Wednesday, December 27, 2006

New Life Rules

These are the new rules I've discovered over the past couple of days:

1. Do not come down with strep throat on Christmas Eve.

2. Do not spend Christmas Day with a fever of 101, throwing up and achy. Not to mention the sore throat.

3. Do send husband to the hospital on Christmas Day for antibiotics.

4. Do decide the next day that dammit, you're going to go on vacation anyway, now that the antibiotics have whooped the fever.

5. Do not have 10 minutes to get across the entire breadth of the Salt Lake airport, carrying Child and car seat, especially after recovering from 1 and 2 above.

6. If you do #5, try to make sure the luggage makes it on the flight with you.

7. Do not let Child turn up with a mysterious rash on the second flight, that you can see spreading from arm to wrist to face as you watch.

8. Try to ensure that delayed luggage arrives before 11 PM so you can go to sleep.

9. And finally...make sure you have a wonderful vacation in spite of everything, particularly now that the antibiotics have fully kicked in, the luggage is here, and the rash is gone. Whew. Oh, and the rain seems to have stopped too.

Cheers from San Diego, rashless, recovering, and HERE.

Friday, December 22, 2006

It's the Holiday!

Merry Christmas, everyone! And have a Wonderful New Year!!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Happy happy ramblings

Good morning, my friends!

I am so in a good mood right now. Bing is singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" on my computer {melt}, I get to go out for a few hours in the middle of the day today to attend Child's preschool Christmas party (and hear her sing!!), and I only have one more day of work after this.

No, not forever. But for quite a fair stretch. We of course have Monday off for Christmas, and then on Tuesday we head out for the Warm Lands for a week. I don't know yet if we're taking the computer, but even if we do I doubt I'll blog much. So after tomorrow, you're on your own for a while. Talk amongst yourselves. Topic: "Is it necessary, in today's market, for female MCs to be strong from the first page? Discuss." {g}

In other news, I just agreed to be part of a fledgling project here in my town, a collaboration between visual artists and writers. Each writer submits a very short piece of writing or a poem, and the visual artists each select one and create a work of art inspired by it. Likewise, each visual artist submits a piece and the writers select one and write something inspired by the art. At the end there is a show, where each artist and writer has two pieces displayed. Cool, eh? I'm looking forward to it.

Anyway, gotta get to work for a bit now. If you're taking off somewhere, have a wonderful holiday!!!

Medieval Word of the Day: festive: Of or pertaining to a feast; such as befits a feast.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

State of the MSS

In an end-of-year regrouping effort, I went through all the personal feedback I've received on TMT from agents. Yes, folks, there is a pattern. Here are a few (not all) of the comments, in the order I received them:

"Katherine seemed too oblivious, and I just didn't want to read more about her." {OUCH}

"The key problem for me was Katherine, who, for the majority of the book, was too meek and passive to satisfy me."

"I didn't get to know the characters as deeply as I wanted to."

"I found myself increasingly impatient with Katherine and her naivete, and as a result I lost sympathy with her and her plight."


"Perhaps part of the problem is that I had a hard time warming up to Katherine. She certainly seems like a sympathetic character, and yet I felt distanced from her."


Ho-kay. First, I'm not including the compliments here, or other feedback. They almost all had really nice things to say about writing, pacing, and plot, so I'm very grateful for that. But you see the problem, right? Nobody likes poor Katherine. I do think I'm improving in terms of correcting the passive/naivete issue. Now she's apparently at least sympathetic, but I still have to address the distance problem if I want anybody to connect with her enough to buy the puppy.

On the recommendation of a fellow author friend, I've ordered "Creating Unforgettable Characters" from Amazon, which might have some new ways for me to think about Katherine...and my other characters in TMT and Book 2.

I'm not discouraged, not yet, as I still feel that I can improve the book, and that I'm close. (_I_ like Katherine, but I don't want to be the only one!) Plus I will continue to work on Book 2, which will be Even Better.

Medieval Word of the Day: tuck: To afflict by way of punishment; to punish, chastise; to ill-treat, torment.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Why secrets are better secret

Good Monday-morning-only-a-week-until-Christmas!

I'm afraid both my secrets went bust last week, one right after the other. The second one will stay personal, but the first one was...drum roll, please...that an agent was reading the full of TMT, and it looked pretty good. Sadly, she decided to pass in the end.

Yet I am still remarkably cheerful this fine chilly morning. Why? Partly because of the rejection letter, believe it or not. If I had tried to write a more positive, encouraging rejection letter myself, I don't think I could've done a better job. I won't reveal agent names or details here, but I profoundly thank all agents who still take the time to give detailed, personal feedback--and talk about the things they liked as well as the things they didn't. Yay, you. It makes such a difference. Now I have to decide if I want to read through TMT again or just send it out some more.

I'm also happy because it's almost Christmas, gosh darn it, and I'm really close to being ready. We had a fun weekend baking cookies, Christmas shopping (it is dangerous to send me out with carte blanche to buy things for Child!), and just hanging out. And I don't know if I mentioned it here before, but we're also looking forward to vacation--we're heading out to San Diego for a full week the day after Christmas. This time we're going to Sea World, so today on my down time I get to look up which shows we want to take in. Down time, she says. Ha.

I also have a grad-student hurrah-term's-over party today at lunch, which will be nice. We can all de-stress and bitch together.

And last but NOT least, I am reading a certain kick-ass book that I absolutely cannot put down. I didn't want to go to bed last night, was speculating about it this morning at 6 AM before I had to get up, and am dying to get back to it this evening. I didn't dare bring it in with me to work, because I know I don't have enough willpower to keep away from it. Yes, my friends, I scored an ARC of Vicki Pettersson's THE SCENT OF SHADOWS, and Oh. My. God. I don't care what kind of books you like; if you have eyeballs and a brain, reserve it now.

Medieval Word of the Day: thrutch: To press, squeeze, crush; to crowd, throng

Friday, December 15, 2006

Handwriting and Mushrooms

Yesterday we had a day-long research seminar for work, so (horreur!) I was away from my computer all day. Fortunately I always use the less-apt talks in these seminars to work on the WIP in my notebook. Yesterday I'd been away from Book 2 too long to jump back in with real writing in that setting, so instead I made a bunch of useful notes: "what could be going on in Bordeaux right now?" {list}; "what would C. be thinking about?" {list}. I find that lists and handwritten brainstorming are critical for me to work out plot points, settle what's going on in my head, and get creative with new twists. Most of my best ideas have come in my little notebooks.

I saw another writer talking recently about a book coming to her "by hand" instead of through typing on the computer, which I found very interesting. Most of the time I'm perfectly happy to do my actual writing on the computer, to be able to fiddle, cut here, tweak there, use the online thesaurus. However, there are a few scenes in TMT that I wrote by hand in notebooks because I was stranded away from a computer with time on my hands--and two of them are perhaps my favorite scenes. One is the dream scene, where my MC connects with her mother through a somewhat prophetic dream; that one was written during a research seminar. The other is Katherine's first meeting with John, my currently posted excerpt. I started that scene in a hotel room in Estes Park, Colorado (in the hotel that Stephen King based The Shining on, by the way; it's supposedly amazingly haunted), and it was one of those times when I just couldn't bear to stop writing. John just popped up out of nowhere, a true "mushroom" to borrow Diana Gabaldon's term, and was so vivid to me I felt I could touch him, hear him. I finished that scene, scrawling as fast as I could, in the airport for my flight back. And interestingly, I think I only changed a few words here and there from the original notebook mess; it mostly came over intact.

I wonder if John would never have come into the story at all if I hadn't taken that trip. Isn't writing a kick? Sometimes I really do feel I'm reaching to some Other Side where these people exist. If John isn't real somewhere, he should be. {g}

Perhaps the lesson is that I should try to do handwritten work next time I feel stuck. Or maybe that I should go hole up in a haunted hotel more often...

Medieval Word of the Day: mordant: A device which clasps or holds something fast. 1. An ornamental hooked fastening, usually jewelled, on a girdle or belt.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


I'm DONE with school for this term! Woo-hoooo!

Now I just have work and Life to deal with. WHEW. And I get to go to a grown-up party tonight and relax, which I am so looking forward to.

Writing? Yeah, well, I'm way too brain-fried to think about it right now. I'm more in the mood for sentimental movies and light books and parties...but soon I will recover my brain and get back to it. Maybe tomorrow. :)

AND we did actually locate a real physical make-a-meal bucket, at a store in Massachusetts, and it is on its way to me. A second woo-hoo of the day.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


We may have done it! One of the elves on the Books and Writers Forum came up with a link to a store that seemed to have the play-doh kit we want and let me order it. Thank you Tammy, and everybody else who was searching! I love my internet communities.

(and if you came up with one too, Opa, yay! I want at least one of these things, but two would be fine!)

Happy happy over here!

Still here, barely

Just a brief note to say that I'm hanging on by the skin of my teeth over here. Research papers are turned in, but I still have a 2-hour written final and a report to do. Plus work is piled over my head. Two more days and _some_ of the stress will go away, I hope. I am looking forward to enjoying some of the Christmas season after all this.

Last night I had to take a break, though, and I watched the movie "Sky High", about a highschool for superheroes. Laugh-out-loud funny; I loved it.

Oh, and we're having a Santa crisis. Child saw Santa at a party on Sunday and asked for the "Play-Doh Make a Meal Bucket," which she saw in K-mart 2 months ago. Yep, we went to get it yesterday and it's not only gone, it's discontinued, and we can't find one anywhere, online or in real stores. ARGH! Her first specific request of Santa and I'm not sure we can fill it. So if anybody happens to see one of these in their local K-mart, Walmart, etc., PLEASE let me know.

Thanks all! Back to the books!

Medieval Word of the Day: whipster: A vague term of reproach, contempt, or the like, with various shades of meaning. a. A lively, smart, reckless, violent, or mischievous person. b. A wanton, lascivious, or licentious person, a debauchee.

Friday, December 08, 2006

A snip from Book 2

Okay, Mrs. Mitty asked for a snippet. Since I know you've all seen all the TMT snippets, I'll put up a tiny bit of Book 2. Keep in mind that this truly is a rough draft; I haven't got the setting very well yet at all--but I like this bit anyway.

From [Isabella] by Susan Adrian, 2006, All Rights Reserved

Edward of Woodstock, the Prince of Wales and Aquitaine, strode across the yard to where his horse snorted impatiently. They were both magnificent: the Prince resplendent in crimson hunting gear, hat, and cloak, his dark hair and mustache perfectly groomed; the massive bay's coat gleaming in the sun, adorned with matching crimson [gear]. Papa on his big black looked small and faded beside them.

The announcement would be made tonight at Hall, but it seemed that Papa had done it, convinced the right man—the most powerful man in the world, it seemed to me—to help us. All the men were going hunting this afternoon in celebration, and in anticipation of battle.

"If only I could go," I muttered. But I was, as always, only an observer, standing in a dark archway watching the splendor of the hunters.

"If only I could go," mocked a voice, mimicking my Spanish.

I spun. He was only a handspan from me, his freckles stark against his pale skin.

"I see you are not hunting either, John Holland," I said in English. He was the Prince's stepson, and likely would be invited in a few years. But not at fourteen summers, not today.

"Only because there are too many already," he retorted. "I am not a useless girl."

"Ha! Men do not want boys underfoot any more than girls. I think you are just as useless today as I."

I was rewarded with a pink flush right across his cheeks. John Holland was easy to goad and quick to show his choler; I had learned that in just two days.

He took a step back and pushed his hair out of his eyes. In the sun it was a vibrant fire-red, curling and unruly. In the shadows of the arch it was more muted, the color of currants rather than holly. "You know nothing, Isabel the Spaniard."

"I am Castilian, not Spaniard." I shook my head. "And I know what I see. When men hunt or go to war, they do not want children by. You any more than baby Edward over there." I nodded my chin towards the new prince, John's half-brother, in the arms of the Princess Joan as she waved elegantly to her husband from the steps. Her belly already bulged with the next prince. She was a perfect royal wife.

John gave a snort. "You know nothing. And talk too much."

"Likely. They say it is my great fault."

The Prince was mounted now. He signaled, the olifant blared, and the whole party thundered through the gate almost as one, following after the splendid pair. It was a grand sight, and yet odd, somehow. I had seen armies, but I had not seen battle. Was it like that, a mindless, united surge, but with much dearer stakes?

"Will you stay here, you and your sisters, when your father goes to war?"

I had already forgotten John was there. He was next to me now, looking out too, leaning against the marble pillar. I met his eyes, a sharp, dark blue.

"There is nowhere else to go," I answered.

He nodded once. "I thought so." He stretched a hand forward and, shockingly, picked up a strand of my hair, rubbed it between his fingers, then let it drop. "We should try to be friends, then." He smiled, a flash of teeth, then pushed past me out into the sunlight.

Hey, it's Franklin

Child is completely all better, and the rest of us seem to be skating by without catching the crud so far (cross your fingers)! So tonight we are off on a mini-adventure to Helena to see this show:

Gotta love live Franklin the Turtle. We try to take Child to these if they're showing fairly close and they're characters she knows well--so far we've been to Sesame Street Live and Dora the Explorer. She goes to enough of "our" performances! Besides, I really like Franklin (hey, he's Canadian, so he's super polite and well-mannered! {g}) so I'm hoping this will be a fun one.

I haven't been making much progress on the writing front since this is finals week. 1 paper down, 1 just started, and a 2-hour written final to do. Did I say I would be happy after Wednesday? I've got some more fun research books, though, and I have been sneaking reading bits about my characters here and there, so I will be ready to go once this other stuff is over. Then I swear I will get back to my regular schedule!

Medieval Word of the Day: Catabaptist: One that abuseth or depraveth, or is an adversary to the sacrament of Baptism.

Thursday, December 07, 2006


Sorry for the disappearing act. Child turned up with strep throat and related scarlet fever--which caused a major mental panic until we found out that nowadays that just means you have a rash along with the strep throat.

Fortunately antibiotics absolutely rock, and she is back to happy, healthy normal except for a little lingering rash. Whew. But add that to finals week and the holidays, and you will understand why I haven't been blogging...and might be very sparse until that final paper is turned in.

Back to it now!

Monday, December 04, 2006

In the Mood

I can't believe I forgot Going My Way on my list of holiday movies! So it's not a Christmas movie per se, but it's Bing, and that puts it in our must-watch Christmas list.

We started the season last night with The Bishop's Wife. I had a moment of doubt when the credits were rolling--"Do I really want to watch this movie AGAIN? Will I like it as much?"

Yes. Yes, I did. :) I'm not really sure why I love the angel theme so much. I've written several short stories about them, but watching that movie made me want to write another one.

This was a busy weekend. We took Child to the ballet with Gram and Opa on Saturday. It was excellent--a young company with lots of kids, but really well trained and professional--and she loved it. That night she put on an entire performance for us, with costume changes and all, copying the dances she saw. Yesterday we took her to the Symphony's Christmas performance, which included a Christmas carol sing-a-long. I am definitely in the Christmas spirit now.

I'm coming into the homestretch on finals and research papers. It won't be over for another 10 days, but it's in sight. I decided I would definitely take it easier next term: only 4 units, and 3 of those are an independent-study class.

In other news I may have another big secret I can't tell y'all yet. Yes, I do this just to drive you crazy. {g} I will tell you when I can on either one, though. Promise!

Medieval Word of the Day: belly-flaught: Headlong; precipitate.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Red and Green Screen

Keeping in the Holiday spirit...

What are your favorite Christmastime movies?

Hubby and I have a pile that we try to watch every year. We don't always make it--last year was particularly bad for movie-watching--but even if I don't actually see them I think about them. These movies are part of Christmas for me now.

--Holiday Inn. We usually start with this one, because it's not ALL Christmas, though it has a lovely version of Bing singing White Christmas. Bing and Fred Astaire, I love it.

--White Christmas. Another Bing extravaganza, with a quite different version of the song. This time with Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera Ellen. Wonderful singing and awesome dancing.

--The Bishop's Wife. I admit this is my favorite. Of Christmas movies definitely, possibly of all movies. (Okay, Dead Again is a close contestant) But Cary Grant as an angel? It's hard to top that.

--Christmas in Connecticut. Barbara Stanwyck as a pretend Martha Stewart type columnist, who suddenly has to act the part for Christmas.

--It's a Wonderful Life. Of course.

--A Charlie Brown Christmas. Yeah, I don't know why, but we still watch it every year. Maybe it's to see Snoopy dancing.

--How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The original one, not the remake (bleah). My favorite song is "You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch". Chuck Jones rocks.

So pony up. What are your favorites? Is there one I'm missing that I need to add to the pile?

Medieval Word of the Day: kemp: A coarse or stout hair, as those of the eyebrows (obs.); now, hair of this kind occurring among wool.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Tag--I'm it!

I got tagged by Sara Walker Howe! And it's a good one for getting into the Christmas spirit (which I need a little of--it's frigging -15 F here this morning!!!

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? Eggnog. Used to be hot chocolate all the way, but lately it's been too...sweet for me. Actually I really like eggnog lattes.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just set them under the tree? Almost everything is wrapped, unless it's a huge unwrappable present, like a playhouse. Only a few things are actually marked from Santa, though. The rest are from Mommy, Daddy, Mommy & Daddy, Mommy Cat...

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? No lights on the house, but colored twinkly lights on the tree. I have fond memories of the big ones, but we use the little mini-bulbs.

4. Do you hang mistletoe? Nope. Does anybody? :)

5. When do you put your decorations up? It has to be after Thanksgiving. Usually sometime around the first of December so Child can start the advent calendar/tree on time. But this year she really really wanted them up last weekend, so up they went.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish? English toffee. It's something my mom made every year, only at Christmas, and I do the same. Now I have to make two batches because people like it so well they want more every year.

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child: Stockings. I LOVE stockings; they're my favorite part. When I was 10 or so my brother and I decided to give stockings to our parents too, and that tradition has stuck. So everybody gets stockings Christmas morning, and we all open them up together.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? I was 5, and the neighbor across the street--Sally Civitanich, told me. I was standing in front of our fireplace; I remember the moment. I was heartbroken.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? No. We hoard everything until Christmas morning.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree? Eclectic. Lights go on first, then a few beads and paper chains, and the star on top. Then we hang the zillions of ornaments. Hubby and I used to collect funky ones from CostPlus and such, so we have chili peppers, tigers, chickens, cats, santas shaped like name it. Plus a bunch from my childhood and his, and quite a few that we all made together.

11. Snow! Love it or Dread it? I'll echo Sara here. I love it for the first 2 months or so, and then I'm done. Sadly we have snow for at least 5 months.

12. Can you ice skate? Not yet. I'm still working on skiing. (Hey, I'm a California girl, transplanted.)

13. Do you remember your favorite gift? Not really. I remember the process more than the presents.

14. What’s the most important thing about the Holidays for you? Family time, relaxing together. The songs, the candles, the food, the atmosphere. Holidays make me happy.

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert? English toffee, above. Also Holiday fudge and my new addition, sugared pecans.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? Opening our stockings together, while listening to Christmas music and drinking coffee. Watching Child enjoy Christmas.

17. What tops your tree? A frosted star.

18. Which do you prefer: giving or receiving? Giving. I love to see Hubby and Child's reactions.

19. What is your favorite Christmas Song? O Holy Night. Just like Sara, I actually get chills with this one! Always.

20. Candy Canes! Yuck or Yum? Eh. I like 'em better for hanging on the tree.

I tag...let's see...Cindy and Diana Peterfreund. Have at it, and Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


Yesterday Child said that the swirls and mounds of snow outside looked "just like that White Christmas song." But then she immediately countered with, "But you've never heard that song."

I assured her that yes, I had, but she shook her head. "You've never heard ME sing it. So you've never heard it."

Isn't it interesting how very wrapped up in self, how solipsistic, kids are? I'm sure that I thought like that too when I was little: nothing existed before me, and my parents certainly had no lives outside taking care of me. Why should they? They were MY PARENTS, that was all.

Interesting to be on the other side of the coin now. Sometimes I think that everyone keeps that view--with the self as the absolute center of all--until they do become parents. Then quite suddenly there is a shift. You hold a squalling, purple-red little being, scared to death that you'll drop her or squeeze her too hard, and you realize that you are not the most important person anymore. Not even close. And I wonder if that ever shifts back. When kids leave, when they are "safe" somewhere else, with their own families, does the attention shift to self again?

It'll be a long time before I find out, and I'm happy about that.

Medieval Word of the Day: bonairness: Gentleness, mildness, courtesy.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Returning briefly

Because "more later" always means "see you in 4 days". :)

I had a lovely 4-day weekend. Thanksgiving at Mom's house, with requisite turkey, pumpkin pie, etc., to which I added my fancy roasted cauliflower recipe. Well, not mine, but I make it, and man it's good.

Friday we tried to avoid the malls--got sucked in briefly, but managed to pull ourselves out of the vortex before it was too late. Saturday I took Child to a Teddy Bear tea in town, with Santa and all, and Sunday we put up the Christmas tree. Aaaaahhh. Unfortunately squeezed in there I had to do and turn in 3 assignments for one of my grad classes, and I have to write a rough draft of a paper today. But school is over for the term December 12th, and I'm looking forward to that.

I don't know if I'll be able to work on Book 2 today at lunch, as I have the dreaded research paper in addition to a bunch of other stuff, and I'm behind here at work. We shall see. In the meantime, must get off the blog and back to the pile o' stuff waiting for me!

Medieval Word of the Day: windle: To move circularly or sinuously; to turn over and over, or round and round; to whirl; to meander.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Heard this morning

Favorite quote today from Child:

"Our house today reminds me of that Christmas song. It looks like a winter wonderland, with the snow all around on the ground."

More later. Just had to get that down before I forgot it. {s}

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Hey, it's still progress

Last night we went to a performance of the New York Theatre Ballet. Wow. They did theatrical dances to Gershwin (I love a Gershwin tune...), a classical piece, a couple of modern pieces, and the original choreography of Carousel. Afterwards the dancers all sat at the edge of the stage and answered questions. It was fabulous!

In other news, I'm moving along at snail's pace with Book 2, but I am moving. You NaNo'ers will scoff, but I seem to be writing at about 250 words a day right now. I know this is okay, because it'll pick up a lot once I settle into it a bit more. Right now for every scene I have to work hard to figure out who's there, what all their relationships are to each other (complicated!) and some approximation of how they look and how their surroundings look. Before they say a darned thing! I'm also proceeding with my first attempt at a SFD (shitty first draft). Since I don't know if any of these scenes will even be needed in the end, I'm not polishing them over and over. I'm improving them, but I'm leaving them a little rough, and a little vague on details. Those will come as I continue to do research.

I think one of my struggles with this book is going to be keeping my focus, and not including all these juicy details I keep finding out about these people. Murders! Lovers! Secret marriages! I swear, I could write a novel about each one of them individually and have plenty of material. Must focus on the two sisters. {s}

It's coming up on Thanksgiving, hurrah! I will probably be light to nonexistent on the blogging over the weekend (starting Thursday), since I never have time to sit down and do it at home.

Do you Americans out there have your turkeys all ready?

Medieval Word of the Day: citole: A stringed instrument of music much mentioned in 13-15th c.; originally the same as the cithara, though the mediƦval name may have been given to a special form.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Just do it

Diana Peterfreund, in discussing the NaNo backlash, brought up one of my favorite issues: the modern idea that we need to be perfect in everything we attempt.

I believe a big part of this idea comes from globalization and media. When most people lived in rural towns and villages, and there was no TV or internet, there was room for local experts. If you wanted to hear a singer, you could turn to Mrs. Withers, who sang in the choir. Or you could gather around the table or the piano at home and sing yourself. If you wanted dancing, you went to a dance yourself, and you also watched the Schmidts, who went to the dance every week and could really cut a rug. The local newspaper editor was your in-town writing expert. Everybody could have a talent for something, and be the "expert" in their town.

With the advent of media, first radio, then TV, then internet, you don't rely on local sources any more. Why listen to Mrs. Withers when you can watch Pavarotti on TV? When you can see "real" experts, who are so much above the local level? People stopped comparing themselves and their accomplishments on a local level and started comparing themselves to the highly trained, specialized people they saw across the world. And they started feeling inadequate, and they stopped trying to compete. Thus people start to consume entertainment (and even sports) instead of participating in it.

I agree with Diana's advice: do what you want to do, for fun. Don't try to compare yourself to everyone in the world. If you're learning to write, don't compare yourself, at the beginning, to Stephen King or J.K. Rowling or whoever your hero is. If you're learning to paint, don't compare yourself to Picasso. Don't not try because you're afraid you won't be the best.

I have a saying taped to my computer here at work, because I need the constant reminder:

If you compare yourself to others you may become vain or bitter, for always there are greater and lesser persons than yourself.

In that message is a warning against both errors: getting too big of an ego comparing yourself to others who may be behind you on the learning curve, and feeling bad about yourself for not measuring up to others--often on a global scale--who may be ahead of you. TRY. Stretch yourself to do new things, and do the best you can. Keep learning, keep improving. But try not to compare, and always, always, have fun.

Medieval Word of the Day: lichamly: Bodily; of the nature of the body; of or pertaining to the body, carnal.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Brain dump

Sorry for the silence. My mind just seems to be spinning the last few days, contemplating many subjects at once, but none I've particularly wanted to tackle here. FWIW, though, these are some of the current subjects occupying my brain:

--Bush's comments on Iraq/Vietnam
--OJ's book {shudder}
--This weird kerfuffle between Jenny Crusie and Miss Snark about Anne Stuart. I really do wish people would be more informed before they go off slagging on others. Both sides.
--The general and specific selfishness and weirdness of people
--The general and specific wonderfulness and supportiveness of other people
--The movie Stranger than Fiction, dealing with the interaction between author and character
--The report I'm editing today (on coalbed-methane injection)
--The research I'm really really behind on for my grad school class
--Chocolate, and how much I like it
--The new printer/scanner/copier I bought yesterday, yay
--My daughter's ongoing cold, and whether she's getting better
--Planning for Thanksgiving
--Buying presents for Christmas
--Research and writing for Book 2
--And that ongoing secret thingamajig I can't tell you about.

Whew. No wonder I feel kinda spacey.

Medieval Word of the Day: wive: To take a wife, get married, marry.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Devise, wit; write, pen

I was thinking, late last night, of posting about sleep, and how much I love it. But then phrases kept popping into my head, one after another after another:

To sleep, perchance to dream.
We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.
Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleeve of care.

Shakespeare. He knew about sleep and dreams. And those are just the sleep ones that I thought of, lying in bed. If I try, without references, to think of other Shakespeare quotes, I could go on and on:

Arise, fair sun and kill the envious moon.
The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones. So let it be with Caesar.
Words, words, words...
Discretion is the better part of valor.
There are more things on heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
Out, damned spot!

I love Shakespeare. This is how much of a Shakespeare nerd I am: in college I took all the Shakespeare courses I could for my lit degree...and then I audited the rest of the available courses. Just for fun. Also in college I got together with a couple of other nerdy friends and had some Shakespeare evenings, where we ate junk food, drank wine, and read Shakespeare aloud, acting out the parts. I've seen Shakespeare plays live in Ashland, Oregon; London; San Diego (lots; even when we go on vacation there I fit one in); Sacramento; San Francisco; Los Angeles; and Butte, Montana. I've seen all the Kenneth Branagh Shakespeare movies, more than once. I've been to Stratford-upon-Avon and visited Anne Hathaway's cottage.

It's fascinating, once you look, how very many common phrases and quotes, and words, come straight from Shakespeare. All's well that ends well. All that glitters is not gold. Bag and baggage. Neither a borrower nor a lender be. Brave new world. Brevity is the soul of wit. (Go here for more)

So I began to wonder...he's clearly affected my use of language, even how I think about language. He's affected how I think about drama, and what a play (or a story) should do. Has he crept into my book as well? Are any of my characters unconscious echoes of Shakespearean characters or ideas?

I don't know yet; I'm still pondering it. Godwina somehow reminds me of Goneril from King Lear. The Duke...well, he could be lots of Dukes. {g} Katherine is just Katherine to me, so I can't compare her. But it's interesting to think about, trying to fit your own work into the larger body of literature, to see how it fits. If it fits.

Are any of you Shakespeare freaks too?

Medieval Word of the Day: tempest: A violent storm of wind, usually accompanied by a downfall of rain, hail, or snow, or by thunder.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

My Tuesday is Monday

Back at work today--little one is at least slightly better. As I have grad school classes today, there was no chance of staying home in any case.

The weather was absolutely nasty this morning, with heavy winds whipping snow all over the place, but it's sunny and calmer now. Well, at least it looks nice from my windows. {s}

I got some good work done on Book 2 yesterday, and am excited about getting back to it today. And (yay, yay) I get to pick up a reference book ("The History of Medieval Spain") I ILL'd from the library. I need some fact confirmation of where the heck people were when, and I'm hoping this will help with that. And two more books that are on the way.

I'm letting myself do more of a real first draft this time, trying not to worry too much about cleaning it up. I don't even know which of these scenes will stay yet, so it seems a little silly to polish them to perfection. We'll see how this approach works!

Medieval Word of the Day: warderere: Look out behind! (yes, the exclamation point is in the definition. {g})

Monday, November 13, 2006



I'm home with Child again today. Unfortunately she's contracted the wracking cough I had at Surrey, dry and nonstop. {sigh} Anybody have any good suggestions for treating a cough in preschoolers?

I didn't get an awful lot of writing done this weekend, but that's okay. I'll get some in today. I thought today we'd share what we've been reading instead, since I _have_ been reading lately!

I just finished a very old romantic suspense called "A Falcon for a Queen" by Catherine Gaskin. Anybody else read that one? I found it at a yard sale, I think. A rather moody Scottish novel based in the 50s. Parts of it were very, very good, and parts just awkward, but overall it was an interesting read.

I'm now into Terry Jones' Medieval Lives. Oh. My. God. If you're writing in the medieval period and haven't read this, DO. He does all sorts of myth-busting; fortunately most of it (like individual rooms and more literacy than was supposed) I already had right. He has some lovely tidbits I plan to plop into Book 2, though. Like the practice of putting out bowls of honey to attract the insects in a room, and keep them away from YOU. Important if you have the windows open a lot! It's also a very compelling read, and not dry at all.

At Surrey I bought Bernard Cornwell's A Pale Horseman, which is my next up. I'm looking forward to that too.

What are you reading?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Kids and the Totally Hot Black Prince

Well, I was feeling a little petulant--Miss 4.5-year-old is apparently going through another 'testing' phase, and this morning had not only push, push, push but direct disobedience, and a complete failure to understand that when I say 'no' I mean 'no' for real, and I'm not going to change my mind in 5 minutes. {sigh}

But then I read DaMomma, and I'm feeling oh so much better about MY day. I did not have poop on my bare feet, and I slept the whole night through. Life is good. {g}

I settled in to write on Book 2 yesterday, and ended up only tweaking a few sentences, and spending the rest of the time doing research. Sucks when you're writing a historical and you can't remember or find in your notes whether the heck your characters actually did go to Portugal and talk to the King or just tried to and were turned back!! So I found a couple of books that should tell me and ordered them through ILL. Today I'm going to have to skip forward in book-time and write something I know happened. My first foray into non-linear writing, wow.

Fortunately it's rather a fun bit, I think. If you were an 11-year-old girl, wouldn't YOU have a crush on the Black Prince, who is going to step in and heroically save your family? I mean, check it out:

Hot, right? Totally. {g} Isabella is so all over that. I don't think the Black Prince exactly returns her admiration (fortunately), but I already know of some other interesting dynamics that are going to pop up here...

Looking forward to working on it today! I think Isabella's just itching for me to get to the parts where she's older, and actually has some control over things. Then I'll really get to see her personality. Strong as it is.

Medieval Word of the Day: ostiary: A doorkeeper, esp. of a church; spec. a member of the lowest of the four lesser orders in the pre-Reformation Western Church, and later in the Roman Catholic Church. Now hist.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

And the count is in...

Hoooray! Jon Tester pulled it out, and won. Whew.

Happy (tired) dances now.

Still hanging in, waiting

Well, MY state is one of the two still undecided for the Senate race, leaving the nation hanging, waiting to see whether Democrats or Republicans will have control of the Senate. I'm very strongly pro-Tester, so I'm waiting and waiting and anxiously watching the numbers for any final result--go Jon!--but at the same time I'm secretly pleased that for once my vote has recognizable influence! In the past, my votes in California and then Montana always seemed to come in after most races had already been decided, which is frustrating as hell. At the moment Tester is ahead by about 1700 votes only, so we'll see how it goes today.

I did manage to write an eensy bit more yesterday, yay. Still very slow, very awkward, but I'm not discouraged. As long as I keep working I know it'll come. And I plan to write more today!

Last night I took Child to see the Ballet Folklorico Quetzalli De VeraCruz, an excellent show of traditional Mexican dancers and musicians. Wow. Favorite moments: the "Dance of the Little Old Men", when the four male dancers donned old men masks and canes, and mimicked the old-man shuffle interspersed with fancy footwork dancing; and the dance where the four women balanced burning candles on their heads, and the lights were turned off--they danced slowly, surely, in stark, ruffled white dresses, with the candles their only illumination. Beautiful.

We're all a little tired today, what with late show and later election watching, but it's worth it.

Medieval Word of the Day: maffle: To stammer; to speak indistinctly, mumble.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Feeling the way in

First, VOTE!!

I know, you've heard it everywhere today. But your vote really will matter in this election.

This is an odd week, because hubby and I both have today AND Friday off, but Child still has school today. I got her all ready and off to school, and then I got to come back and sit here with a mongo cup of coffee, typing away on the laptop while hubby sleeps in. Ahhh, nice. It's quite gray and gloomy, but with no rain yet. But we almost always get Seattle's weather eventually, so I know it's coming!

I did start working on Book 2 again yesterday, after a long hiatus. What an odd feeling, like trying on clothes from college days. Trying to stretch myself inside skin that I don't quite know anymore. It's still so early in this book that I have no clue what I'm doing. I have an inkling of the character(s), a general idea of major plot events for the first half, a vague sense of their surroundings. Nothing clear. I'm going to have to keep working at it for a while until it sharpens.

So speaking of that, while I have a few moments. Off to read the little bit I wrote yesterday, and see where I can pick up!

Monday, November 06, 2006

The Theme's the Thing

Last week I did a complete re-read of TMT in 3 days, from beginning to end, and I'm pleased to say that I still like it. {g} I made little tweaks here and there, of course, but overall I enjoyed reading it very much, and kept getting caught up in the story. This is a good thing after lo these many years of working on the thing!

And I think the Deeper Theme works now, as it should.

Deeper Theme, you ask? Indeed. The first time around (when I thought I was done, ha ha), I had the Obvious Theme, the one I had originally seen as I wrote: self-growth, learning to rely on and trust oneself. Fine and dandy. I think most readers would see that without blinking. The MC is a young medieval girl who depends on others--men--at first, from one to the next, before finally depending on herself, coming into her own.

But when I got some feedback and read it through again, I saw threads for another theme underneath, if I could just strengthen it. Pluck those threads, here, there, make this one stronger, add a little background to heighten that one. And amazingly, when I did that the story got richer. The conflict was heightened, the motivations made so much more sense. It really was as if the Deeper Theme was the main one all along; I just had to see it.

I'm not sure it would work if you tried to write a deep theme from the beginning; in fact I think it would fall flat (and preachy) in the hands of all but the most skilled writers, of which I am not one. Underlying themes need to come from the characters and the story.

But what do you need to look for to strengthen a Deeper Theme, once you see it? I thought of a few things.

--It should be related to the main plot, but not be the focus. That's for the obvious theme.
--It should be threaded through the whole book, part of the character's mindset and experiences.
--If you look for it, you should find some mention of the theme in the beginning, and in the end. It can be considered a story arc, with a problem that is resolved.
--It should be subtle!! This is the hardest bit when you're highlighting for theme in a later draft. How much should you emphasize it? How much mention should there be? Not much. Hints, here and there. References. Thoughts.

How about those of you who have finished a draft? Did you see other themes after you were done? Did you consciously strengthen or highlight them? Do you look for different levels of themes when you're reading, or is it unconscious?

Medieval Word of the Day: scoleye: To attend school; to study as a scholar.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Happy girl

You know that old saying about how good it feels when you stop banging your head against the wall? Well, it's true. Today is a happy day, mostly because a couple of frustrations have been suddenly taken away, and I'm feeling light and easy.

1) I was supposed to have an extremely frustrating meeting from 10 to 3 today--yep, 5 solid hours of nastiness. Which meant I was going to have to scramble to finish other stuff I wanted to work on. But I got to my desk to discover that the meeting was cancelled until further notice. Woo-hooo!

2) My computer has been getting progressively worse for weeks. First it wouldn't turn on (y'all heard about that), then it wouldn't restart. Video wasn't working, the USB ports weren't working. Then my screen started to shimmy and blur. Actually shaking from side to side. It was making me nauseous! So I put my foot down and sent a rather firm message to the IT guy, ccing my boss. And lo and behold, this morning I have a new computer that works. Hurrah!

3) It's 35 F already today; it's been about 6 or 10 all week in the morning. Much nicer for early November.

So there you have it. I get to work on writing today, on a computer that isn't dancing under my eyes. My girl was happy this morning. We went to a silent auction/dinner last night, and I picked up some goodies. And one more party tonight!!

Next week, if I have time, I'll do a craft post, and maybe another discussion. We shall see. But now, to work!

Medieval Word of the Day: gole: Merry, wanton, lascivious, lustful.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Day of the Dead

"On the day of the dead, when the year too dies,
must the youngest open the oldest hills
through the door of the birds, where the breeze breaks.
There fire shall fly from the raven boy,
and the silver eyes that see the wind,
and the Light shall have the harp of gold…"

This is the poem that opens Susan Cooper's The Grey King, one of my most favorite books of ALL time. I memorized that poem, and I must've read the book 10 or 12 times. It has all my favorite elements: a secret identity, a quest, mythology, tie-ins with Arthur, the battle between good and evil...and fabulous writing. If you have not read it, no matter what age you are, you must. Must must.

Hmm. I must go read it again, I think. {s}

Happy Day of the Dead!

Medieval Word of the Day: scop: An Old English poet or minstrel.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Happy Halloween!

Hooray for those of you who cut! That is a pretty damn hard part of writing: (1) recognizing that you need to cut words; and (2) doing it. What do you think: more exercises in the future? I do like getting my hands on actual text.

I'm sitting on some excellent news today, which has got me floating pretty high up in happy-land. Unfortunately it's personal, not share-able news, but trust me, it's good. Yay.

AND I finished the gosh-darned 3 essays due today, and I get to skip class tonight to take my little princess trick or treating. Life is sweet.

Medieval Word of the Day: hallow: A holy personage, a saint. Also hallow- in Comb. (chiefly in Sc.) is used for ALL-HALLOW- = All Saints'-, in HALLOW-DAY, HALLOW-E'EN, HALLOWMAS, HALLOW-TIDE; also hallow-fair, a fair or market held at Hallowmas; hallow-fire, a bonfire kindled on All-hallow-e'en, an ancient Celtic observance.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Tightening: 4th Snippet

See the below post (Okay, good! And now...) for rules. Take your edited version of this original, and cut cut cut.

I found the queen in the arboretum, a great big glass room chock-full of plants. The sun had already crested the horizon, bleeding through the iron gray clouds. How long had I been tortured and left unconscious? Unless my watch was broken, I showed the time as two o'clock in the morning. The gardener was with her, but when she saw me, she dismissed the gardener, and we were alone.

Tightening: 3rd Snippet

See the below post (Okay, good! And now...) for rules. Take your edited version of this original, and cut cut cut.

I covered my eyes, squinting across the freshly-ploughed field into the bright afternoon sun. Dad was riding along on the tractor singing some old 80’s song loudly to himself, and I smiled.

Tightening: 2nd Snippet

See the below post (Okay, good! And now...) for rules. Take your edited version of this original, and cut cut cut.

Her carriage slid around the last curve in the road, rounding the lawn of the Jackson home. The wagon she'd seen was pulled close to the steps with the back fully exposed. Blood saturated its floor, dripped through the cracks, and pooled on the ground beneath. The snow glistened in stark contrast to the encompassing scarlet puddles.

Tightening: 1st Snippet

See the below post (Okay, good! And now...) for rules. Take your edited version of this original, and cut cut cut.

Alec was startled to hear sounds at his door. The execution was not supposed to take place until the morning. It had been but an hour since the lass—his wife!—had left him.

Okay, good! And now...

Woke up to 2 inches of snow and a brisk 9 degrees this morning. It's a rule that it has to be snowy and freezing for Halloween. {g}

How are you feeling about the tension snippets? Having fun?

I think many of you did manage to up the tension, and maybe let the authors look at their snips in a new way. However, you also added {cough} quite a few more words. So if there are no objections, let's carry this exercise on a little farther, and practice tightening.

NEXT: I'm going to start new threads again for each of the snippets (I'll just post the original). You need to take YOUR edited version of that original, and tighten the heck out of it. Take out any unnecessary descriptors and extra words. Use active verbs instead of adjectives if you can. See how many words you can cut out, and still keep the sense of the scene plus that tension you added.

(I've had to write to a 350-word count for a whole article, and it's one of the best exercises I ever did. Be ruthless, but don't lose anything vital.)


Saturday, October 28, 2006

Tension: 4th Snippet

And #4!

I found the queen in the arboretum, a great big glass room chock-full of plants. The sun had already crested the horizon, bleeding through the iron gray clouds. How long had I been tortured and left unconscious? Unless my watch was broken, I showed the time as two o'clock in the morning. The gardener was with her, but when she saw me, she dismissed the gardener, and we were alone.

Tension: 3rd Snippet

Snip #3: (look below for rules)

I covered my eyes, squinting across the freshly-ploughed field into the bright afternoon sun. Dad was riding along on the tractor singing some old 80’s song loudly to himself, and I smiled.

Tension: 2nd Snippet

Remember: try to add tension to this snip. Make it more intriguing! And don't look at other people's changes until you make yours!

Her carriage slid around the last curve in the road, rounding the lawn of the Jackson home. The wagon she'd seen was pulled close to the steps with the back fully exposed. Blood saturated its floor, dripped through the cracks, and pooled on the ground beneath. The snow glistened in stark contrast to the encompassing scarlet puddles.

Tension: 1st Snippet

Remember: try to add tension to this snip. Make it more intriguing! And don't look at other people's changes until you make yours!

Alec was startled to hear sounds at his door. The execution was not supposed to take place until the morning. It had been but an hour since the lass—his wife!—had left him.

Have at it!

The Strategy

Okay, folks, ready to play? Here's what we're going to do:

I will post each snippet in a separate posting; all changes will go in the comments. Read the post and play with your changes to make it more tense. DO NOT READ THE COMMENTS until after you've done your suggestions. Then when you're ready, post yours in the comments section and see how it compares with other people's. Did any of us make it more tense? More compelling? More intriguing?

We have 4 to start with, but feel free to send more if you'd like. Hopefully this will be fun. Just a note: I'm going to have to come back and do my changes lately, as I have a really busy day today. Are you surprised? {g}

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Return of Discussion Friday

I'm going to try Discussion Friday again, and see if some of y'all will hop in and respond.

Actually, this one is not so much discussion as a mini-workshop/exercise, something we did at Surrey that proved quite interesting.

How can you ratchet up the tension in even one or two lines of text? How can you up the stakes, play with the words, or make the situation more interesting?

I'll do an example, first, from TMT.

Someone was in the kitchen. I could see the lamp glow shining down the hall, hear the soft crackle of the fire and murmuring voices. An odd sort of murmuring, like singing.

Without even knowing context, how can we make this more interesting? Okay, I'll give a little context. It's the middle of the night, and my MC is trying to sneak out of a dark, quiet house. Well, I ruin the tension a little right there in the first line, by telling you someone is in the kitchen. Would it be more intriguing if I held onto that information until the end of the paragraph? Let's see.

Suddenly the darkness was broken by the glow of a lamp, and the sound of murmuring voices. An odd sort of murmuring, like singing. Who could be singing, at this time of night?

Is that better? I'm not sure. It does seem more tense, doesn't it?

How about you--would you like to try this experiment? Let's give it a shot. Email me a couple lines of your text, and later today I'll post them anonymously. Then we can all try our hand at making them more tense. Let's have a little fun for Friday. :)

Medieval Word of the Day: yever:
Greedy, covetous.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


Yes, I know. Long time gone.

Surrey was amazing as always, but it does run me to the ragged point of exhaustion, and I always need several days to recover, let alone catch up. It's worth it.

Some random Surrey highlights:

-My favorite workshop was the historical panel, with Jack Whyte, Diana Gabaldon, Anne Perry, Mary Balogh, and Bernard Cornwell. I LOVED when they went down the line, each affirming that we should only put words in historical character's mouths that they actually said, and Bernard (last) said "Fuck that. Do what you want." {snort} I also loved seeing Anne's face when Bernard said that the Victorians were boring and he didn't see how anybody could write about them. But beyond these, there was just so much valuable information in this panel for me; I sucked it right up.

--Hanging out with Jay Clarke/Michael Slade in the lounge until 1 AM
or so, drinking Sambuca, was pretty cool too--he's a great
storyteller. And he listened to all of our stories too.

--I liked Don Maass's talk, and Diana's. Oh, and Jack's. And Anne Perry and Michael Slade. I think all the workshops I attended were excellent this year.

--My meeting with the agent went well; she was very fun and interesting, so I enjoyed just talking to her.

--I stiffed Jenny Crusie on the blue pencil--I messed up the time. {sigh}

--But best (best, best) of all was hanging out with my friends. Good God, these chicks are amazing. I'm already looking forward to next year!

Medieval Word of the Day: sweerness: Indolence, laziness, sloth.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

And away I go...

Last day before Surrey!!

I made the mistake last night of taking nighttime cold medicine, in the vain hope that it would knock the cough out and let me sleep. No. It did stop the cough-tickle, but unfortunately I also have this thing with keeps my brain not only awake but hyperactive, with these horrible anxiety-ridden repeating thoughts. {sigh} Got about an hour of sleep.

Off to the store today to get real cough suppressant medicine that will work.

Today I have to finish nitpicky last-minute Surrey prep, mostly printing out various copies of different pieces to workshop. Yes, we do actual work there!! Socializing too, but lots of running around and thinking about/working on our projects. I'm planning to go to sessions with Bernard Cornwell, Jenny Crusie, Diana Gabaldon/Anne Perry/Jack Whyte, and an agent session with Nadia Cornier, Daniel Lazar, Rachel Vater, and Jack Whyte. Yay! Okay, now I'm getting excited.

See you all when I get back!

Medieval Word of the Day: kith: Knowledge, acquaintance with something; knowledge communicated, information.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

1st Person again

Argh, my cough is worse. Damn, damn. Well, if I end up hacking my way through the first day or so of Surrey, y'all who are there will have to forgive me. {sigh}

This morning my oh-so-helpful daughter informed me that I couldn't wear this v-neck sweater without something under it, because "you can't let the people at work see your skin." Hmmm. I guess she's getting the privacy thing finally, but carrying it just a little too far. The pendulum.

This week Diana Peterfreund is speaking in defense of 1st-person POV. I've had to fight this battle myself a few times, and I'm not even published, so I understand exactly where she's coming from.

What is it that bothers people about 1st person? Well, this is what I've heard:

1. It's too close to the character; you never get a break from that one POV.
2. The MC is hyper-aware, noticing things she shouldn't, particularly about herself.
3. This POV creates the need for contrived scenes to explain things that happen when the MC is not present, or to force the MC to be present when she shouldn't be.
4. It's difficult for most writers to stay in 1st person, so slippage occurs.
5. There are too many "I"s.

Hum. Well, I have to say that 2-4 can be handled by a skilled writer so that they're not a problem. Yes, it takes more work perhaps, and a more careful read, but it can be done. (Actually, I've seen these problems in 3rd person too; just maybe more often in 1st.)

5? There's not much you can do about that if it bothers someone. They'd probably likely be bothered by too many "she"s too. But you can pay attention to sentence structure so you don't use the same structure 40 times in a row.

As to 1, I think that's just a matter of whether the reader can like and identify with a character. Of course not everyone is going to identify with your heroine/hero, or like them enough to spend many hours with them. But let's face it: not everyone is going to like your book anyway. Seriously. If you've done a good job, though, you'll be able to connect with enough readers to make it work.

Any other objections you have to 1st person? Objections you've seen that I haven't mentioned?

Medieval Word of the Day: forslow: To be slow or dilatory about; to lose or spoil by sloth; to delay, neglect, omit, put off.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Love and Horror

I was reading DaMomma this morning, about a heart-stopping moment when her 5-year-old just dashed out in front of a car. God, they are so fragile, these children that we love with our whole beings and will protect with our lives. Once you become a parent, the world is at once far more beautiful, full of surprises and wonder, and far, far more menacing.

We had our own moment last week: we lost Child for the first (and please, please the last) time.

Just like in DaMomma's story, it happened in a moment. We'd taken Child to a concert at the local big theater, and had gone down to have a cookie and drinks at intermission. We were tucked in a corner of the crowded lobby, enjoying our treats, until they flicked the lights. "Okay, sweetie, time to go back to our seats!" I said. I turned back to make sure Husband was behind us, and then turned around again.

She was gone. Just...not there. I guess she'd taken me literally and started marching off to our seat without waiting for me, and the crowd had closed in behind her. I looked back to husband, puzzled, the panic just starting to rise. "Where is she?" I said cautiously. He looked back at me, astonished. I dashed forward down the little hallway; no pink dress, no blonde hair. I looked right, left. No children at all.

"Where IS she?" I demanded.

"What do you mean where is she? Where did she go?" he said. I just shook my head, fully panicking now, looking every which way. No sign of her.

"She must have gone ahead!"

"You go up to the seats," he said quickly. "I'll stay here and look."

Oh my God. I ran up the ramp, asking every usher as I passed. "Did a little girl come this way by herself? Have you seen a little girl?" Nothing. I pelted up the second ramp, around the corner. Nothing. All the way to the end. Could she have come this way all by herself? I went into the theatre part, up to our seats. No one. Now I understood what they mean by "my heart was in my throat." I couldn't swallow, couldn't think of anything but Where is She. I've lost her.

I ran back down the ramp full speed, around the corner again...

and saw them coming towards me, Husband with Child in hand. I nearly cried right there, in front of all the well-dressed people. Instead I snatched her up. "Where were you?" I demanded. "Where was she?"

Apparently she'd gone the wrong way, into the main section of the theatre instead of up the ramp to the balcony. And fortunately--this is a small town--she'd immediately run into someone she knew, who'd taken her gently by the hand back to wating Daddy in the lobby. The whole thing had probably taken 3 minutes. The longest 3 minutes of my life so far.

Loving that much makes you vulnerable. I would never give up that love, even at the cost of vulnerability, even with that terrifying tangle of emotions that I felt when she just went the wrong way. But I'll admit that I hope I don't have that particular horrible feeling again.

(Oh, and it's snowing this morning!)

Medieval Word of the Day: radly: Quickly, promptly, without delay, soon.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Damn and Blast!

Last night about an hour before bed my chest started to get tickly, and my throat scratchy. I had trouble sleeping--trying not to cough--and now this morning I have a full-blown chest cold. Damn damn damn! I will not be sick for Surrey. Grrr.

Fortunately it's Sunday, so all I have to do is keep up minimally with Child, who is happily dressing her itsy-bitsy dolls in rubber swimsuits (don't ask--Polly Pocket is pervasive) right now and singing to herself.

I did a long post Friday and then it got wiped out with a browser crash; I just didn't have enough patience or time to do it again. The good news though is that I finally nailed Chapter 2 of TMT, and I think I'm ready for Surrey now. I have a synopsis I like, a pitch I like, and a done mss. Thank goodness. I did get a rejection on an outstanding query Friday too, but it was an excellent rejection; the agent read 100 pages and really took the time to comment. She said many positive things and asked to see any other book I might write, but just didn't cotton to my heroine in TMT. That's okay, I can deal with that. So very wonderful to have real feedback!

Anyway, gonna go nurse my cold with lots of food. For some reason chest colds make me hungry.

No medieval word of the day today, as I'm at home!

Thursday, October 12, 2006


We had a surprise this morning--Child woke up with pink eye, nastier than mine had been. {sigh} That's an automatic no-go to preschool for at least 24 hours, so she and I have an unexpected vacation day together.

It's been a great day so far. She doesn't feel bad, so we're just having fun: dancing to her CDs, working on sticker books together, making banana bread. I even have the chance to do some laundry and go grocery shopping, which were both sorely needed but hard to fit into our weekday schedule.

And I get to work on TMT during naptime! Woo-hoo!

If you'll excuse me, I have to go click my fingers to a song now...

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Deep Thoughts

The universe seems to be sending me a message today. I got a work email from our wellness division talking about the importance of forgiveness and kindness to our health; holding onto resentment and hard feelings hurts US. Then I looked at my planner for today:

"I would rather make mistakes in kindness and compassion than work miracles in unkindness and hardness." --Mother Teresa

Hum. Kindness.

I admit that I am not necessarily a kind person. Empathetic, yes. Supportive, yes. But also impatient, driven, inwardly focused. Realistic, blunt. Sometimes I say things that were better not said; sometimes I concentrate on myself and my own family and friends instead of the stranger who needs help. I just get oblivious.

I also get resentful--I hate that about myself and am working to change it, but there it is. My ultimate push button is if I feel I've been dissed or slighted. It's really hard for me to forget and forgive purposeful slights.

So maybe it's time to reevaluate a little, for myself and the other people around me. Kindness and compassion. Greater awareness of others. Forgiveness. Well, I shall try.

(It's a good thing I still have nasty characters, so I can let my evil side out without hurting anybody!)

Medieval Word of the Day: swenche: To trouble, harass, afflict. To mortify.

(I will not swenche. I will not swenche....)

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


What is the motivation that keeps you at the keyboard, day after day? It makes you stay up that extra hour to work on your book, or get up at 3 AM and fumble your way to the notepad. It makes you put off lunch with your friends or your husband, or turn off the TV when a good old movie is on and ice cream is ready to hand. It makes you keep trying, keep working, even when rejections pile up on your doorstep. What keeps you going? What drives you?

Some say it's the goal. They want to finish a whole book, or see their name in print. They want to touch others with their stories and their words. Some say they can't help it; they've always been drawn to this living between two worlds, this dedication. Some, poor sods, do it for the money. And all of this--except perhaps the money--are valid reasons, real motivators. But they're not mine.

I do it for the high.

If you're a writer, you know what I mean. There's a moment, when you're in the midst of a good scene. You can hear these people, see them. Smell them. They're real and whole, in their own world, in their own story. Living. And you? You made them. Better, you also are them, living in that world. You can cross the barrier, touch the dream on the other side with your own fingers.

I even have this feeling sometimes when I'm just thinking of the book...suddenly it's there. There's the idea, you have it, it will work! Or, Oh My God, if I do it THIS way! I get a rush, pure pleasure and intense excitement. In it is power, certainty, connection to that other, secret world. Fulfillment. A true high.

I'm an addict, I admit it. Sometimes the writing is a slog, or I get disheartened. There's no excitement, no magic, just work. I get another form rejection, and I feel like chucking the whole process in the toilet and giving up. But I remember, see. I remember what that moment feels like, and I want it. I need it. I have to get it back again, just one more time, to feel whole. So I get up, and I close the fun book, and I lock myself in my room, and I write. Because I know, if I keep at it long enough, work hard enough, it'll come back. I'll feel it again.

If you're a writer, you know what I mean. Stand up now and admit it: My name is X, I am a writer, and I'm addicted to the high. If you're not, my friend, be wary of getting started in this crazy pursuit. Once you taste it, you will never be satisfied with boring old reality again.

Medieval Word of the Day: inly: Inwardly (as opposed to outwardly); within, internally; in the heart, spirit, or inner nature; in regard to the inner life or feelings. b. In a way that goes to the heart or inmost part; heartily, intimately, closely; fully, thoroughly, extremely.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Of Food and Weather

The oddities of Montana weather: yesterday afternoon we were swimming in the outside pool at the hot springs, basking in the late fall sunlight and the warm water. This morning it's snowing.

I had a culinarily successful weekend, which always makes me happy in a see-I-can-too-be-a-good-wife-and-mother kind of way. I think it's my grandmother's genes celebrating (that would be the neat grandmother, the one who never ever allowed food in the living room, and didn't let us in the front room at all). Anyway, both recipes were from my very favorite food blog. So far every recipe of Elise's I've tried has been scrumptious.

Saturday I made Sesame and Cilantro Pasta salad, which was such a hit that my husband ate leftovers as a snack that night, and was still talking about it the next day. It's a good light meal paired with fruit and bread, or would be an excellent side dish.

Yesterday I ventured a little further and tried Chicken Paprikash. It's basically chicken baked with onions, paprika, and garlic, and then you fry the onions a little more with chicken broth and sour cream and spoon them on top of the chicken. Yum. I served it with garlic couscous and sliced tomatoes; I almost think it requires the couscous, to soak up all the good stuff.

Back to pizza and salad tonight, but it's always fun to shake things up a bit on the weekend.

And now I must off to work. But I get to write today! Yay! I had a vivid dream this morning, which always presages well for the writing. I think it connects me to my creative side.

Medieval Word/Phrase of the Day: Phrase through thick and thin (in thick and thin): through everything that is in the way; without regard to or in spite of obstacles or difficulties; under any circumstances. lit. and fig. (app. orig. with reference to ‘thicket and thin wood’.)

Chaucer's "The Canterbury Tales" is the first recorded instance of this phrase.

Friday, October 06, 2006


I am cautiously typing this from my regular computer, trying not to breathe on the processor in fear that it will go off again and not return. (The IT guy told me never to turn it off again!) We shall see.

So. I promised a post about Surrey this week, and here it is Friday--so here we go.

I first heard about the Surrey International Writer's Conference from the folks over at Compuserve's Books and Writers Forum many years ago. Every year in October a bunch of them trooped off to Surrey, British Columbia (part of the metropolitan area of Vancouver), hung out for a few days, and came back enthused and invigorated, full of energy for their writing. So of course I wanted to go too.

I was all set to go in 2001, but turned up pregnant with Child and decided not to. I should have, because I hadn't realized how much harder it would be with actual baby rather than baby-in-belly, and I was unable to go for 2 more years. Finally, in 2004 I convinced hubby that he needed to watch the 2-year-old nonstop for 4 days so I could jet off to Canada. It was an excellent decision.

Surrey is...a haven for writers. A speaker mentioned it at that first conference, and it still rings true to me: there is nothing like being in a room full of people who understand you, who are trying to accomplish the same thing that you are--or who have already accomplished it. I felt vindicated as a "real" writer. The talks turned my WIP in a whole new direction, deepening and strengthening the plot and the characters, and solidifying my resolve to finish the darn thing.

In fact, I finished a first draft in the year after that, and made my first pitch at Surrey last year. I got some excellent responses, but also some feedback. This year I've been working on those changes and querying it, as well as researching and beginning Book 2. I'm ready to learn more this year and pitch it again to different agents, and I'm excited about that.

Then there's the famous authors who come. Surrey's small enough that you actually get to interact with them, which is amazing. Diana Gabaldon, Jack Whyte, Anne Perry, Jenny Crusie, Jean Auel, Bernard Cornwell...

But you know what the absolute best part of Surrey is, though? Shhhh...this is secret! It's meeting my friends there. There's a group of us that hang out online all the time throughout the year, and it's our only real chance to meet up and spend face time together. I love it. Writer chat, girl chat, beverages,'s all necessary to keep me whole, and during the year I long for Surrey to come around again so I can get those 4 days.

So it's almost here again...October 19-22. In less than two weeks I'll be there! Woo-hooooo! (I hope to see you there, this year or next!!)

Medieval Word of the Day: fullfreme: To accomplish, fulfil, perfect.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The situation

I'm not ignoring you purposely!

I'm having serious computer problems at work--my computer is GONE for the 3rd time in 3 days, taken away by the baffled IT guy. {sigh} I'm typing this on a "spare" computer that I'll have to cede in a couple of minutes.

All is going well other than this snafu. I'm back to writing again, yay yay, though time is extremely crunched. But I have to have TMT revised and ready for Surrey!

If I have my computer back, I'll post about Surrey tomorrow. More manana!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Minor disasters

Weird note: I woke up with pink eye this morning. So picture me typing this with funky red eyes. There you go, your accurate mental image for the day.

In spite of that, I am a happy girl this morning. Why? I think it's just in comparison with yesterday. I KNOW it has to be better than yesterday's hell, so I'm cheerful. Yesterday:

--I knocked my computer out for an hour with only my finger and static electricity.
--I got a flaming paper cut all the way down my finger (no, not the same one).
--I somehow messed up the settings on a website I work on, screwing it up completely. Had to figure out how to fix it.
--I confused the time of a meeting, and wandered around for 10 minutes looking for people before someone told me.
--Without thinking, I used antibacterial liquid on the hand with the paper cut. You probably heard the scream from wherever you are.

After all this, I shut my office door, put up a sign that I was editing and please go away, and listened to calming music while I edited a publication by hand. And I survived the rest of the day with no more mishaps.

Today is my grad class day, so I've got to pop out now to talk about Intercultural Communication. Later!

Medieval Word of the Day: swinkful: Full of toil or trouble; disastrous; troublesome, irksome; painful, distressing.

Monday, October 02, 2006



The GRE is over, and I survived. I scored just as high as I needed to on math (thank God) and did fine on the verbal. I'm just glad I can stop studying fractions and square roots in my spare time, and bring out the calculator again when needed.

After the test Hubby and I treated ourselves to a live taping of Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion, which we've been listening to on the radio for years. It was fabulous; I loved every minute. (If you want to hear the broadcast we attended and learn more about Missoula, Montana, go here!)

Thanks for commenting with your 3 good things/3 bad things! It seems we have a few trends on the things we dislike about ourselves: worrying (except for Mrs. Mitty, who doesn't worry enough! Want some of mine?), procrastination (I could've added that one too), impatience, being self-centered. And one of the most common things we like about ourselves? That we love and care for other people well. I happen to think that's maybe the most important trait in life, so we're all doing well. {s}

One of my favorite comments was Kathy's, "I'm a good listener." That dovetails in perfectly with my datebook planner quote for the day: "The secret to friendship is being a good listener." This is something I need to work on, listening instead of interrupting. For those who will see me at Surrey, remind me of this as necessary! {g}

I'll be doing a Surrey post sometime this week. But that's enough for now; work to attend to!

Medieval Word of the Day: forhight: To promise not to do, enjoy or practise (something); to renounce.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

A meme of sorts

It's another day packed with activity. You should see my to-do list! (No, to preserve your sanity, you shouldn't.) But I wanted to pop in here for a few minutes to loosen up my brain this morning. Here are two questions I'm going to try to answer honestly. If you have a blog and you're reading this, consider yourself tagged to answer them as well!

1. Name three things about yourself that you dislike.

--I can be bossy (shut it, Kreek!)
--I worry too much, about everything.
--I sometimes get very self-absorbed.

2. Name three things about yourself that you love.

--I am a good mom. I let my kid know I love her, and I take time to play with her.
--I am creative. I love to write, but also to dance, and to act.
--I'm pretty good at dealing with people, and getting things done while keeping everyone mostly happy.

So your turn! I'm gonna do another break later today and do the blog round, to see who else picked this up!

Medieval Word of the Day: fore-wit: To know beforehand.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Hit and run

So sorry for the lack of postings. Everything is so very crazy right at this moment: classwork has really picked up, the GRE is this Saturday (eek), and all sorts of social things are crashing around me. Good things, but crazy.

I may be laying low until after this test is over, and then hopefully things will open up!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Discussion Friday 2

Yesterday was very long, but rewarding. I took the day off work and drove Child to a nearby town (~75 miles away) for a doctor's appointment. We had some time to go to the Children's Museum and play for a couple of hours and have lunch together, and I do love singing loudly to kids' songs together in the car. (Only Sandra Boynton CDs, though. If you are a parent and you don't have Dog Train and her other CDs, go forth and buy them now.) After driving back I dropped Child off at Grandma's and hopped on a bus with my hubby and his co-workers for a work social evening. Could've been bad, but the show we went to was amazingly funny (and raunchy), so all was good. Whew. The bus didn't get back into town until midnight, though...

So on to the Discussion Friday topic. Actually two different, related questions today.

1) What is the period in history to which you feel the strongest connection? For me this is a period I almost feel part of: I love the music, the art, the clothes, the popular culture of the time. If reincarnation could be true I'd think I lived there/then. What is your period?

2) If there was a time/place in history that you could visit, when/where would it be? Why? It might not necessarily be the same answer as #1.

I'll come back and post my answers later, but I look forward to reading yours!

Medieval Word of the Day: tither: One who tithes. a. One who pays tithes; usually with qualification, as false, small, true tither. b. An exactor or receiver of tithes; also, a supporter of the system of ecclesiastical tithes.

(As always, all of my definitions come from the online version of the Oxford English Dictionary)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Another Writer's Story

Miss Snark posted this story today, and I just have to pass it on. Perfect for those of us who struggle with the writing, even if we don't have cats.

Megan Lindholm's story: How I Became a Famous Writer.

Enjoy. :)

Oh, and writing note: I threw out the whole first scene of Chapter 2 yesterday. Why is it that you can read something over and over and over and not realize that it's totally useless, and then suddenly you see it? And chapter 2 as well, gah. Way to stop agents cold. Anyway, I have a perfect bit to put in there instead, about half-written. Yay.

Medieval Word of the Day: alan: A large species of dog used to hunt or bait wild animals; a wolf-hound.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Crash analysis

I just watched CRASH again for my Intercultural Communication class. Man, what a phenomenal movie that is. I know I mentioned it previously, but it is particularly affecting seeing it again within the context of culture clashes, stereotyping, and cultural perceptions that we're studying.

I noticed something intriguing on this go-round too that can be related to a discussion of storytelling choices: there are very, very few names mentioned. Sometimes you see a character's name on a door or a receipt, but mostly the actors don't even USE names. They refer to each other with nicknames or family names ("dawg" or "baba"), or not at all. There are a couple of exceptions, but there are several major characters whose names I don't know, still, after watching the movie twice.

What does this do the audience? Interestingly, in order to discuss the movie people then necessarily need to refer to the actors (Ryan Phillippe's character) or by some other signifier or cultural marker...such as occupation or the very things the movie discusses, racial backgrounds or ethnicity. I wonder if most people would refer to the locksmith as "the locksmith" or "the Mexican"? And if the latter, would they recognize that they themselves are using the same cultural assignments that the movie talks about?

For me this reflects on storytelling choice because as writers we all face the dilemma of how much to tell about our characters. Does the reader need to know his/her name and physical description in the first chapter? Does the reader need to know the backstory to understand the present dilemma, or to care about the character? Does the reader need to know that at some point to feel close to the character? In CRASH (admittedly a movie and therefore a different medium, but still a story) the viewer is dumped into all these situations without background, without even names, and yet there are still close emotional ties created. Can we get away with this in fiction too?


And this time I managed to watch the scene where the little girl gets shot without actually screaming at the television. The first time I'd been dreading and dreading that something would happen to her, and I literally screamed NOOOOOOO at the TV when it did...then bawled uncontrollably in the moment after, and then when she was okay. This time I just cried silently.

Medieval Word of the Day: semi-soun: A slight or gentle sound.