31 March 2008

One-Sentence Summary

Randy Ingermanson has been discussing the all-important one-sentence summary on his blog the last few days, so I decided to give it a try with one of my shorter (and therefore more definable) works in progress.

Here it is:

Catherine has finally found the perfect man in Robert Wyvern, but when his ex-girlfriend – naked, branded and very definitely dead – quite literally crashes a wedding, Robert is the prime suspect in the murder.

I think this is fine as a first stab, but it's missing a few key elements:

  1. What is Catherine going to DO?
  2. The connection of Robert’s family to the local dragon legends (and, as it turns out, the local dragon).
  3. The depth of Catherine’s own involvement (as an intended sacrifice to said dragon).

Of these, I think the first one is probably the worst thing to leave out, although - since I'm classifying this one as a "dark, urban fantasy" - I feel the other two really ought to be there as well. However, adding any these elements to what is already there will make the 'one-sentence summary' waaaay too long. It's probably too long as it stands, anyway.

So I'm stuck.

But I'm going to keep at it, because I've decided to focus on this piece until I have a completed draft. My next step is to finish plotting it, and I think it will help to work this one-sentence thing out first.

Hopefully, I'll have something better by the end of the week. If I do, I'll post it. And if I get really brave, I'll post a snippet from this piece, too.

We'll see.

.

29 March 2008

Childproof, Spillproof Snack Dispenser

I am so sick of stomping on Cheerios.

I am so sick of Ms. Baby walking around with 57 Cheerios stuffed in her mouth.

I am so sick of the sound that 57 Cheerios make as they skitter across the floor I just swept, because Ms. Baby hasn't quite grasped the concept of watching where she is going.

So someone, please, please, invent a toddler snack dispenser that:

a) Will not explode its contents on impact.
b) Will only dispense TWO Cheerios at a time.
c) Will actually dispense Cheerios when Ms. Baby wants them.
d) Cannot be outsmarted by Ms. Baby (good luck on that one...).

Anyone with a good idea, please leave contact information in the comments. I may have some capital to get you started on this one.

.

28 March 2008

Annotations Kick-off & West of Mars

This post kicks off a(nother) new label for me: Annotations. I've been wanting to do this for a while, because I never like to just add links to my blog without explaining why they're there. And why in world would I want to do that? Well, I guess it's because I only add stuff I think is worth checking out, which makes Annotations my bid to convince you to check these links out, too.

Right. So, on with it, already:

For a number of reasons, I've been making an effort during the past few weeks and months to seek out other writers' websites.

One reason is that I'm seriously thinking through putting together a website focused on my own writing (and another for my fledgling freelance medical editing service), so I'm looking for ideas, Do's and Do Not's, cool features - that sort of thing.

Another reason is that other writers are a fantastic source of inspiration, ideas and insights. Plus, many of them post excepts and snippets of their writing, which are great - educational and entertaining! This has lead me to some really great writers, whom I otherwise would never have found.

Susan Helene Gottfried is one of these. Her website, West of Mars, has a ton of interesting stuff - including outtakes from her stories about a rock band. Yeah, I know - a rock band. Now, if you had told me that Susan wrote a book about a rock band, I would have said, 'Eh, not for me.'

Luckily, I read an outtake, instead.

Susan is a kick-ass writer. For real. She is funny and poignant at the same time (something I dream of pulling off one day). She's got that show-don't-tell thing DOWN (also in my dreams). She also understands the importance of white space, which is ever so pleasing to Little Miss Med-Editor's eye. Finally, her characters jump right off the page in 3D and make themselves at home in your head. It's totally wicked! (And these are her outtakes, remember?)

Anyway, I am already in line to buy her first book - as soon as she finds a publisher and may that be soon!

So, if you've got a minute - check her out!

.

27 March 2008

The Abyss, The Mountain, and The Well

The Abyss and The Mountain

This is where I see myself as a writer: standing on the edge of the Abyss of the Unknown. On the other side, rising up out of the pitch black of the Abyss, is the Mountain of Craft and Other Stuff I Need to Learn, which I have to climb in order to produce anything publishable.

Thus far, I’ve been pretty happy taking baby steps in my development as a writer. After all, with kids, job, life, etc, what the hell else do I have time for?

Lately however, the baby steps have felt sort of unsatisfactory. And I'm starting to realize that they're never going to get me onto the slopes of the Mountain no matter how many I take. In fact, all the baby steps are going to do is bring me closer and closer to the edge of the Abyss - but not over it. If I want to climb the Mountian, I will have to get a running start and take a giant leap of faith.

There's just no other way to get there.



The Well

The Mountain is big - really, really big - so it is one long-ass journey from wanna-be to published writer. I'm sure that if I ever get to the summit of the Mountain (and even if I don't), I shall be eternally grateful to many people. One of these will surely be Joely Sue Burkhart both for her stories* and for this very interesting post. As I was reading it, I discovered one of those things I didn't even know I didn't know. (Thanks, Joely!)

Here's the full story:

I’ve been focusing a lot in the last year or two on the mechanical part of writing – the showing, not telling, the using of active verbs, the what-is-a-scene-anyway? sorts of issues. Joely's post made me think about the other part – the part that, in the end, is what really matters, what will really make or break (or sell) a piece of writing, the core of a piece that makes it Art (i.e., something another person can relate to).

Specifically, Joely talks about “writing from the bottom of the Well” – the Well being the place inside where Art (in whatever form) comes from. It is scary in the Well, Joely says. And it should be, since that is where we stuff all the bits of ourselves, secrets large and small, truths good and bad, that we’d really rather not show the world today or think about until next week. (Or acknowledge. Ever.)

I got goose bumps, though, from what Joely said next:


Only by knowing and accepting all of myself, all the emotions that I pretended I didn’t have for one reason or another, could I even find the Well.

Bingo. Light bulb over the head. Eureka!

This picture of the Well was the visual I needed and all the yip-yap you read about 'write what you know' suddenly clicked. This is the place I need to go to find the things that will shape the mostly bits of crap that I write into more of the bits that would actually be interesting to another person - the Art, in other words.

This is why: the experience of Art – whether we are listening to music, reading a novel, or looking at a painting – is the experience of being drawn down into our Wells. Something in the Art speaks to us, reminds us of the secrets and bits of truth we’ve hidden down there, buried below the everything’s-normal-thanks! faces that we show the world day to day. And something about seeing these bits of ourselves in someone else's Art is cathartic. In a small way, it soothes the sense of unease with have with our secrets, because at least we can see that we're not the only ones who have them.

So The Well, at least for me it would seem, is an odd sort of foothold on the Mountain.

Or it's the Abyss.

Shit. In that case, instead of leaping over it, maybe I should be diving in and making for the bottom. Yow.


(*I’m hoping to ‘review’ several of Joely's stories here soon – watch this space!)

.

NaNoWriDeutsch???

So I just clicked over to NaNoWriMo to do some research for an upcoming project and when I went into the forums... everything was in German. German!

Weird. Unexpected. But kinda cool. 'Cuz I speak German (at least, I used to).

25 March 2008

It's a Boy!!

8 lbs, 13 oz!!

Yup, cousin-girl had her baby, finally. Wheee-whoooo!!! No news on a name yet and have not heard the tale of the labor, but I know it was long and she ended up opting for the epidural. She was wanting to go all natural, so I hope she's not disappointed in herself - there's only so much you can take, especially when you know there's relief available.

Can't wait to see pics!

.

24 March 2008

Expecting... Aaaaaany Minute Now.....

My cousin in London sent an email at 3am this morning (my time) that she was heading in to the hospital for an induction -- and now I'm So Excited I can't see straight: somebody in my family is having a baby and it's NOT ME!!!!!!!!

I'm about to become an Auntie!!!!

(Well, a cousin with some sort of 'removal', whatever that is. My cousin is my kids' Auntie, even though she's not, because who the hell wants to try and explain that? Or figure it out.)

Can't wait for the news (er, obviously...).

.

19 March 2008

Days Like This

It's been one of those days. In fact, it's been one of those weeks.

Every blessed thing I touch, think about or try to do at FPU goes straight to Hell's Handbasket (do not pass Go, do not collect shit).

And it is the days/weeks/months like this that make me seriously reconsider my career path.

How much experience do I really NEED before I start freelancing?

Some days, I wonder.

Some days, I really wonder.

.

14 March 2008

The Incredibly Stupid Thing

and its Very Interesting Fallout


I managed to do an Incredibly Stupid Thing at work last week -- by crossing the Wrong People -- and spent most of Monday and Tuesday convinced that I was going to lose my beloved job at Fabulous Private University as a result. I haven't. And I probably won't, but all the same, the possibility of suddenly becoming unemployed sent my brain to some very interesting - and very unexpected - places.

Place number 1: Welcome to Stupid-ville. Despite all the time I've spent getting older and all the money and effort I've spent getting wiser (theoretically), I am still capable of doing Incredibly Stupid Things. This hardly seems fair.

Place number 2: Mt. Everest. (Not literally, more's the pity.) I have this thing about perspective. I lose it real easily. To me, in the right light, a couple of pebbles sitting too close to each other becomes the entire Himalayan range in less than an second - which is exactly what happened with the Incredibly Stupid Thing. I made a mistake, a pretty serious mistake, but a mistake nonetheless. And mistakes are forgivable, it seems, even by the Wrong People. Lucky me.

Place number 3: The Future. When I realized I had done the Incredibly Stupid Thing, my first thought (well, the thought right after 'Oh. Mah. Gahd. They're gonna fire my ass.') was NOT 'Guess I'll look for another job.', but 'Huh. Well, I guess now I'll have the time to get serious about writing and to get that freelance editing thing off the ground.'

And then my jaw hit the damn floor, because that's shocking coming from me.

I like my job. Even more, I like my job security.

I mean, yeah, OK - I'm primarily funded on grants. That can be risky. But grants run on 5-6 year cycles, so the economy can do whatever it likes - I'm pretty insulated from it. And since Boss Lady is really good at what she does and thinks I walk on water most of the time, the likelihood that she'll run out of funding any time before she or I retire or that she'll fire me is slim at best.

And the benefits. Let's not forget the benefits -- which are fan-fucking-tastic at FPU. I mean, really - they'll pay for my kids to go to college. Anywhere. It's a lesson in how to make a loyal employee....

However.

I've been thinking about the freelance thing for a while now. Thinking seriously about it, in fact. I just didn't realize HOW seriously. And the thought of not being at the mercy of the Wrong People and being wholly responsible for how much money I make -- and not being limited in how much money I make by The Rules at FPU -- was really appealing.

And it still is.

The fiction writing has been on my mind too. I plug away at it whenever I can and I think I'm getting better. I've even written a couple of things lately that don't totally suck, so I think there's hope there, too - given the time to devote to serious effort, of course. Which I came close to having... ah, temptation....

Place number 4: Values X-ing. This was the weirdest part of this whole experience. Ultimately, the root of the Incredibly Stupid Thing was my own values competing with each other. On the one side Rabid Perfectionism teamed up with I-Exist-to-Help-Others-Do-Great-Things and lead me to find a way of circumventing a Rule set down by the Wrong People.

At the time, I thought my end-around was perfectly legit.

Unfortunately, Rules-Are-Made-To-Be-Followed sided with Abject Honesty and caused a whole lot of second guessing, which lead to two days without eating or sleeping as I waited for an answer from the Wrong People's Spokesperson about whether or not the Incredibly Stupid Thing was as incredibly stupid as I thought.

It sucked.

But while it was sucking - and this is the weird part - the writer part of my brain, skulking about in the background and ever observant, found the whole process fascinating from a 'beliveable character' development perspective.

Fascinating - my own agony. Can you imagine? How weird. And what a strange lesson to take away from the experience.

I'm going to blame Ingermanson for that -- had he not written his ezine article on great characters having strong internal conflicts that stem from conflict in the character's core values, I would never have noticed the details at the root of my suffering. But now I have and now I 'get it'. When I read the article the first time, I was like, 'yeah, OK, cool - conflicting values=internal conflict=great character. roger that.'

But now I GET IT. Viscerally.

Your values can make you do things without thinking. Check.

Your values can make you question things you have already done. Check.

Your values can get you in a whole lot of trouble. Double check.

And not only do I get it now -- for the first time, I can really see how to use it.

My poor characters. Pity them. Their lives are about to get a whole lot more interesting.

.

You know you have young children when…

…your floor crunches (from Cheerios disintegrating underfoot).

…the last four movies you saw in a movie theater were animated.

…you can’t remember the last movie you saw in a theater that wasn’t animated.

…walking around your house frequently involves the sound of crashing.

…you have a plastic tea set in your dishwasher.

…there are more toys than towels in your bathroom.

.

12 March 2008

Project #1: Progress Report

Ah, Project #1....

More progress has been made on Step #1! I'm on a roll!


******************************

  1. Get rid of uneeded baby changing table.

    1. Uncover baby changing table.
    2. See if LE will take changing table early.
    3. Move the sucker OUT OF MY HOUSE.


******************************


LE said, yes, absolutely, we sure will take the changing table as soon as we make space for it, 'cuz we're not moving after all and our original plan for a baby changing spot is kinda rickety...

Now all I have to do is convince The Husband to help get it to LE's house...
.

04 March 2008

Inkygirl Rocks

Inkygirl is one of my favorite writing-related websites, and I've become a regular visitor. It's run by Debbie Ridpath Ohi, who posts about writing and writing related issues and people. She is also writes and illustrates some really fantastic comics and a comic strip called Will Write For Chocolate.

She recently posted about cool office space and asked for readers to send in photos of their office/writing space and what they love/hate about it, which I did - and she posted my photos and write up today!

I'm on Inkygirl! Too cool!

02 March 2008

Project #1: Progress Report

Wow! Can you believe it? Progress to report already!

Either the 'post the projects' plan is working or Ms. Baby had started sleeping through the night (she hasn't).

Progress has been made on Step #1!


******************************

  1. Get rid of uneeded baby changing table.

    1. Uncover baby changing table.
    2. See if LE will take changing table early.
    3. Move the sucker OUT OF MY HOUSE.




******************************


Technically, I suppose I've also made progress on Step #2, because I put some of the junk that was on the baby changing table in my car to go to Goodwill. However, I will resist posting that as Progress until I actually GET it to Goodwill.

01 March 2008

Viruses Can Kiss My Butt

We are back on our feet. Finally. It's been almost a whole week since anyone in my house has gotten sick!

Somehow - somehow - Ms. Five escaped the Vomiting Virus. Ms. Baby did not (for once) bring home any new, microscopic friends from daycare. I feel human again. I think The Husband does too.

I know it can't last, but hale-freakin'-lujah already.