Friday, September 30, 2011

The Friday Five - It's Almost Time for NaNo Edition

Tomorrow is the first of October. Which means one big thing, dear writers or readers of blogs.

It is exactly one month until NaNoWriMo begins.

As you may or may not know, it wouldn't hurt my feelings a bit if a voice spoke from the heavens and said, "Go to bed the entire month of November. You will wake up well-rested and at peace with the world on the first of December."

I hate November.

But it certainly does have its writing advantages. Millions, yes, millions of people all over the globe will be BICHOK on November 1. They gather on one website like excited children to rejoice in their successes, moan about their failures, laugh at the antics of their characters or weep over repetitive motion injuries. November is the writing warrior's battle and the fields are being prepared right now. As a seasoned veteran myself (this will be year three of manic, fast-paced writing), I am honing my tools for the next campaign to take the noveling world by storm.  So. Five things I love about NaNo.

#1) It took me how long to write 50,000 words?
Yeah, that's right. A month. 30 days. Here is an illustration of my stats for last year. It looks like I didn't write a couple of those days, especially toward the end of the month, but I really did, I just didn't update the site, I was so frantic to finish. At the very top, you see the purple bar and it's happy message proclaiming me a 'winner!' At least I'm a winner somewhere in my life, right? At the first part of the month, no joke, from pretty much the 1st to the 10th or so, I was sick as a dog. Did I feel like writing 1667 (the average amount you have to write to finish in 30 days) words a day? Pfft, no! Did I feel like laying down to die in a hailstorm of misery and snot? Yes. But I didn't. You can read the entry I made when I finished two days ahead of schedule here.

#2)  Pep talks. I love getting the pep talks in my e-mail from guest pep talkers through the Office of Letters and Light on the NaNo site. One time it was Lemony Snicket and it was hi-lariously perilous. I didn't save any of them, but for some reason I did save the letters from the municipal liason (you know, the guy or gal in charge of the local NaNo organization). Note to self: chuck those, they are unrelated to this year. Fortunately, the pep talks are archived on the NaNo site. The Lemony Snicket one is here.

#3) That picture above. The chart. Oooo, I love the chart. Sure, I have those fancy little counter doo-dads here, but that chart marks the progress per day. And it has some cool stats underneath like average per day, when I will finish based on my apd, how many days are left, etc. I wish I had a chart like that for all the time. I'm a very visual person, which is kind of weird considering I can't actually see my characters.

#4) Message boards. The NaNo site has some great message boards where you can ask questions related to your story, swap plot bunnies, put up a section of your favorite paragraphs, do synopsis swaps, or just hang out and procrastinate.

#5) The experience. It's worse, oh yes, worse than prepping for college finals. If you're hard core, you will stay up late, consume more junk food and carbonated/caffeinated beverages than could ever possibly be good for you (trust me, I know), and you might even skip work once or twice to stay on top of your game. In my defense, I was actually sick that one Monday. I did go to the doctor. The second week is reputedly the hardest (I find this to be true) and you may consider quitting. Plunge through it, fight like mad, come up a winner. You know, so you can get that awesome web badge. And carpel tunnel.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Stuff I Find While I'm Walking Episode 8

This Monday stuff rolls around too soon. Am I right? Of course I am. Lucky for you, there are weekend nature pictures. Huzzah. This weekend I tried to talk dear old husband into the Springfield Nature Center, but he wasn't having any. So it was back to Hayes Spring. I got to break in my awesome new fluorescent orange vest. Just in case someone mistakes me for a deer or turkey.

The spiders! You wouldn't believe the spiders I saw. And every time I tried to capture a spider on camera, the ever-lovin' thing would blink and say 'low battery'. I had some really great spider photo ops. But no! And I had one of this tiny, adorable little frog. It was so cute and ignoramus camera chooses not to take it. Geez. So instead, I have a couple of other, less creepy pics for you. Like this weedy-flower thing. Pretty pinky-purple, huh? Um, don't eat it because I mostly recommend not eating anything you find.

This here is a nifty rock that I must have passed a hundred times in the creek and never saw. Or they might've torn it out of the grown with the big bushhog they use to mow with. Either way, I spotted it and snapped it It probably used to have a hole in it, but now it has a big dip. It would make an awesome paper weight on a desk.

This one came out real nice, a photo of a big slab of limestone with a lot of other chunks of limestone all around it. There's a pretty deep pool of water with lots of little minnows and water bugs swimming in it. On the left, there's a pretty good sized web one of those funnel spiders built, but you can't see it very well in this shot. I just like how clear the water is. I stuck my fingers in to test the temp. Not bad. I was wearing jeans and not really inclined to wade today. Restless didn't seem to mind, she did a little wading.

Now I bring you this elusive cave I've talked about before. The one where the bats live. The one there is no amount of money large enough to convince me to go inside of. 'Cause I used to have frequent nightmares about being trapped inside of places too small for me to get out of. I don't do little spaces. Ever. Never. No way. Don't even think about asking.

But this picture came out exceptionally well. You can even see the grate the MDC put up in front of it to keep people out. Someone has taken great pains to make this cave and spring very nice. There are stacked rock walls all around it, a little rock dam that I crossed to get this photo and bricks lining the creek quite a ways down it. You could walk up to the cave and press your face to the grate if you wanted. I didn't want. Because I don't like bats, but more than that, I'd have had to knocked down a spider web to get there. No thanks.

I also had a picture of the cutest little brown frog you ever saw. The camera didn't take a single picture of it. So I drew a picture instead. A poor substitution, of course, but I did my best. He was on this concrete bridge, sitting on a brown sycamore leaf and looking scared to death because Restless almost stepped on him. He had the biggest, prettiest golden eyes. Which reminds me of a story.

When I was a wee child on vacation on year, my cousin and I were talking to this little boy who had a soft shell turtle in a bucket. We told my dad about it. He asked if we touched the turtle and my cousin admitted she had. I didn't because I'm a total girl. He said that we shouldn't have touched it because he knew a boy when he was a kid that got one of those turtles out of the river and he died horribly because it was poisonous. Needless to say, this scared both of us and we decided to go wash our hands thoroughly. And needless to say, my dad was full of bullpoop. To this day, I remain a total girl and seldom ever touch any kind of animal or plant that I don't recognize.

Beautiful time of year to get down to Hayes Spring because the weeds are down and you can get to a lot of places you can't get to in the summer.

Happy walking and soon you should be in for some foliage color-change photos. Not that I'm excited because that means the trees will be naked soon. Blugh!

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Friday Five - Favorite Books

Today's five is a discussion of my favorite books. And ironically, all but the last of these books were made into movies. Pity about the last one. I'm sure it'd get watched by at least one person (pointing at self). The thing they all seem to have in common is that they contain a familial sense, even if the characters aren't related, they're close to one another and will do anything to keep their families ties. How touching.

#1) The Outsiders - S.E. Hinton
In the YA genre, I first read this book in high school. In a class full of rowdy heathens. My teacher got really bad when I told her I took the book home and read it. She screamed at the class, "Look, she had to take this book home to read because you are all so disruptive!" Um, I took it home because I wanted to finish it. I'm quite capable of blocking out disruptive high schoolers. A story many of us can relate to, the journey of Ponyboy Curtis, who only wants to fit in. Or at least have people understand him. He's a smart kid from the wrong side of the tracks. He's proud of his greaser side, but his older brother Darryl (the only one in the family with a name that isn't weird as all get-out. Sodapop? Their parents were on drugs or something) wants him to get good grades and go to college. So he pushes Pony at every turn until it becomes so stressful, Pony runs away. He and his best friend Johnny, who will never amount to anything because he's a little bit off and very poor, fall asleep in a lot and wake up to a nightmare. The Socs (that's not pronounced sock, it's short for social) decide to beat them up. They nearly drown Pony before Johnny stabs one with a knife. So they really do have to run away then because obviously Johnny can't go to jail for murder. They end up living in an abandoned church, eating baloney and reading Gone With The Wind for entertainment. There's a fire, a lot of death and a serious Hallmark moment at the end.

#2) Of Mice & Men - John Steinbeck
Steinbeck at his best, IMO. My H.S. English teacher had a serious obsession with death and made sure her reading requirements were chock full of it. Of Mice & Men is the story of two down-on-their-luck guys wandering across the States during the Great Depression, taking work where they could find it. George, the brains of the operation makes sure they have food, their bus tickets and work. Lenny, the lummox, is his traveling pal. When he was a kid, Lenny got kicked in the head by a horse and was never quite right after that. He's obsessed with touching things--particularly anything soft. He's fond of carrying dead mice in his pockets until George makes him throw them away. They take a job working at a farm in California where Lenny outworks every man there. They meet Candy, an old man with one hand who spent his life working on the farm, but will soon be useless and unable to work any longer. Lenny makes George tell about their dream--owning a little farm of their own where no one can tell them what to do. And Lenny will get to feed the rabbits. If they save up enough money, some day soon they'll have it. Except Curly, the boss' son has it in for Lenny. And Curly's trampy wife, whose IQ is only marginally larger than Lenny's, keeps flirting with the gentle giant. Until he accidentally kills her. George gathers his friend and they flee the area only to have the novel end in tragedy.

#3) Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows (succeeding HP & the Order of the Phoenix) - J.K. Rowling
Ah, yes. The Boy Who Lived. And suffered a lot, sometimes unnecessarily. But also The Boy Who Sacrificed A Lot for a bunch of people who couldn't do more than point and whisper behind his back. An outcast. An unlikely hero. Beautiful. With it's surprise almost-ending featuring Snape (which was super-beautiful in the movie), and it's touching, feel-good final moments, that whole wait for the end was worth every angsty second. I'll be the first to admit, I thought Harry Potter was a dumb concept when the first book came out. But the more I read, the more I loved it.

#4) Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe - Fannie Flagg
I've seen this movie a couple dozen times. I read the book twice. I did not know it was about lesbians. Apparently I'm oblivious. I just thought it was about murdering wife beating husbands and grinding them up to feed to law enforcement. Huh. Who knew? Not me, at least until I actually cataloged a copy and there it was in plain sight: Lesbians |Fiction. Huh. Well, whatever floats your boat, I guess. I love how Idgie's story of the Depression empowers Evelyn. The characters are like people you could really know, the type of family who is so close knit, they'll lie to keep you out of jail. Good stuff.

#5) The Bean Trees - Barbara Kingsolver
(FYI: Don't read the reviews of this book on It sounds like a class of high school English students wrote all of them.) I first heard of this book on PBS. My mom got it from the library and we both read it. I recently rediscovered it after a patron donated it to my library. It's about a cynical young woman, who renames herself Taylor, from Kentucky who leaves with the intention of being more than her peers--you know, knocked-up and working at a gas station or something. But when she's stopped in a small town in Oklahoma, she gets unexpected guest. Some Indian woman dumps a 3-year-old in her car. Unsure what to do, Taylor takes the baby with her. She essentially picks up the very thing she was afraid of happening in Kentucky, only to settle with Turtle, her new charge, in Arizona. She settles into a life with another woman and her baby, who've been abandoned by the woman's husband and together they help two refugees from South America. Touching and Hallmark-y, The Bean Trees has another one of those tight, albeit strange family dramas.

So, favorite books. New? Old? What makes you keep coming back to them?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

How I Became a Writer

Warning: This is maybe not the most cheerful post ever. It includes no love of buff superheros. Only personal struggle.

It all started with the sentence, "Sally is my dog". A great illustrated classic about one girl and her beagle, Sally Jessy Raphael. For starters, let me tell you that I didn't name the dog. That was my mom. I don't know, I don't ask questions, I just roll with the weird names. Which is probably where I got my talent for naming animals weird stuff. Yes, the cat named Steve. Although technically that was my husband's doing.

One little sentence was my start. It forever changed the way words work for me. Actually, it was probably more to do with my best friend in fifth grade said, "I want to be a writer!" And I replied, "Me, too!" 

Because I'm a copycat. 

Yep. That was it. Except it wasn't an eleven-year-old's passing fancy. Well, at least for my eleven-year-old self. Best friend moved on to other things. For me, it wasn't this week I want to be a ballerina, even though I did want to. Or this week I want to be an astronaut, because my mom told me I couldn't. It's true, I used to get motion sickness really bad and also, I can't do math to save my life. NASA crashed enough shuttles without my help. It was a real honest-to-God I want to be and I am going to be.  

Never mind that my first novel was about (garble, garble, garble, garble). Your first novel is supposed to be bad. Especially when you're eleven. So I learned to spell bigger and less amusing words than toilet (although my potty humor still tickles me on occasion). 

Recognizing the glutinous way I absorbed words, my parents encouraged my love of all  most things written. I imagine my hunt and peck search for letters on the Brother typewriter--the kind that you could write out a whole sentence on, push ENTER and have it type it all at once!--drove them insane. My dad used to yell at me because I wrote with the caps lock on. "No one can read that," he grumbled. "You need to learn to do it right." Um, because you can? "It doesn't matter if I can or not!" Uh-huh.

By the time I reached twelve, I had discovered l'amour. At least in books. Let's just say I wasn't screamingly popular in school. I, uh, had a thing for dinosaurs and the other kids thought it was w-e-i-r-d. Nevertheless, I knew from playing Barbies that boy meets girl, girl gives boy a hard time, something terrible happens, and then everyone falls in love and the sun shines brighter and angels sing and rainbows explode from nostrils and nobody ever goes hungry again.

Romance is everywhere. Maybe because it's so difficult to find in real life, but even thrillers and horror movies have love. That's probably also a ploy from script writers to draw in women to movies, but whatev. 
So I was well on my way to writing love stories thorough out high school. God, and the angel He designated to personally watch my every move, alone know how many stories I stopped and started. With the intent of someday being sickeningly wealthy one day like Nora Roberts. Not that I know if she's sickeningly wealthy, but I'm just saying that thought had appeal. 

For me, it was like breathing. It was something I couldn't not do. A reflex. When my characters were sad, I was sad. When they were cranky--watch out world, I was cranky. And happy! Oh, my! Entire worlds at my fingertips. It felt amazing. Characters to destroy or make whole. Ah, the heart of the matter, one tiny slice of life that a human can control. Crush them, I did. Make them as alive as I am, I did. There are still one or two of those early characters than I love as much as you can love anything that isn't real.

All the writing about suffering in the world didn't prepare me for real suffering. No one tells you (probably because there aren't words for) what kind of void it leaves in you when you lose someone you love. And I didn't write again for five years. It looked like that starry-eyed kid would fade into the background, just another mindless drone to add to the mix.

It wasn't that I didn't try. I made an attempt, once or twice, to revive an old story or two. Mostly I watched a cursor blink or a pen lay on top of a notebook until I found something better to do. But I couldn't escape into any of the worlds I created. It was just... gone. Something I'd felt for ten years just vanished. So I stopped thinking about it.

It's funny how five years can pass, moving like molasses, but when you look back, it seems like they went by in a blink. It's really funny how much you can forget (or maybe you start to realize how much you never knew) when you leave something behind. You should never, ever be stripped of your goals. But it happens. Sometimes getting knocked down makes you get to your feet a little slower. And sometimes, you get up even if you're still licking your wounds and make an effort. 

A bad effort, maybe. When people are staring at you and don't quite know what to say after you think you've done an amazing job and it hits you like a ton of bricks that you haven't, well then, good. Not 'ha-ha, you failed' good. If you're very, very lucky, those people who don't know what to say will think of something to say and you will get better. Because that spark comes back and you'll do everything in your power to get better. Sure, learning the ropes is tedious and boring, but you need it. I need it. I still need it. 

One day, determined not to be left behind, determined that someone should read (and hopefully remember) something I'd written, I sat down and started another novel. It was like that feeling you get when you're mostly asleep, but you're falling and you jump to wake yourself up (I've always heard if you don't jump, then you die. True/untrue? Thoughts?). The part where you wake up and realize it was only a dream, you aren't really falling to your gruesome, splattery death. Relief, I think it's called.

I won't bore you with the details of that novel. I meant it to be glorious and wonderful, my grand entrance to the published world, but it's not. I think it was my transition novel, the one that never finds a home on a shelf, but gets you on the right path. That story is here, in back posts for you to read if you're that bored. Some days I wake up and think I'm wasting my time with all the writing I've been doing for the last two years. Yep. That's it. Two years. My ambition is barely out of diapers. I wouldn't trade those two years for any of the things I've learned. For any of the writers I've met, any of the sparkle I see in a new writer's eyes. New writers, don't quit because you'll lose ground. Believe me, I've been there. You shouldn't have regret for the things you didn't do (someone poke me and remind me of this when I'm wailing about how much my writing life sucks). Me, I'm going to regret the things I did. ;) 

BTW, do you like the teeth marks in the pencil illustration?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Stuff I Find While I'm Walking 7 - Retail Edition

It rained. And rained. And rained and rained this weekend. Which we needed, so I can't complain too much. But more than a little rain, it thunderstormed. A lot. Which makes for dangerous hiking conditions. Yours truly, rather than risk life and limb, brings you SIFWIW The Retail Edition. Indoor adventures can be fun too. It's wildlife, just a little less... wild. I cruised Bass Pro Shops for photos to entertain the masses. BPS's goal is to get you to buy guns, bows and fishing poles so you can shoot your own furry/finned friends and mount them on your walls. But they don't mind if you take photos of theirs.

Can I bum a light, pal?
You'll have to use your imagination a little bit, but take into account that this was once a real live raccoon. Here's little Rocky (you know, after the Beatles song) lounging peacefully on some driftwood alongside a pond filled with some kind of long nosed gar fish. No, he really is lounging beside a pond full of real live gar fish. The fish are alive and he's... less animated that he once was. Doesn't he look relaxed? Like he's taking a little vacation.

Stop throwing gum and coins at me!
And here we have a ruddy duck. I swear to you this a live animal. The only one in the whole blog with the exception of the human in the next photo, but this is, in fact, a male ruddy duck swimming in a glass pond that houses trout. There's a female in there too, I guess she's a ruddy duck. My knowledge of water fowl (or any kind of fowl) is pretty limited to "there's a duck!"

We're done here, right?
And this cheerful fellow is none other than my husband, smiling brilliantly at the camera. Oh, no! Look out, darling! There's a timber wolf behind you! (No humans or animals were harmed during this photograph, unless you count the fact that someone killed that wolf years ago, which probably didn't feel too good on the wolf's part.)

And this cheerful little guy is a little coyote (or if you're from around my neck of the wood, a ki-yoat). One of the mean scavengers of the backwoods, we lose pets (especially cats) to packs of ravaging coyotes quite frequently. Early evening and late at night you can hear their hoards of these flea-ridden mongrels howling like mad all across the hills. The Native Americans believed that coyote was a trickster. I have seen coyotes when they should've been napping and often something quirky will happen during the day. Aren't you terrified of this one, what with the ceiling tiles right above his head? He's just waiting to pounce on you from the store shelf. Gee. Terrifying.

And I leave you with this serpent, the harbinger of evil. Up close and personal. Of course, it's not a real snake, because if I was that close to a real snake without glass between us, I'd need new pants.

I tease about BPS wanting you to kill animals. They are, of course, big supporters of wildlife groups, land conservation and sanctuaries, and advocate catch-and-release programs. They host family events to get people more involved in nature and often bring in speakers to educate folks about fishing and hunting in moderation. I support getting people into nature and away from the PS3 too.

Happy travels, be they in wilderness or concrete jungle!


Friday, September 16, 2011

The Friday Five

Whew! We made it. In a few short hours we can once again celebrate the weekend by kicking our shoes off (though you may be wise to keep them on, as it's supposed to rain here all weekend), letting our hair down, and getting our lazy on.

What is on my mind this rainy Friday morn? I'll go with it. The changing of the seasons, that is. Just to eddy-cate you-all. Because summer is my favorite time of year. Blue water and sunshine are my drugs of choice. I can't tell you how confused my body gets once the days start getting shorter. Eight p.m. rolls around and I think it's bedtime because it's dark outside. Well, fortunately, the leaves haven't really started to change yet, so I can still enjoy the green, even if I do have to don my coat.

Five things about fall. Go!

#1) William Butler Yeats wrote a poem called The Wild Swans at Coole, describing the swans departing during fall. To get all symbolic, he compares the dying season to his life and how like summer leaches into autumn, life ebbs away. The romantic in me enjoys these lines:
Unwearied still, lover by lover,
The paddle in the cold
Companionable stream or climb the air;
Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still.
#2)  Fall makes me think of Halloween. But what is this mysterious holiday about besides torturing black cats and sacrificing albinos (we heard some seriously weird stories growing up)? Related in part to festivals celebrating ancient Greek gods of bounty and harvest, Halloween is more closely identified with the Celtic celebration of Samhaim (pronounced sow-in or sow-an), which literally means 'summer's end'. The tradition of carving pumpkins comes from the practice of carving turnips into lanterns to remember the souls suffering in Purgatory.

#3) Fall means the end of daylight saving time. Daylight savings is a great idea, giving us more daylight and supposedly saving us on our electric bill. I applaud Gordon Vernon Hudson for introducing modern daylight saving, but curse whoever insisted it go back to "normal" time in the fall. Why can't they leave it alone? Studies show pedestrian traffic accidents increase during the fall right after "fall back". Note to self: don't walk along roads in the dark. This year fall back occurs November 6th. Never would be good for me.

#4) September fact: President William McKinley was assassinated September 14, 1901. He was succeeded by Vice President Theodore Roosevelt, on the same day and served until 1909. Roosevelt is considered to be one of the greatest American presidents to date.

#5) In the Middle Ages, people believed that because birds can fly so high, they migrated to the moon. Ancient Egyptians also believed that smaller birds rode on the backs of larger ones because there was no way the small birds could fly as far. Silly people!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Why I'm in Love with Thor

Can you say holy cow, that guy is stacked? I can. And not only was I going, wow those are some great man boobies! I was also thinking, that is the man that I want to play Alwin van Buren! He's huge! He's blond (techincally VB is dark-haired, but in my mind's eye, I always see him as a dark, dark blond. I will correct this when I get around to fixing that MS). His voice is deep. He's built just the way I picture an airship captain. Now I'm just dreaming, thinking about A Sky Pirate's Wife movie. That's probably not a really cool title for a movie anyway. Okay, back to my thoughts on the Marvel-ness that is Thor.

Ahem. I saw Captain America first. I was... disappointed. I love the setting, love the idea of an all-American hero. I hated the end (it was weak. Soooo weak) and frankly, I'm more than a little worried about Bucky. I watched The Hulk sometime after I got married, maybe a year or two after, so I haven't seen it in a while. It was...worse than bad. In the way that that guy made out of rocks from the Fantastic Four will never have his own movie bad. It's just that... nobody really likes you. Yes, Hulk smash and all that. Smashed your way right outta the top five movie list, didn'tcha, buddy?

No offense to Robert Downey Jr., but Iron Man 2 kind of bombed as well. I liked the first one, it was awesome. Second one, wow, can I have my $9 box office fee back? So let's just say I wasn't expecting a whole lot from Thor. The only redeeming quality I could see about The Avengers is that Joss Whedon is directing. I can only pray to THE writing muse of muses that I will someday create characters like his.

So Thor. Rich, spoiled immortal with awesome hair is about to become King of Asgard, one of the Nine Realms and probably in his less-than-humble opinion, the best Realm. But then somehow those nasty Frost Giants get in and Thor goes batsh#$. BTW, I gotta get me one of those Destroyer things. That was too cool. Odin, current king, says, no way, Thor. You are not going after the Frost Giants. Forget it, you're grounded and also, you're not going to be king now because you need an attitude adjustment, young man. Only meaner.

Thor is understandably ticked. Annoying (and ugly) little brother, Loki pipes up that the only way to find out how the FG's got into the kingdom is to defy Odin. He makes a half-hearted attempt to stop Thor, but the man is pretty well out the door already with his big, blood hungry friends. On the FG planet, Thor kicks butt, takes names and then almost gets his own handed to him. Papa Odin rides to the rescue. There's a shouting match and the banishment and you can see the cheerful little gleam in Loki's eye (under that stupid hat he's wearing). Boom. Thor lands on Earth. For the next fifteen-twenty minutes, he's busy getting hit by cars and being both arrogant and charming to Jane the brainy science girl. Then he finds his hammer, Mjolnir at a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility. ("Hey guys, look, it's meow meow!" My thoughts exactly.) Because he is *deep voice* mighty Thor, he will rip it from its resting place in the earth and kick some butt (see picture above). Except he's mortal now and isn't worthy of meow meow. Which breaks his heart. Kind of like if someone took my computer away.

Loki comes along, spreads some lies and discontent, leaving our heartbroken hero even more crushed. S.H.I.E.L.D. is very interested in Thor's butt-kicking powers, but one of the minor characters talks them into letting Thor go. Thor's blood-thirsty friends from Asgard come along, tell him Loki's a liar. When Loki discovers the biker gang Thor's loyal friends have defied his will, he sends a Destroyer after Thor. Insert black moment where Thor nobly sacrifices himself for this friends and poof! is worthy of meow meow again. He hastens back to Asgard to stop the traitor Loki, but not before promising Jane he will return to her. And then... well, I never give the end away. Let's discuss.

Um, what was with the foreshadowing in the first five minutes? Why not just pick up whereThor is waging war and eating Frost Giants like Popsicles? Don't get me wrong. That whole Jane getting her first glimpse of Thor is ro-man-tic. Which is one of the reasons I like this movie.

Let's think real hard (or even just half-way hard). Romance novel: almost always starts with the heroine. Traditional RNs always start with the heroine and didn't even bother with the MMC's POV. I find it incredibly odd that Thor started from Jane's POV. Odd, but interesting.

But Thor isn't a romance novel. It's heavy on romance, heavier than a lot of Marvel movies. It's a fantasy/action movie. Hmm.

I also love to see a hero who thinks he's all that be humbled. Thor was pretty cool with it. And I think that was because he knew Jane was there. As the old Russian saying goes, everything's all right with enough vodka love.

In spite of his arrogance, he was charming. He had a way of looking at Jane and doing things that made you see there was something more than a brat under all that muscle. A real hero. The guy who will not only kill spiders because he loves you, but also buy tampons at the Qwik-E-Mart.

And finally, in a heart-warming Hallmark way, Thor loved his dad. Sure, they fought and sure Odin cast him out to die horribly on Earth (I'm just speculating, but it could have happened). As Renee Russo said, (I can't remember her character's name) Odin doesn't do anything without a reason. Or something like that. Clearly his punkass son wasn't getting the picture on what it really means to be a man. And instead of saying something like I-told-you-bad-sh#$-was-going-down, Dad, Thor learned that warmongering isn't the answer. That's something we can all take to heart. The part about not saying I told you so, not the warmongering. Warmonger on.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Bone to Pick

Cards on the table. I'm going to be honest with you. This will come as a huge shock to some people and probably cause very little surprise in others.

I am impatient.

I was born that way. I want what I want and I want it five seconds ago!

This is how my story started.
Bare and lacking a lot of
Which made the writing more difficult when I decided to expand THL. My first attempt was pretty vapid. It felt empty, forced, fake. I got it done, but I was in no way proud of what I'd filled the pages with. And when I was able to admit to myself that it was not something anyone wanted to read, I cut the parts that didn't work and rewrote, incorporating very little of that word slurry that had been there.

I am stuck at 72,000 words. I know how to kill the evil serpent that wants to destroy all man-kind. Or, at least, Abel for right now. I recently decided to change the very end, but I haven't done it yet. I'm just so tired of kicking these characters, I could lay down on the floor and have a temper tantrum. Some of the things I read that the authors put their characters through, it just gets more and more ridiculous. I don't want to be one of those authors. I want Abel and Romy to go on a journey, reach the first part of their destination, continue on to the next part of the journey, find the serpent, kill the serpent, live happily ever after.

Can't let the characters win that easy. We must torture them so they will grow and become unforgettable heroes who can overcome anything. Anything. I see this tactic employed quite a bit. For the sake of drawing a book out, to meet a 100,000 word count, writers will find the most impossible situations to throw their characters in. When I read a book where this is done, I want to send e-mails to that author for dragging the situation out. For adding ridiculous enemies, impossible odds. I can't remember the name of the book I read that that happened in. That's how important it was to me. It wasn't.

This is how my story must end.
Glossy and full-fleshed.
I wrote THL as a novella because I didn't have the patience to sit down and write a full-length novel. The decision to make it 80,000 words wasn't made lightly. I have good characters. They take care of their bugs#$% crazy writer. They are tired and stunned, worried and half- drowned at this point. What's next? they ask, looking like the photos of starving orphans and refugees from a third-world country. I have rallied my muse, raised my spirit, read every single page of the dictionary to gather enough words to extend it to its 72,000 word glory and now I'm staring at the end of a sentence and a blinking cursor. You caught me, I didn't really read every page of the dictionary. Or even one.

I'm just frustrated because I'm stuck on a scene that feels cheesy and so intensely different than anything I imagined when I first wrote the novella. Once again, I'm looking at a chapter that is bare bones. I'm even doubting that I had the strength to finish. My quick fix for an empty chapter? Add some dialogue. But what can I say here that hasn't been said? How many times can Abel and Romy comfort each other? Let's just find this damn snake already! And then I remember: This is art, a statue three quarters of the way finished and waiting for eager hands to chip away the marble until tear-inducing beauty emerges.

But I'm so impatient.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Stuff I Find While I'm Walking - Episode 6

Mondays are evil. I'm just sayin'. The answer to that evilness that is the beginning of the week, we'll look at some pictures. Yay! Taken at Old Wire Road CA.

I want you to know first off, that I saw the biggest spider. I tried valiantly to get a photo of the horrible monster, but my camera (naturally) would not take the picture. In all likelihood, the camera was as terrified as I was. It was big and black and had eight legs and eight eyes. Just awful. Which brings up to the first photo.

A snakeskin. A very good snakeskin, in fact. It's not often that you find them intact. Or out in the open. On a trail. Where humans are trying to find a little peace and relaxation from their otherwise stressful lives. Yo, snake. Take your nasty skin and go elsewhere. My husband asked why I didn't bring it home. Because I'm not touching that for love or money, that's why!

This is a ginormous anthill. To help you understand how ginormous, I photographed it next to my foot. Oh, to have some bug spray handy. I don't like ants. Or bugs. Or snakes or spiders. What do I like? Where are the friendly little deer and happy chipmunks? How come I keep finding nasty stuff? Nature, you are not very user friendly. Point of fact--there is a trail off the main trail. One mile, the information says. Cool, because the plan was to hike the four mile, nice, easy flat trail. This one mile trail is like 1/2 mile straight uphill and 1/2 mile straight downhill. On a path of loose dirt and rocks as big as my fist. When the dog is looking at you on the downhill side, going, okay this is kind of steep, you know you've made a boo-boo in trailblazing. My left leg is protesting every movement today.

Fortunately, neither of us rolled down that incline. We made it safely back to flat land and resolved not to go back up that way. It's a good thing Restless isn't a balky dog. I tried to get her to pull me up the hill, but it was no go on her part.

This is a thistle, in case you weren't sure. The bane of farmers everywhere, because they make hay bad, since cows won't eat them. Goats do, I think and probably donkeys (apparently Eeyore likes to eat them. That's a good enough reference for me). They're pretty, but spread like wildfire. I didn't kill that one. It's not my job to go around killing conservation plants.
One more photo and this one with two stern warnings. #1) Don't eat the red berries. Ever. I don't care how hungry you are. They are toxic. Birds can eat them, but you're not a bird, I don't care what you think. This is pokeweed. I've heard of people boiling the leaves and making salad out of it. Let me reiterate: don't do it. It's poison. You could die. Horribly. Folk medicine is a little... off. Way, way off, in fact. Warning #2) watch where you're stepping when you're taking photos because yours truly almost wandered into poison ivy because the dope wasn't paying attention while trying to grab a photo of pokeweed.
Dangers avoided: no snakebite, no spider bite, no poison ivy, no broken bones, sprained appendages.
Dangers encountered: ticks, near run in with poison ivy, steep mother of a hill.

Ugh, keep yourself away from ticks, go write something. Take safe pictures of puppies and kittens and flowers in your backyard.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Friday Five

Why is it that a four day week seems longer than a five day week? I swear it takes twice the time to reach a weekend again. That doesn't seem fair at all. But we're here at least, so let's take a peek at five random things my brain found interesting on this Friday. Ooo, ooo, I know. How about random facts about writers?

Just walking up the drive
would wear me out.
#1) William Faulkner - Once refused a dinner invitation from President Kennedy at the White House. "Why that's a hundred miles away," he explained "That's a long way to go just to eat." I bet they lay out a mean buffet though.

#2) Louisa May Alcott - The first female writer who registered to vote. Louisa was a suffragette. She registered to vote in 1879 in Concord, New Hampshire.

#3) Victor Hugo - He suffered from writer's block while writing Les Miserables. In order to beat it, he had a servant take his clothes away because he figured the only thing he would be able to do naked was write. Um... I'll leave that one open.

#4) Ernest Vincent Wright - Wrote a novel called Gadsby. It's 50,000 words long and doesn't have a single E in it. Wright said his biggest challenge was avoiding verbs that end in -ed.

#5) Mark Twain (aka Samuel Clemens) - The first book ever submitted using a typewriter was Life on the Mississippi (1882). Many people claim it was The Adventures of Tom Sawyer--even Twain himself said that, although he admits he wasn't the one who typed it. The typewriter allegedly made him want to swear. Anyway, some research by Twain historians claim Life on the Mississippi was first.

Need more trivia?

Happy Friday! May your weekend embrace all that you hold dear and enjoy! Write on! And stuff!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Not Sure How I Got Here, But Not Sorry I Came

In spite of our vehicle woes this Labor Day weekend, I managed to get a ton of writing done. I watched my word count rise from an uncertain "I never intended THL to be this long" to a triumphant "I can't believe I'm only 9,000 words away from 80,000". When it hits the 80k mark, it will make THL the longest book I've written. I think my head is still spinning. In July, when I pitched this novel, it was 54,000 words. I've been busy.

I never thought there was that much story to tell. It was intended to be a novella, something I wrote for a lark because it's just too weird. You read last week how I incorporated my love of the Old West with some steamy technology. All that came about from watching movies like The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Van Helsing and more recent movies like Jonah Hex and Sherlock Holmes.

I gobbled up Cherie Priest's Boneshaker like it was candy, pleased with her somber world that didn't incorporate too much technology, but included zombie-like monsters and horrible gas that changed people into these monsters. Unfortunately I haven't had the opportunity to read the rest of her series. Must do that. Soon. Nor does THL put much emphasis on technology. Just a few electromagnetic coil guns and airships. Nothing too far fetched, because I simply can't get my mind around really high-tech sci-fi creations.

One thing that has always impressed me with THL is that it pretty much writes itself. There have been times when I've had difficulty getting around a scene or figuring out what happens next, especially because a lot of the story takes place on the airship Ursula Ann. Do you have any idea how hard it is to keep the plot moving while the characters travel country thousands of feet in the air? It's hard. Very hard.

Another difficulty with this novel (I can really, truly call it a novel now) is that it is/was set in Australia. Why did I do that? Because it's unique. There's nothing I love more than complicating things and oh, what a complication this was. The difficulty lies in this: I can't find an agent that will touch THL set across the world. I'll be the first to tell you and no offense to my fellow Americans, but we're too lazy to pick up and atlas or Google Australia. I'll also be the first to admit: For years I thought Sydney was on the western coast of the continent. Imagine my surprise when I learned it was on the east coast. So setting it there makes agents nervous. Thus my efforts to erase the traces of all things Aussie and move it to America. Which is fine. The big issue in THL is that the MMC and FMC are hunting a legendary snake. That's okay. We have legendary snakes in America. It's just that this one is... meaner than that one. Which requires a different climatic sequence. Fine. I'll do it. And you know what? I'm having fun doing it, so nah, nah, nah.

To celebrate my wordiness, I give to you a cutting from THL. Enjoy.

The sound level on the street rose. A gleaming horseless carriage rolled along cobbled road. A fine looking machine, but the driver didn't seem to care that he was upsetting the livestock tied to the rails. Horses fought their bonds as the vehicle rolled by. One of the animals broke free, a big, frightened—and therefore dangerous—horse. It charged down the road in white-eyed fear. “Move outta the way, lady!” 
The blaring horn cut through Abel like a knife. His head turned at the warning that rose above the cacophony. A cascade of reddish curls caught his eye. They belonged to a woman on the edge of the street, her dress caught on something. A hint of stocking clad leg—red stockings that clashed with her pink skirtshowed above her black boot. Her back was to him, her face hidden. She was frozen, apparently terrified by the horse about to run her down. 
Abel didn't hesitate. He covered the empty space between them in a few strides. Throwing his arms around the woman's waist, they toppled into the alley beside the store seconds before the horse whipped past in a whirl of dust. 
For a moment neither of them moved. Without warning she burst into a frenzy of arms, legs and ruffles. She struggled, battling against her hair and his grip. “That imbecile! He should be issued a citation. He should be dragged from that monstrosity, publicly flogged and berated!” 
“Whoa, now, darlin'. Slow down.” 
“Are you holding up for him?” she demanded in a clipped British accent. “Let me go!” 
Abel realized his hands were against her chest, her breasts firm against his palms through her bodice. She sat in his lap, squirming in the most delicious way. He removed his hands to help clear the hair from her face. When the tangle streamed down her back, she turned to look at him. Her face was pale and strained; her brow furrowed. Blue eyes shot sparks and luscious lips curved in a frown. 
His gaze lingered on the rose petal pink mouth. Kissable. For the space of two or three heartbeats neither of them said anything. If he'd ever seen such a striking pair of eyes, he couldn't remember them. He wanted her. More than anything, he wanted to see her indigo eyes spark with lust for him. He lowered his mouth to hers. She gave a little start before melting against him, lips parted slightly. Abel's hand moved up her shoulder, cupping her jaw. Her heart pounded a fast rhythm against his fingers. A soft moan left her throat. Hands curled into his shirt. 
Feverish heat swirled through Abel's veins. Her fingers slipped into his hair, gentle against his scalp, brushing his ears in a way that made his limbs tingle. Heaven and hell could've crashed down around them and he'd never know it. 
With a jerk, she pulled back. A deep crimson blush crept over her face. 
“Oh, my. You shouldn't have—oh.” She pressed her gloved fingers to her lips and turned her eyes on his face again.

Here's to inspiration and the write/edit/write/edit approach I'm taking to THL's second draft. Here's to hoping within the month it'll be done. Here's to hoping you can do the same.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Stuff I Find While I'm Walking Episode 5 - Broke Down on the Side of the Road Edition

I spent my weekend in various locations, broke down on the side of the road. Hope everyone else did better. It was nice weather for it, I suppose.

We had an Ozarks Romance Authors meeting on Saturday. This year I'll be serving as the webmistress (I like it, sounds a little dirty) and the vice president. A big step for someone as goofy as I am, but I'll do my best or die trying. Well, maybe not die... Hells, I might be even good at it.

The fan motor burned up in my car. It was not doing well. Saturday after the meeting, husband and I are on our way to get a fan motor. We're four miles from the auto parts store and his truck goes "bluh!" We are stranded. On the side of the road. For two hours.

With nothing to look at but the hood
and a selection of ancient magazines
I've already thumbed through.
He was ranting about his POS truck. I'm muttering, "Shh, I'm trying to focus on this article in the six-month-old Missouri Conservationist about Billy Bob Tommy Joe Frank who caught a world record Goggly-Boggle bass." Or something. Husband's dad hauled the truck to his house where I spent the night with the parents-in-law. I suppose this is only fair, considering we spend the night at my mom's for Christmas every year and one weekend last month too.

We get the battery fixed. We go home. We are planning a trip to Roaring River when... the truck dies. We are stranded. On the side of the road. For two hours.

With landscapes like this. Ooo, a dead tree. That's not unusual.
He is really ranting now, but he knows what's wrong. The alternator is fried. We get a jump to go to the nearest O'Reilly's. I hate that store with a fiery passion born of ridiculously expensive auto part buying. And half the time, the parts don't even work.

We were fortunate enough to be across the road from a McDonald's. Here is our saving grace, the shining beacon of hope in a long day of sitting.

Can you hear the angels singing?
We go home to fix the car. The part doesn't work. Another ride to Springfield to get a part that does work from a store less irritating--Auto Zone. Bless them for being open on Labor Day. They may not know what a blinker for a '93 Ford Tempo is, but they have a fan motor for a '93 Ford Taurus. I kiss your rubber tire-smelling feet and gush with eternal gratefulness. Two hours later, the car is running. All is well. Sort of. Maybe this week I can go for a walk.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Friday Four

I couldn't think of five things. So here are four items to fill your noggin for Friday. Say that five times fast. You know, to cover for the missing fifth thing. Drat.

Update: 4:10 p.m. CST

#5) Out of order, but so what? I hate when I don't have time to read PEOPLE on Friday mornings. This is thing 5. And oh, so dumb. A contest called The Fashion Malfunction. About a fashion malfunction. I'm not upset by this contest, just annoyed because Band-Aid is making these cool looking bandages for wounds. What is wrong with the kind I grew up with? Plain, boring flesh tone? Granted, they seldom match anyone's flesh tone. I mean, I went to the doctor last winter and got a flu shot and wound up with a Sponge Bob Squarepants Band-Aid. I'm twenty-ni--er, nineteen years old! I don't want Sponge Bob. I actually wanted Hello! Kitty, but no. Ugh. These Band-Aids look like skins for computers or Kindles. What is this madness? It's a seeping, bloody wound. It doesn't need to look awesome and if you feel well enough to look cool, then you aren't getting any sympathy from me. Also, I imagine these cool Band-Aids cost extra. I will continue to buy the 97 cent variety.

#1) That cow on the lam (oh, what a pun), finally rejoined the cow masses. Yvonne apparently escaped to Austria where she jumped a fence to hang out with her distant bovine relatives. Guess she wasn't hermit material. I'm not crazy about cows. We had them when I was a teenager. Let me tell you how much fun it is to get up early and bottle feed them. Then get hit in the face with the bottom of a bottle when they get really excited about nursing. Or get to chase them when they get out of the fence into the (cranky) neighbor's garden. Sure, I had my favorites, like Kip, whom I wrote a story about and won a writing contest with, and Two Bits, my first (and only) show calf, who placed second in the show only because he was smaller than the calf that won, but easily the best behaved. I worked my butt off to train that bull. It's not necessary to discuss the fate of either one. You know what happens to steers and Two Bits was raised as a veal calf. They all lived happily ever after. So, who's hungry?

#2) It's the holiday weekend! The last big blow out before summer ends. What's the deal with Labor Day anyhow? Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and co-founder of the American Federation of Labor is quoted as saying the holiday is for "who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold." He may, or may not have "invented" the day. It's debatable. The first Labor Day was celebrated September 5, 1883. Here's to many more, because sleeping in is my favorite.

#3) My favorite movie quote of the week from Tangled. It reminds me of me and my husband. I'm prone to over reacting and he's fluent in sarcasm.

Rapunzel: [there's a rustle in the bushes. Rapunzel jumps on Flynn's back, terrified] Is it ruffians? Thugs? Have they come for me?

Flynn Rider: [a cute little bunny hops out of the bushes] Stay calm. It can probably smell fear.

#4) And to round off your Friday, here's a picture by yours truly of an owl and a mouse. I knew that'd make your day. The one on the left is the owl, in case you weren't sure. FYI, I'm afraid of owls. And most other birds. I like mice, as long as they stay in their tanks or on their side of the invisible lines in fields and barns. Rats freak me out considerably.