Wednesday, September 30, 2009

New duds

So you may have noticed (if you're not reading this on Google Reader), that I changed things up here a little yesterday.

I get bored pretty quickly with a particular color scheme or design, so every couple months I feel the need to play. Yesterday, in poking around the Internetz for pictures, I discovered Flickr Commons.

Yee-HAW. How could I resist this? Or this? Or (*giggle*) this? But I wanted to use them ALL.

So I'm going to rotate!! Every week (for a while) I'm going to change the big picture on the left. Stop by the actual page once a week and check it out!*

*okay, I may be more excited about the Commons pictures and the rotating than y'all will be. But it PLEASES me. :)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A drop of encouragement

I had a full-circle moment this morning.

I was driving to work after dropping Child off at school, loaded up with 6 packages of cookies to be mailed out, Brownie gear to deliver later today, my cup of coffee. I was thinking of a scene I want to add to my WIP today, a plot twist I might add.

My grown-up life.

And then Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade came on the radio--and I was 17 again, instantly, sitting in the box of a theatre, watching my first symphony performance. And plotting--worrying, really--how in the hell I was going to review it.

In my first semester of college at U.C. Davis I was enrolled in a "Freshman Seminar," a supposedly low-stress way to introduce freshmen to college life and to the faculty. I ended up in a seminar with two other freshmen and D. Kern Holoman, a distinguished professor of music, and the conductor of the UC Davis Symphony.

He scared the piss out of me.

I don't remember what the focus of the seminar was, really, but somehow we were writing art reviews. We watched a movie, went to art exhibits, and had to write reviews as though we were submitting them to a newspaper. It was fascinating for just-dabbling writer me, and eye-opening. Before that I had NO IDEA how much harder it was to watch a movie or view art when you knew at the end you were going to have to summarize and say something intelligent (and entertaining!) about the art for others. I was scribbling notes in the movie theater about themes and characterization, though I couldn't read my notes afterwards. And he was a stickler--imposing, professorial, strict about word count and interpretation and style. Every time I submitted something I was petrified.

But that was nothing to reviewing a symphony performance. I'd been a ballet dancer, so to me the symphony was background, something I moved to. I'd never been to a concert just to listen. And then not only to listen, but to write a review of it, for a CONDUCTOR?


So I can still remember vividly the mix of emotions of my 17-year-old self, sitting there in that box as the lights went down. Anxiety, but also excitement--and the opening of a whole new world.

At the end of the term, Dr. Holoman pulled me aside, and told me I'd shown promise. That I could be a writer, or a journalist, if I wanted to pursue it. Of course I was an Animal Science major at the time, determined to be a comparative psychologist working with dolphins or chimps. I was thrilled, and flattered...but I didn't think it would come to anything.

Still, I think that encouragement put me on the path. When a few years later I started on this crazy writing thing, his words were still there. They still are. I thank him, and all teachers who take the time to nudge students, to show them the possibility of worlds they'd never considered.

I have season tickets to the symphony here in town now, and Child goes with us to every performance. She loves classical music, at 7. She also loves words. But maybe someday a professor will pull her aside and tell her she has promise in biology, or medicine, or painting, and those words will eventually shape her life.

You never know how the circle will round out, in the end.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Shift for the Better

I've been in a bit of a funk the past few days. Don't know why, exactly--it happens occasionally. Doesn't usually last 3 DAYS, but...

The good news is I feel *back* today, cheerful, optimistic. My usual self. Part of it is the character/plot revelation for SALVAGED I had in the shower this morning (yay Magic Water revelations). Part of it is also probably the show we saw last night, in the first concert of the season.

They're called CANTUS, from Minnesota. They were exactly what I needed.

Here's a song to lift your spirits too. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Brain break

If you need my brain, it will be here:

Brains need vacations too.

Monday, September 21, 2009


Sorry, I had to take the SALVAGED teaser down. It's a work very much in progress, after all.

Thanks so much for all your kind words, though!! They made my morning.

Now, I made a promise to a few Twitter peeps this weekend that if my recipe last night worked out I'd post it here. It was YUMMY. So the rest of this post is foodie stuff!

I actually got this recipe from an American Heart Association cookbook...but really, in spite of that and in spite of the inauspicious name, it's delicious!

Spicy Glazed Pork Cubes

A traditional Haitian recipe: serve over rice!

1 teaspoon vegetable oil
2 pounds boneless pork loin, all visible fat removed, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup fresh orange juice (about 2 medium oranges)
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 3 medium limes)
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 habaƱero or jalapeno chili pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

In a large skillet, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Brown the pork cubes for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the onion and garlic, lower the heat to medium-low, and cook for 2 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and bring the mixture to a simmer, then cook, covered, over low heat for 40 to 50 minutes, or until pork is tender.

Uncover pan and cook over medium-high heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until juices have reduced to a thick glaze. Serve warm.

Citrusy and very yummy. The turmeric turns it bright yellow, which Child liked.

The other recipe, for homemade potato chips, is over at Simply Recipes but the site isn't loading right now.

Basically all you do is slice baking potatoes in 1/8" slices, and set out in one layer on a baking pan. Drizzle with butter, and broil for 20 minutes or until the edges are brown and crispy. Sprinkle liberally with coarse salt (sea salt) and eat!!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Love Day Friday

I think it's time for a little Friday love-fest.

Today I'm sharing the love for:
  • Movie: The Tale of Despereaux. I watched it with Child the day she was sick, and we both adored it. Great story, great flick. My first exposure to Kate DiCamillo! I don't think it'll be the last for either of us.
  • Book: SKINNED, by Robin Wasserman. Great concept, plot, voice, complex characters. And look, I can get the sequel, too! This is the bonus for being slow on reading.
  • My WIP. I know, I can't actually *share* it. But SALVAGED is finally skipping forward again after a facelift of the first 50 pages, and I like where it's going!
  • Music: This is an oldie, but The Psychedelic Furs. Hubby and I went to Seattle on Monday to see them live (probably my 4th time (?) and hubby's in the tens), and LOVED them. As always.
  • Food: Cupcakes. Particularly this one. (hee hee) And these. YUM.
Please join in!! What are you loving today? Post in the comments!

Thursday, September 17, 2009


I'm back at my desk for my first full day of work in a week! Between me being sick, our mini-trip, and Child being sick yesterday (she seems fine now), it's been a little odd. I like getting back to routine after a time away, listening to my Pandora stations while I work, with TweetDeck open on the second monitor. :)

September is my busy month at work, too--I'm putting together next year's calendar (should be at the printer by next week), helping prepare slides for the Board of Regents meeting, getting my researchers settled in again after a summer in the field, and working on a few *new* projects. Yay new projects! Plus we're moving to a new building in December, so I really should be packing things up. AHEM.

And Child's in school and now in her new routine of 3 dance classes a which we've just added Girl Scouts. Add in all the concert series starting up, school activities, husband's work functions...

Fall is crazy, though mostly in a good way. Am so very glad I'm not in school this year, though!!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

and out!

I'll be away for a couple of days, so no posts here.

In the meantime, enjoy a couple of blogs I recently stumbled across that you definitely want to add to your reader:

Blue Rose Girls: 7 children's book professionals (7!) talk about the industry and their experiences

Nova Ren Suma: Her book DANI NOIR is coming out this month, and I can't wait! You just might see a bit of her around here at some point too...

And of course, The Intern. If you're a writer and you haven't read this yet, you haven't been paying attention.


Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Sock Knockers: VOICE

*Note: This is in a series of sock-knockers posts, trying to analyze why particular books stand out above the rest for me. Click on the label below for the others so far.

Ah, voice.

Voice is a tricky little squirmy thing for writers. It can be the reason given by agents and editors for why they don't clamp onto a book ("the voice didn't grab me"), or the reason--whether or not they realize it--why readers can't get immersed in a story. If done well, it's the reason some books excel. But voice isn't really something you can be taught. It has to come naturally and it has to come with practice.

WHAT, you ask. And then you start rolling your eyes at me for being obscure and mysterious. I get ya. I'll explain.

Okay. To me, voice is the representation, the...well, voice (sorry) of the main character(s). If third person, it can be the narrator speaking or a character. If it's first person you're down in the head of that character, and voice has GOT to be representative of their singular perspective.

A good, unique voice should consider the character's:
  • vocabulary (rich or sparse? long words or short words? slang?)
  • cadence (how do they phrase their sentences? Different characters should have different rhythms)
  • experience (does your character know what an IPod is? Does he or she use one every day, or has seen but never owned one? how does that affect her description of it? what does she or does she not notice around her?)
  • beliefs (attitudes should come out in descriptions as well as dialogue and thoughts)
  • feelings (how does the character sound when she's angry? What auto-reactions does she go to? How often does she GET angry?)
At the least. I recently read a book where there were two male, one female. And I could NOT TELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THEM. Every time I had to stop and look to see who was speaking. I should have been able to distinguish the two voices, easily, for any of the reasons above. This does not make a sock-knocker.

Above I said nailing voice has to both come naturally and take practice. I believe there is some talent inherent in the ability to immerse yourself in a character: to truly imagine yourself in that skin. Some people probably just can't do that. But it takes real practice--more than one novel practice--to figure out how to pour that imagined person onto the page well enough to portray a whole, real voice. It takes awareness of every word, every choice of dialogue or action, to see if it *fits*.

Though maybe not on the first draft. :)

So what are my sock-knockers for voice?

I thought back to come up with a "classic" example, and it fell easily into my head: Anne of Green Gables.

I know! It's third person! But Anne is so clear to me, even this many years later. I feel as though I Know Her. She is a real person with clear likes and dislikes and foibles and an attitude (who can forget how Anne felt about her red hair? Or her name? Or diamonds?), and every inch of the text reflects Anne as Anne.

Well done, L.M. Montgomery. Generations have loved Anne's voice.

For a modern book:

I tried not to use a friend's book as an example. REALLY I TRIED. But the problem is, see, I know a lot of writers, and they tend to write rather fantastic books which are perfect examples...

So my modern book is Joanna Bourne's The Spymaster's Lady, for which she happened to win a Rita this year.

Jo's book is a textbook example of How to Win at Voice. If you haven't read it, please, please do. You will thank me. The book is set in Annique's head so skillfully that she is able to even pull tricks on you, and it makes sense and you don't care and you only see what Annique sees. It is breathtaking.

There are other books that excel at voice, but I've mentioned several of them in other sock-knocker posts already, so that isn't really fair, is it?

*cough cough, Courtney Summers, cough cough*

Anyway. The book I'm writing now is particularly slippery in terms of voice and perspective, so I've been thinking about this a lot. Man, I hope I'm able to nail it. I'd like to blow YOUR socks off too, someday. *hope*

Friday, September 04, 2009


I was going to do a post today on my day job--I realized I've never really talked about being a technical/scientific editor, and there may be a few interested in what that's like.

But it's Friday before a long weekend, and I'm full of donuts. I'm cheerful and kinda loopy. This calls for something more FUN, don't you think?

So I'm going to talk about airplane safety videos.

WAIT! Don't go away! I know, we've all seen safety videos or heard the spiel a zillion times. My 7 year old could probably recite it by heart. Passengers have long since stopped paying attention.

But this presents a serious problem for airlines. They need people to listen to those instructions--on the off-chance something does go horribly wrong on the flight, they actually are necessary.

So how do they get and keep your attention? How do they take an old, tired story and twist it?

Watch this. I'm serious--it's only a little over 3 minutes. Watch the whole thing.

Did you catch the twist? Yes, ALL OF THOSE CREW MEMBERS ARE NUDE. Seriously. The whole time--it's all clever camera angles and body paint.

How awesomely creative is that? It's not crass--there's nothing you can actually see there--but it's CLEVER. It's also done with humor and grace, and I for one paid attention the whole way. :)

Lesson from this? Be *that* creative with your own stories. Maybe you're telling about vampires or lonely teens or a detective on a murder case--scenarios that have been done so many times the very thought is cliche. But you still see a story there.

Find a new way to do it. Dig deep. Twist the heck out of it, until it's new and fresh and funny and YOURS. Make readers pay attention through it all, and end saying "Wow, that was original."

If they can do it with a safety video, you can too.

And if you liked the video? There are more here:

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Good news!

Today is a day of good writer-friend news that I can't help but share!

First, my great friend Victoria Schwab (who I got to hang out with *in person* a few weeks ago) just announced the sale of her book, THE NEAR WITCH, to Abby Ranger at Hyperion!

Watch her most awesome video announcement here. But come back--I'll wait.


Don't you have a smile on your face now? I THOUGHT SO.

Smile #2: Courtney Summers got her ARCs in the mail for Some Girls Are!! Better, she's giving one away!! Go and ENTER NOW. You want to read this book, I promise. (*I* want to read this book!)

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Tiara Day Contest WINNERS!

What's that? You're tired of waiting for the winners to be announced?

Really, if you're breaking into publishing I should do you a favor and make you wait a few more weeks. Just to get a taste. :)

But NO, I will not do that! I will announce the winners Right Now!!

All entries were judged independently by SIX judges, and the entries with the most votes won. We actually had a consensus right away with the two grand prizes, though the other ones were difficult to choose!

So, in reverse order:

Winners of BOOKS!! We loved these entries. They were original, well-written, and even funny.

  • Annika:
  • Bella Cullen was tired of being Edward’s princess. She took off her tiara and threw it on the floor, shocking her perfect, sparkly prince.
    Our judges loved the twist on TWILIGHT.

  • Kari Lynn Dell:
  • When the ambulance had gone, we caught the horse, straightened the saddle, dusted off the formerly pristine white hat and replaced the tiara, sparkly in the sun. “Perhaps,” I said, “someone should have reminded the rodeo princess to tighten her cinch.”
    This was an original take on the tiara/sparkly theme, and showed Kari's voice really clearly--in just 50 words.

  • Terri:
  • Tongues wagged as the newlyweds left the church.
    "Ain't she just pretty as a princess in that sparkly tiara."
    "Old fool's got forty years on her. Where's her family?"
    "Got none. She's an orphan."
    "Bet he's happy."
    They were right. The local taxidermist had finally found the perfect trophy wife.
    This one felt like a mini Twilight Zone--the implications gave us chills.
Winner of the 1-year subscription to Poets and Writers magazine, for Best Twist on the Theme:

  • Bill Cameron:
She gazes into the sparkly depths of gin and ice, fingers her sash. "Princess," it reads. Runner up . . . Loser.

"Screw that." She sips gin and smiles. On the floor at her feet, the red-splashed tiara protrudes from a long, elegant throat.

If the winning contestant cannot perform her duties . . .
I LOVED this little story. I want Bill to write this book now.

And the winner of the 50-page crit from Suzie Townsend, for Best Story:

  • Julie Butcher-Fedynich!
Thorns encircled the tower, huge pointy thorns. They dripped crimson poison and waited for the unwary climber. In the oval window, the princess in her sparkly tiara sighed and looked into the distance. She was so beautiful.
He looked at the thorns and again at the princess.

This one is so traditional...until the last word. Love that.

AND I would be remiss if I didn't announce a special sparkly Honorable Mention prize that was voted unanimously by all the judges:

Janet Reid!!

The princess phone jangled at Sparkle Sparkle and Wheeze headquarters.

"You called, you talk," answered Miss Tia Ra, of the royal Egyptian Ras.

"My sparkle isn't sparkly anymore," sobbed Miss Schwab. "My GRE is making me blah"

"Medicinal cupcakes!" TiaRa barked to her minion. "Spectacular redazzler on their way ASAP!"
Miss Shark, you win the undying love of all of Team Sparkle. Oh, wait, you already had that! And cookies. Lots of cookies.

Congratulations to all the winners--and to all of you who took the time to play. Thanks SO much. And keep your eye out for the next Tiara Day, even if we don't have a contest!

Winners, I'll send you an email shortly! Those who won books, first to respond gets first pick!