Friday, February 29, 2008

Discussion Friday

It's the return of Discussion Friday! (In which hardly anybody discusses, but I am allowed to rant and pose questions.)

This subject is particularly close to me at the moment, but I shall try to avoid spitting more nails. Yesterday was messy.

In scientific publishing, there are pretty much two camps: those who believe scientific information should be free and openly accessible to all regardless of who created and published it, and those who believe that publishers and editors add value to scientific information and should be reimbursed for that value--or at least be able to support themselves.

Guess which camp I fall into?

Let's just say that the "your publications are my right" people are messing with me, and driving me batty. I DO add value. Those publications I release, with the clear, concise prose, consistent grammar and punctuation, and kick-ass layout? Some of those started out as sloppy, muddled reports with grainy images embedded in Word. So why do you think, again, that it's okay to make those available to everyone in the world for free, when our meager sales margin supports my department? Hmmmm?

Okay, I'll stop there before I go into details. I did intend to do a reasoned presentation of the free/not free issue, but obviously I can't just now. Instead I'll put up a poll. I know there are many out there, particularly librarians and researchers, who believe that scientific publishers and editors are money-grubbers, and largely unnecessary. They've told me to my face. What do you think?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Yay! I made 60% on GG!

I feel so much calmer and more centered after only one hour of writing.

(geez, why don't I do this every day? KIDDING!)

They say it's your...

Yesterday Precie tagged me with a meme challenge: write your memoir in six words. (Details here)

I wasn't up to it yesterday--Brain Full--but here's my attempt:

Dancer, writer, mother: living in hope.

No, I'm not a dancer anymore, but it was a huge part of my life for many years. I couldn't NOT include it. And all three of those things pretty much require living in hope. :)

(I'm not going to formally tag anybody to do this, but feel free to take on the challenge! If you do, let me know in the comments, please!)

In other news, today is my birthday. In my family, your birthday was the most special day of the year, when you were Queen. You got to pick out what the family ate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and you got loaded with presents, treats, and cake. The whole day was magical from start to finish. It's not quite that way now that I'm a grownup, but I still love my birthday. There's a trace of magic that tinges everything.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Fun with hoars

This is what it looked like this morning:

We got six inches of snow yesterday, and this morning had freezing fog and hoar frost.

I love to say that aloud. "Hoar frost. Hoar frost. HOAR frost." I am such a geek.

I did not write yesterday--I actually gave myself a day off. Why? Two reasons:

1. Stress stuff. I have enough stress going on this week--good and bad--that little gray hairs are popping out on my head. Sadly, this is literally true. {sigh} I needed a day.

2. I started reading a friend's mss. I'm only on Chapter 3 (ONLY because of time constraints), but believe me when I tell you: you too will read this book someday. Between covers.

I am getting back on the writing horse today, though. I have a monthly goal to get to.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Monday ups and snow

Hooray! The birthday party went GREAT. Everyone had a good time, including parents. I went to Child's birthday circle at school this morning--where I walk around the sun (birthday candle) with her 6 times, talking about when she was born and what she likes. It was very sweet, and both the teacher and I were misty at the end--this is her last birthday circle, as next year she'll be in elementary.


And, we went to a fantabulous concert yesterday. Check out the Jeni Fleming trio here. Here's a clip of Jeni singing "Better than Anything", one of my favorite jazzy songs. I'm downloading a couple of their albums in ITunes today.

The bad news about today is that it is snowing like mad. We got a few inches last night, and the streets are a slide-zone. Thank Goodness we're all safe in our respective places for a few hours.

Now, off to work!

Friday, February 22, 2008


  • Local YMCA party room booked: check.
  • Invitations made and sent, RSVPs received for 9 bff: check.
  • Pin-the-tail-on-the-mermaid poster printed, tails cut out, mermaid blindfold aquired: check.
  • 10 crowns (5 tiaras, 3 "boy crowns", 1 purple Birthday Princess crown with feathers): check.
  • 9 goodie bags stuffed with candy and prezzies: check.
  • 1 "mermaid treasure chest" prize filled with pearl beads and chocolate coins: check.
  • Cake, balloons ordered: check.
  • One slightly frazzled mom: check.
  • One almost-6-year-old thrilled to pieces, and ecstatically waiting for tomorrow: worth every bit of it.

Go. Laugh.

Oooh! Oooh!

You'll want to read this.

My absolutely amazing friend Pam, who wrote a poem just for me when I signed with Janet Reid, is rather famous in some circles for another poem. Diana Gabaldon posted it on her blog today. My friends,

Pam's "Ode to a Penis".

Oh, and forgot to say, it happens to be Pam's birthday today. Happy Birthday, Pam!

AND the birthday of another of my bestest friends, Kreekie. Happy Birthday, Kreeks!

Thursday, February 21, 2008


Drat! I already realized I forgot one! I've been meaning to add Precie for a long time. :)

Moving Forward


I just updated all the side links--somehow, harder than it should have been. There are a lot of sites I've been visiting for a while in Google Reader that I just hadn't added to the list. (And oddly, considering that I had an issue with all the people entering my contest having names that begin with "J", I added 5 fellow writers to my sidebar, and 4 of them have J names. What is up? Am I drawn to J people?) Anyway, hope you enjoy. There's some wonderful stuff over there, almost daily.

In the past couple of days, I found myself drawing on a piece of advice Vicki gave me a long time ago.* It's one of those things I keep forgetting. Since it has been endlessly useful for me, I'll share it here:

Don't hold anything back for later in the book, or later in the series, or for another book. If you have a great idea, dump it in NOW. Another great idea will come in later for the next bit.

Even though I KNEW this, I was still holding onto a little tidbit, a plot direction, thinking it needed to wait for later. But I couldn't figure out what needed to happen now. And then I banged myself upside the head with this advice, threw the complication in without worrying about saving anything for later, and yup. It worked. Now I'm off on a whole new tangent, and I'm feeling the confidence again. Woo-hoo!

*See, Vicki? I gave you credit without prompting this time!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The edge

Weather note: It's 1 degree F outside right now. It's supposed to reach at least 41 today. Gotta love the 40-degree temperature swings. Layers, anyone?

Today I have a question for you. Have you ever come close to dying? What did you experience? If you don't mind, tell me the story.

I'll share first.

I've come close-ish twice, I think. The first time I was a baby--preemie, complications--but that one doesn't count for this purpose. The second time I was about 3, I guess. I was standing at the edge of our backyard pool, on a ledge/seat that was set into the deep end. I had a float ring, in the shape of a horse, around my waist. I remember feeling all adventurous and brave, like I was big enough to do anything. I jumped, with a huge splash, into the deep end.

And the float went right up over my head.

I couldn't swim yet. I watched the float go, watched the diving board get farther and farther away as I sank to the bottom of the pool. It was probably a second. It felt like ages. There was a rush of water as someone jumped in after me. The next memory is of lying on my side as someone pounded on my back, water gushing out of my mouth and nose. I remember looking at our log pile, coughing, the feel of someone's hard hand pounding, over and over.

This memory is strong and clear, down to my emotions. I wasn't afraid at all, just peaceful. Until the water gushing out part. That was nasty.

The weird thing is...I'm not sure how much of this actually happened. My parents say yes, I fell in the pool, but they don't remember any of the pounding/gushing part. And they would, right? That would be imprinted on any parent, relived in nightmares.

The weirder thing is...we moved away when I was 5, and another young family moved in. Not long after that the 3-year-old girl drowned, in that pool.

So I've always wondered, is my memory somehow tangled up with hers? Did that really happen, just not to me? And not with a happy ending?

Your turn. What's your story?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

It's all in the time

I love Barbie Fairytopia.

All of 'em, actually. Fairytopia, Mermaidia, Magic of the Rainbow. If Elina's in it, I love it.

Why, you ask? The animation? The engaging characters? The fully realized alternate worlds? The commercial tie-ins?

No, my friend. The time.

Child does not normally watch much TV. A half-hour in the morning while we eat breakfast together, and a 15-minute show in the evening while we have snack (hoo-ray PBS Sprout!). But every once in a while, we rent her a movie too. It seems only fair, with the piles we rent for ourselves. And in spite of my Barbie-reluctance, a few weeks ago we rented Fairytopia. Oh, man. She wanted to watch it about 4 times before we returned it. She was in princess/fairy/mermaid heaven. So the next time we were at the store, and she pleaded desperately to watch the next in the series, and it was only available for purchase...yep, we bought it. And then the next one. And she has no objection at all to me "watching" it with her with the laptop on my lap.

Which is why over the past week, when I was home with her for 5 of 7 days--usually a complete loss, writing-wise--I still managed to get 3000 new words. I did not feel guilty for the extra TV-time because most of it counted as sick days, she was thrilled to pieces, and Ghost Girl continues to grow.

I love you, Elina. I almost love you, Mattel. Not quite. But I'm thinking about it.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Fears, part 2. Clarification

Since Janet Reid linked to my post about writing your fears, I've gotten a fair few hits from other writers...and some interesting questions. I think I need to clarify what I meant, a little.

A fellow writer thought I was saying that you should create a plot based on your own fears, and "force" your characters to face them. Like an issue book, dark and dismal and sad.

No no no no no no no no. No.

I despise issue books. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. For one thing, I don't even like to read dark and dismal and sad books, personally. I like adventure, a little romance, possibly fantasy. Struggles, yes, but I'm a sucker for a happy ending.

Also, IMO any book that is forced or twisted to suit the author's own agenda will fail as a good story. It will not resonate with anyone, because you will be trying to convince instead of telling a story, and the story will almost certainly get lost along the way.

What I was saying (or trying to say) is that you shouldn't veer away from allowing your characters to face fears straight-on--that real, deep characterization can come, partly, from facing real fears. Everyday, universal fears, that everyone experiences and can understand. I was trying to say that it is natural that your characters will experience these fears--and you should let them.

Not that because you have a fear of closets that you should stuff your character into one just to see how she deals with it.

Does that make sense?

(I hope so, but it's difficult to tell, as I've been trying to type this while Child asks me questions every few seconds. I am now in Deep Trouble because I missed "drawing time") :)

Friday, February 15, 2008

my own little dreamworld

I am in SUCH a writing mood today.

I was having a vivid dream when I was forced to crawl out of bed this morning, all about escaping from the Nazis with a little suitcase full of stuff culled from all my belongings (and I had to decide: book to read, or writing journal!), and hiding in a hidden compartment on a train. I love those sorts of dreams--they always leave me half in the dream world, ready to escape into my own stories.

Unfortunately I have class ALL DAY (am on a 20 minute break right now, and I just poured out 200 words on GG before writing this!), so am a mite frustrated and distracted. It's hard to concentrate on creating DVD buttons when your MC is in the middle of possessing someone and would really rather you get back to HER, thankyouverymuch.

I also had a big plot revelation while driving to work this morning. I wish I could tell you about it, but (a) you'd think I'm insane, trying to describe this plot at this point and (b) I would not be able to allow you to live. Just let it be said that you should trust your first draft and let it reveal itself...all will become clear to you in time.

Gotta go! Am going to be laaaaaaaaate....

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Home with sick Child today...but it's a good day, because all that's wrong is a cold and mild pink eye, which is an automatic no-school pass, but she feels fine. So we made triple-berry muffins, and worked on a jigsaw puzzle, and right now she's making valentines. I have been pretty clear that I need SOME writing time today--my characters are banging on my mental door--but we'll see how well that actually works!


Edited to say: YES! Got 800 new words I like, and had a marvelous day with Child, all told. Sincerely hoping her eyes are white enough to go to school/work tomorrow, though!!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Be afraid

What is your biggest fear?

Rejection? Death? The unknown? Loss? Is your main character facing down that fear?

Why not?

I don't know where I read or heard this first: Robert McKee, maybe, or quite possibly Donald Maass, in his Surrey master classes. The advice: Find your fear, and dump it on the page. Make your character deal with it in just the way you've always dreaded.

It's hard. I've done it, stared at the screen thinking "No, I can't talk about that. Even thinking about that scares me silly. How can I possibly live every day with that ache, that trickle of fear, for months?" You can. You should. It brings a vividness to your book that will otherwise be missing, that will become the vague, undefined lack earning you "I just didn't love this" comments by the bucketful.

However, if you truthfully portray your fear, and your characters react to it honestly, your book will resonate with readers. See, the trick is you're not the only one with that particular fear. If it's cathartic for you to deal with it on the page and come through the other side, it's cathartic for readers as well. They'll recognize the truth, connect with the powerful emotions. Rip through the pages to see if your MC will overcome it. Cheer for her when she does.

Like everybody, I've got several fears that underlie everything, that can rise to the surface with one word. One is rejection.

I'm not talking about book rejection—that's just a step in the process, in my opinion. I'm talking about when your best friend for years starts going cold. Stops calling you. Tells you one day, in front of all the people you most want to impress, that she can't believe she was ever friends with you in the first place, you're such a loser.

Yes, that happened to me.

Or when your boyfriend, or husband, starts spending long hours away from you. Turns away when you try to kiss him, or worse, pretends. But you can tell. It's different. It's over, you just haven't admitted it yet.

Or when you're a kid, and one of your parents leaves, for reasons that are perfectly valid from a grown-up's perspective, but to a kid just means they've failed somehow.

Jenna dealt with that fear. Natalie's facing it too, in a different way from a different source. But I think it's a common anxiety, and important. And very, very real to me.

Another one I didn't even realize until I wrote Jenna was the fear of losing control. I hadn't realized the true terror of that moment when—because of medical reasons, or because you're just a kid—decisions about your life are taken out of your hands, and you no longer have a choice. I did that to Jenna. Of course she took control back, but she had to lose it first. I had to, to understand it.

Don't hold back. Don't sugar-coat issues, to make them safe. Face your fears. Make your characters go through those particular layers of hell. And then, at the end, let them win.

Monday, February 11, 2008

If you are a writer, want to be a writer, want to be anything in the publishing business, or want to see some honest-to-god common sense truth, go read this. Yes, it's long. It's worth it. Thank you, John Scalzi. I completely agree.

Unasked-for Advice to New Writers about Money

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Happy Birthday, Jenna!

I started brainstorming JENNA one year ago today. I'd just thrown off the idea of doing historicals the night before, and the character of Jenna invaded my brain. So I sat down and wrote all the things I'd like to have in a book, and explored the character that had come to me. What is SO cool is that the character at least is very, very close to what came out.

Here is the start of the very first entry for my writing journal for JENNA:

[start journal entry]

So I was thinking last night about all the things I want to include in a book, the things I like to read about. I like these elements:

• The plot twists of Mary Stewart
• The humor of Douglas Adams
• The language/descriptive power of Diana
• The kind of alternate world adventure in Susan Cooper and Madeleine L'Engle (how long has a Wrinkle in Time captivated people now?)
• The passion and vividness in Vicki's book and OUTLANDER
• Real, living, falleable characters
• Magic or unusual abilities
• Young, female heroine who is uncertain in herself but comes into her own
• Series
• Revelations
• Locations/times I know about
• First person

What I don't want to include:

• Dragons, elves, unicorns, fairies
• Werewolves, vampires, witches
• Portals to other worlds/times
• Anything I have to spend a massive amount of time researching
• Anything that locks me in to a particular story

So all together, if we have all this stuff, this is some sort of YA. A funny YA, with some sort of fantasy/alternative world element to it, but without the predictable portal crap. A powerful, real voice. A girl who faces things as they are and deals with them—who is having a tough time, and then it gets way tougher and she has to figure it out.

Last night this situation came to me, so let's describe it and go into it further and see how it pans out.

Main character is Jenna. (don't know why that name, but I tried to shake it off and it wouldn't shake. That is her name.) She's 15, I think, maybe 16. No, 15 seems right. Not a kid, not a full teenager, in-between everything. Awkward.
[end journal entry]

It goes on from there, for pages, with Jenna's family situation and difficulties. Fascinating to me how she burst into my head, though. And I finished the first draft of that book in August, finished it in October, queried the heck out of it, and Janet offered representation at the end of December.

Now, onward! And to keep working on Ghost Girl. Right now, though, we're going swimming at the hot springs. Aaaaah.

Happy Birthday, Jenna! I'm so happy to have gotten to know you!

Friday, February 08, 2008

Goodie goodie

Huzzah and halleluj, class was cancelled for today. And my two-day work seminar is over. And it's Friday!

I sense general good news here. Perhaps it's a good news day. Anyone? Post with your good news!

Edited to add: also made my daily and weekly goals for GG. Only 2000 more words and I'll be back up to where I was last week. Kidding. This version is so much better.

A quote from my calendar, to inspire your good news for what I am dubbing Good News Friday:

"Obstacles melt away when we have the will to succeed."

I will go take my sickly-sweet self off somewhere else now. :)

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The eyes have it

I had a minor adventure yesterday.

I was sitting at my desk, wrapping things up for the day, when my eye started bothering me. I rubbed the heck out of it like I usually do, thinking it was a stray eyelash or something. I'm not squeamish about my eyes--I wore contacts for years and years, so I just ride with it. But it kept bugging me. It felt like a little mound of sand.

Hubby called, time to go. I shut everything down, still rubbing at my eye, and decided to take a peek in the mirror on my way out the door.

There was a white glob there, right smack in the middle of my pupil. And it wouldn't move. I blinked hard, swiped at it even, but it wouldn't move. It was stuck. Now it started to hurt.

I admit, I panicked a little. What was it? Would it scratch my eye? If I couldn't get it out, was I going to be blinded for life? (Okay, I didn't really think that. But I do have a vivid imagination.) Anyway, I panicked enough that hubby brought me to the eye doctor on the way to get Child.

Good thing, too. I had a piece of hard plaster--or plastic, he couldn't tell--stuck on my eye. The doctor had to numb the eye and remove the little piece, then do some other magic eye-doctor stuff. And it DID scratch it a little, enough that I'm taking antibiotic eye drops just in case, for a few days. And my eye feels weird. I'm blinking a lot. I'm not wearing eye makeup. I've got eye drops next to me, open and ready.

Strange, eh? Because some tiny bit of plaster decided to wander in and get stuck?

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Words of wisdom (not mine)

This seems to be my day for posting other people's stuff. That's okay--I'm going to focus my brain on GG.

You want to know the secret of writing a great book? Melissa Marr's got it pegged, here.

My favorite bit: "My Advice: Just write the story that sings to you. Step out onto ledges. Dive into topics that make you feel."

Yes, yes, yes, yes. Yes.

Also read the comments. There are some success stories in there to bring anybody's morale up.


OMG, this is so amazingly cool. I laughed my ass off.

Monday, February 04, 2008


Sorry guys, no crit reward. Next time I'll offer that as a prize for a contest where we'll actually have a winner. :)

And now...I have something to say.

Why do I write YA?

Because it's so much easier. Obviously. It's way shorter—why write 100,000 words for adults when you can skate by with only 60,000? You can crank one out in no time. And ya know, why mess around with themes and resonating truths and research? Teens aren't going to understand that stuff anyway, right, so why bother? Just dump some stuff on the page, make it cool, add a couple cell phones, and presto.

Is my sarcasm showing yet?

The problem I've discovered, since I started following my passion and writing YA, is that many, many people—even writers, forgodsakes—seem to think that some or all of the above is true. Cue people thinking that writing for teens isn't "serious". Or difficult. Certainly not as difficult as writing historicals for grown-ups. Not in the same class.

This was driven home for me recently when a fellow writer, who has been working on an adult historical for YEARS, decided maybe she'd just write a YA quickly and sell that. She figured she could pump it out in 4 or 5 months. And of course it was a "message" book too, because there's nothing teens need more than adults force-feeding them messages.

Yeah, I was bugged by her attitude. I did write JENNA quickly, but that was because I was disciplined, I was using my natural voice for once, and I had a good story I was passionate about. Not because I thought it was easy.

See, the real reason I write for teens is because that's what I like to read. I've always loved to dip into the kid's section, the teen section, the YA section…whatever they're calling it. I think maybe part of my brain is still 14, or maybe it's just that those issues are the ones that resonate for me. Or that I like the kick-ass honesty you see in a lot of girls that age. Even the heroine of my historical was 16. The heroine of the historical I scrapped was 13. Jenna is 15. Nat is 15/16. It's how I see the world. It's what I love.

And let the record show, for now and always, that I hate "message" books. It's all well and good to have a story that tells people something, or talks about something important (like UGLIES by Scott Westerfeld), if it flows as a natural part of the story. If the story and the characters are the primary concern. Not because you were sitting around thinking "how do I fit in something about body image, because I as an adult think teens have a problem with body image, so I must inform them about that." Um, no thanks. It will be painfully obvious that you did that. I won't want to read it, and no teenager will either.

[end rant]

Friday, February 01, 2008


Ouch. The part I just had to cut, because of my recent change?

4300 words.

I'd already cut about 2000, but replaced them mostly. Now I'm back up to the end, moving forward. But the word count...{cries}

It's better It's better It's better. And of course I kept it, in a separate file. Now. {deep breath} All new and shiny from here.

I was gonna do a craft or rant post today, but caught up in my extremely challenging class. This class is kicking me hard. So now must go add pile of homework to the mix.

In good news, we're going to see Peter Pan tonight, live!


Hmmm. Slightly overestimated commenters.

But that's okay, I'm good at rolling with it. So...revised. I'm going to ask those who haven't commented yet to add their comments to the previous post. If I get:

1) 9 more or
2) my Statcounter visitors count reaches 20,000 this weekend--which it is MIGHTY close to doing

I will still do the draw and 5-page crit, for those who want it. Check back Monday for that.

Back with "real" post later...