Monthly Archives: November 2011

NaNoCountDown

With 4,500 words to go, I’ll be MIA again today. 

The good news is that I only have to write half the words I did yesterday.  The bad news is that my novel will not be complete.  I’ll have my 50,000 words, but the story won’t be done.  : (

Oh well, I guess I can’t have everything!

Happy writing today.

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Oh, Christmas Tree, Why Do I Like Thee?

We bought a Christmas tree this past weekend.  It was a family affair with three generations of tree-cutters slopping through wet grass to find the perfect pines for our respective houses.  Everyone, from one year old baby Liza up to Grandpa, had a different opinion on what makes a pretty tree.

Some wanted teeny-meeny saplings that barely reached their knees–and at four, seven and ten, those are some pretty short knees.  Still others wanted pines that soared so high the tops seemed to disappear into the clouds. 

Long needles, short needles, painted, pure, Charlie Brownishly skinny, trimmed to conical perfection or naturally full?

So many trees.  So many choices.

Tree hunting is a lot like book buying.

What tickles one person’s tweeter may totally turn off another reader.  That’s why there are so many different genres and sub genres.  It’s why one vampire book becomes a beloved read while another sits on the shelf untouched.  It’s why, in another home, the exact opposite is true.

One thing I did notice during our commune with nature: the trees didn’t care.  They didn’t care if someone walked by them and made a beeline for another pine.  Instead, they remained steadfast.  The soaked up the moisture and the sun’s rays oblivious to the hubbub around them.  In the end, they will be something.

Pinecones to repopulate a forest.  Shade for new seedlings.  A nesting ground for birds.  Food for squirrels.  Shelter for deer.  A Christmas tree to the right family at the right time or firewood or mulch as aging branches die and decompose.

There’s a lesson here for aspiring writers.  Well, maybe two.

  1. Write the story you need to tell.  Some people may love it.  Some may hate it.  It may be a bestseller or a favorite niche story that quietly gets passed around by a select few.  Regardless of what ultimately happens to it, it will serve a purpose.  Really and truly, because…
  2. …not every story will grace the great room…er, become the book of the season.  In fact, some may get self-pubbed or never get published at all.  Yet we learn from every story we pen.  These practice stories help us hone our skills and nurture the seeds of our creativity.

Nature does not waste.  Nor does she regret.  She simply perseveres.

And that, my writer friends, is what I wish for you this upcoming holiday season.  Be the tree!

 

The Lies We Teach: in literature and in life

An attorney waves away illegal behavior, dismissing college students’ acts of falsifying business records, criminal impersonation and scheming to defraud as not belonging in the criminal justice system.  His reason, according to a Foxnews.com article, “You’re not talking about violent crime.  You’re not talking about drugs.”

So what are we talking about?  Affluent students paying others to cheat on their ACT and SAT tests so they can earn acceptance into college with better scores.

I call it theft.  These kids–the test takers and the ones paying for the good scores–are stealing seats in college classes from hard-working kids.  Potentially, they are stealing another child’s future.  No big deal, right?  I mean, it’s not drugs.

I call it disrespect.  For our justice system, for the very foundation of our equal-opportunity country, for the people who have died for our freedom to be more than.  For those students who bust their butts to overcome obstacles the cheaters never dream exist.  Again, nobody was hurt, right?  At least not physically.

I call it many things, but those words are nothing compared to what I call the adults who try to dismiss this behavior with a wave of their hands.

If a poor,  young black man used a fake ID, what do you think would happen?  I guarantee an attorney would feel compelled to prosecute this very illegal and criminal act.  Because, guess what?  It’s against the law to falsify documents and impersonate other people.

If a quiet young lady dressed in black wearing black lipstick and black fingernail polish with dyed, jet-black hair was busted for scheming to defraud, she’d find no sympathy from a tolerant attorney like the one above.

If my dyslexic son earned the best score on his ACT possible based on his struggle with a severe learning disability, he would still get bumped out of that Ivy League college because his best test score cannot compete with those who cheat.  It doesn’t mean he’s not intelligent.  It just means he can’t take a test as well as the cheaters can.

But, hey, no big deal.  Life isn’t fair and all that jazz.  I get that.

What I don’t get is why we perpetuate so many double standards.  A broken law is a broken law is a broken law.  Crime is crime, no matter if a poor person commits it or if the affluent use it to gain yet another upper hand when they already have so much.

And then I realized that writers utilize a great deal of these double standards.  It’s how we create tension and up the stakes.  We situationally condone our characters’ less than stellar behaviors, and readers buy into it because the end justifies the means.

It’s okay, Harry, you can sneak out of Hogwarts to track down that next clue.

Don’t worry about killing that werewolf, kidnapping that baby, slaying the bad guy, lying to the cops, running from the law, falsifying your passport, stealing that car, drinking your under-age self sick.  You’re in a tough spot and your heart is in the right place.

My question today is two-fold.  A) Is it possible to live in a black and white world where the law is always the law regardless of circumstances?  Where the poor mom shoplifting formula for her starving infant is just as guilty as the rich woman stealing ninety-nine cent fingernail polish for the rush it gives her or the young dude five-finger discounting condoms so he doesn’t get his girl preggers but is too embarrassed to take the package to the counter where his dad’s best friend works?  Yeah, that kind of black and white.

B) Is it possible to write a novel where the MC breaks no rules and his/her morality always remains in tact?  Do you even want to read a book like that?  How do you write/read a novel with elements that directly challenge your own personal beliefs? 

Curious minds want to know.

Author Bios: What do you like to know?

Last night at conferences, Middle Son gave us a beautifully illustrated idea of how he sees his parents.

In his father, he sees a love for his family, his car and hunting.  In Middle’s mind, both his parents like blue skies.  Me, I like gum, my computer and my family, including one of our hunting labs.  (Notice which one is missing?)

Wonder what his teacher thinks of these parent quirks.  Bullets flying, fast cars and computer keys.  We sound a bit…odd.  Especially the gum part.  Which, incidentally, is one of the things I associate most strongly with my own mother.  Cinnamon Trident.

I’m currently working on my author bio for a short story anthology.  As yet, I’m not quite sure what to say.

How about you, dear readers?  What kinds of things do you like to know about the authors you read?  Do you love the professional deets only, or do you prefer a bit of personal quirk in your author blurb?  Have you ever tracked down an author’s blog, website or other published works because of their author bio?  Or, do you skip reading these altogether? 

Do you like knowing how a story came about or what the author is working on next? 

You tell me, because curious minds really need to know.

Afraid of the Flush: Writing Fears

Sock Dog returned from her first hunting trip a few weeks ago.  I cannot repeat in public Dear Hubby’s choice words over her performance.  So, off she went to a different dog trainer.

The verdict?

Sock Dog, the almighty pheasant hunter, is afraid of the flush.  She’s got a great nose, she’s enthusiastic and athletic.  She’s everything a great hunting lab should be–except terrified of the birds when they flush from the tall grasses.

Ever get the feeling that writers are no different?

It’s like we’re bred to write, but we’re afraid of success.  We hear the flutter of wings in the distance and drop back behind others.  We allow fear (of success, of failure, of ourselves) to paralyze us and keep us from taking that next step.

Anyone else ever feel this way?  How do you overcome the fear of the imagined and take the next step that will lead you to the very thing you’ve been dreaming of?  How do you learn to delight in the flush regardless of whether or not you get the bird?

Curious minds want to know.

Writing U-Turn

Yesterday I read a critique by a critter of another writer’s story.  That’s the beauty of critique groups, you not only get to hear what you’re doing wrong/right, you also get to hear what others do wrong/right.

The comment, in a paraphrased nutshell: I like that your MC is doing something instead of running.  Seems like every YA out there now has the Female MC running from the Big Bad.

This comment was a stab to my heart.  I’m currently pumping out words to fill in my NaNovel.  My MC had just exited a corn field and started heading west away from the Big Bad and toward her mother.  Now, in my MC’s defense (the worst word we can use when talking about our writing, btw), she planned to rescue her mother.

It was a plan discussed between her father, herself and her brother.  But then the BIG BAD got really ugly and she took off, leaving behind Brother and Dad.

I read that comment and my MC screeched to a halt.  She turned back around and entered the corn field to retrace her steps and DO something.

What?  I have no feckin’ clue.

Has your writing ever taken an unexpected U-Turn?  If so, how did that work out for you?  What prompted you to change directions?  Were you ultimately happy that you did?

Curious minds want to know.

Mannequins at From the Right Angle

I’m blogging at From the Right Angle today.  If you’d like to see what a pair of nekkid mannequins can teach a writer, please visit me there!

Also, ignore the funky formatting on my blog.  I’m trying to.  Hopefully WordPress Techie can figure it out for me, as this is uber unatractive.

Edit Your Writing Warts

Both my older boys spent some time in the doctor’s office this afternoon getting warts removed.  When their fingers had been sufficiently frozen, the doctor let Middle Son dump the liquid nitrogen onto the office floor.

It spilled from the container and hit the carpet like a tiny bomb, radiating out in concentric circles of frozen fog.  They little boys were impressed–as was I.  It was like a mini magic show.

Sometimes I wish I could liquid nitrogen my writing warts.

A drop onto “that” and a squirt over “nodded”, “grinned” and “shrugged.”

Make no mistake, my writing has plenty of warts.

Does yours?  What words or phrases infect your manuscript and how do you go about erradicating them from your manuscript?

Treading the Water of Life…

…while the sharks are circling.

I’m 640 words behind on NaNo.   Which means today I have to write about 2,300 words just to get caught up.  Then starts Saturday, just in time for me to don the kneepads for our volleyball tourney and fluff the pillows (read chase off the dust bunnies) for our out-of-town guests.  This wonderful non-writing interlude puts me in line to be 3,333 words behind come Monday morning.

So, I either have to write like heck today and crank out nearly 6,000 words or do so on Monday, because then we get to add another 1,667 words to the NaNoTaskMaster.  Which is like adding a 50 pound weight around my neck and throwing more sharks into the pool.

Life Lesson 1: Stay in the life raft, because beating off sharks with your bare fists while treading water and holding a brick above your head is dang hard.

In other news: I got to help a stranded motorist this morning while wearing my jammie pants, DH’s oversized sweatshirt, DD’s knit slouchy boots and bed head.

Life Lesson 2: Do not drop the boys off at school looking like a freak.  Translated to mean: don’t be a freak, because you never know who might see you.

And speaking of my Little’s, they both threatened to leave me because, “You always make us clean our room.  You like everything to be so clean all the time.  We can’t even go in there except to sleep.  We can’t even play anymore.  What fun is that?  We might as well not even live here.”

Note to y’all: Said cleanliness meant no more eating Halloween candy in their room and throwing the wrappers under their beds and behind the bookshelf.  It also meant putting dirty laundry in the laundry room, not on the floor.  I think I may have been so cruel as to bring up making their beds and putting their minefield of Legos back on the Lego table, though I totally left the dust bunnies out of the equation and said nothing about their overflowing dresser drawers.

Life Lesson 3: I am a mean mom.

Truly I am.  Because I also got roped into a high school joke that almost made my daughter cry last night.  Our quasi new son asked Eldest why he broke up with his girlfriend.  Eldest gleefully played along and said his GF (who would never, ever be naughty) cheated on him.  This was said in front of their mutual friend while they ate pizza at the counter.  It would have been a funny joke on Mutual Friend had it not spread like a bad case of teenage acne.

MF promptly texted his girlfriend who was with DD who texted unsuspecting me who broached Eldest who then had to call GF in case someone at the French party texted her about what a horrible girl she was for cheating on Eldest.

Within five minutes the whole world was crying over the break up.

Which leads me to my final Life Lesson of the Week: Be careful what you say, because bad news travels at the speed of light.

Remember high school?  Enough said.

May your life jacket be buoyant and the sharks few!

Off Slaying Dragons

…er, words.

Sandwhiched between NaNoDays 1-3 and 5-6, I have to do all the writing I can before heading out of town tonight. This is my only day in Week One of NaNo where real life will let me try to pad my word count for future days when my fingers and keyboard will not be allowed to see each other!

Hugs to all you writers out there. May your steed be fast and your sword be strong!