all knew this already. But this has been a hard one for me. As I go through my beginning yet another time, I have been imagining I’m setting a stage, and each time something new comes in, I need to make sure it gets some face time.

As Always (I bet Kristin Cashore remembers her dreams!),

Monday, January 11, 2010

Revision Time

So I think I’m ready to dive in. So far I’ve made copious notes and I’ve thought long and hard and I’ve had ideas about what to do. It is going to be a full overhaul. But as of yet I haven't touched a thing. I'm one of those people that stand on the beach for a long time before getting into the water. But when I do go in, I get wet all at once.

This is where Scrivener comes in. Scrivener allows me to easily separate a document into many different documents and also fuse the documents back together. Originally when I wrote the book it was separated into chapters. I wrote it in scenes and then pasted scenes where I felt  they belonged. Usually it was more fussing than that, but the fussing was because of my imperfect writerly brain and less about the Scrivener program. So when I sent it off to my readers, I fused the whole thing together. One grand document of 56,877 words. Well, now my plan is to take a big scene from the center(a flashback that will no longer be such) and place it in the beginning and then weave through backstory. Separating by chapters will be less helpful than tracking the threads of backstory through present moment. I’m trying to imagine how this will work in the Scrivener program. I’ll keep you posted as to how this all works out. How do you all sort through this kind of thing?

I am sometimes amazed at my own blindness to the mechanics of novels. I’m a duration reader. I read for the pleasure of giving in and giving up. I always feel that I should be able to do this with writing as well. I think I have a new years resolution about this. What were they anyway? Oh, where is John Gardner when you need him?

As Always (today I start revision in earnest, tomorrow blog business),

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Third Book of 2010

Just finished The Titan's Curse with my son last night. It is the third book in the Percy Jackson series that begins with The Lightning Thief.  Here is what Rick Riordan does so well as far as I am concerned: his flawed hero relates to every boy. Percy can't make it in school due to his dyslexia and ADHD, not to mention monsters that are always out to get him. When he discovers he is part human (mom's side),  part god (Poseiden's side), he finally understands why school and life is such a hardship. Why doesn't the rest of the world know that the gods are still around? Well, because of the capital m Mist. It covers everything, so we only see what we expect to see.  Riordan has his finger on the pulse of boy fantasy and it goes like this: My dad is a god, god of the sea no less, and he is all powerful and the reason I can't get along with any of you folk is because you're blind in one eye, can't see out the other. What does it matter anyway? I think I'll go ride on my pegasus and save this ancient sea creature, while I'm at. And yeah, I can breathe underwater. It only makes me stronger and it never makes me wet, unless of course I want it to.  What is there not to love? Boy and girl characters fight side by side and there is even a love interest. Cars that fly, giant walking statues and you learn mythology at the same time. The adventures always take you traveling, so a little geography is thrown in as well. High interest and educational, a boy's dream. At least mine.

As Always(we still have one more Percy Jackson book to go),

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

First two books of 2010

Liar. I wonder if anyone else has difficulty spelling that word. I spell it six different times before I get it the right way and I do this repeatedly.

So I knew there was a surprise in this book when I started to read it(I promise not to give it away). And despite the knowing it still surprised me. And at the end, I also knew there was something else, another surprise. And that didn't surprise me as much but it has me thinking and thinking. Which I think was the intention. I wonder if I would have enjoyed this book as much if I had known the surprise. I wonder if I would have enjoyed the book more if I had not known there was a surprise. She is a skillful writer, Justine Larbalestier(another thing that is difficult to spell). I like how clear and crisp the whole book is(not my forte), and I love how it is written in short little pieces. And of course the big draw of this book is it's unreliable narrator. I recommend it. It was fun to read.

But maybe I enjoyed Odd and the Frost Giants more. Number one, this is the book to read if you have a quota you are aiming for this year. It is really fast. I'm sure you could finish it in a couple hours. And start on another one right away. It is also a quick and clean book. And I really loved the narrator. Unlike Liar, this is a third person narrator, a story telling voice that is smooth and easy to read. I love Odd's characterization. The narrator isn't exactly close to him, but closer to him than to anyone else. And perhaps it is this distance that Gaiman does so well, tells the tale just like a myth would be told, only so much better. I want to write one like this someday.

As Always (now I have to make a side bar list of books or something),

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

(picture missing)
There we were last night. Cheersing! A lot of cheersing. Do you see Hubby there smiling at you? My hand is there at the forefront. We finished seven bottles of champagne. I love the stuff. And had a delicious Indian dinner. Thank you, Madan! I made a Dahl and an apple galette(not very Indian). By the time the new year arrived we were cashed on the couch but in good moods. I wish for more of that for my next year. Wish all of you could have been here.

Now I make resolutions in the minutia.
1. trust my intuition in revision, don't over think the book (possibly too late), expect that I can do it, work hard
2. blog, enjoy myself, focus on gratitude and generosity
3. write the next one, at a focused yet breakneck pace (my definition of breakneck would be a good 2,000 words a week. not much I agree, but I'm better at quality than quantity. And I really value focus over breakneck.)
4. keep a list of all the books I read(I really was jealous of the list at Murphblog, so perhaps I must just do some more copying of PMM)
5. get better at everything, keep practicing, remember practice makes perfect

As Always (thank you for reading!),