Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Best Seller Mad Lib

Everyone wants to be the next bestseller, right? Just like you, I've seen all the places that tell you there's no magic formula, that you have to learn the craft, have an original idea, etc.

Guess what? They're wrong.

There is a formula to wild success, and it's as easy as a Mad Lib. Observe:

Just fill in your own details and voila! a smashing success.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Word of the Week #94 - defenestrate

defenestrate - [dee-FEN-uh-strayt] - transitive verb

To throw out of a window.

Some days it takes all my self control not to defenestrate my computer.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Fidgeting to Frustration

I like to run. I know that phrase puts me in the "Are you insane?!" category for many people, but I could say the same for those who watch reality TV. (We all have our idiosyncrasies, right?) Not only do I like to run, but I also like to make running & writing analogies, or running & life analogies, or basically any running analogy I can get away with. And if you know anything about foreshadowing, then you know what's coming...

Yet another Running Analogy!

I don't usually like running on a treadmill, mostly because it makes me feel a bit like this.
But ever since the time change, my normal running time (i.e. freakishly early) is really dark and cold, so I'm embracing my inner hamster until the days get longer. And all of this is just to explain why I was on a treadmill the other day and had this experience.

I'd been going like a crazy hamster for a while and had about another mile or two to go when a lady got on the treadmill next to me. She took a while pushing the buttons to get things set up the way she liked it. No problem. Then she fiddled with her music player for a while. Still no problem, except it was taking her a really long time to actually get going on the treadmill.

She pressed start and the treadmill started going. She jogged for a couple minutes, then paused the treadmill to mess with her music again. She started it up again, jogged another minute or two, and then she jumped off the belt and did some arm stretches--while the treadmill was still going. After several stretches she hopped on to jog for another couple minutes. Then she hopped on the little platforms on the side--treadmill still going--to do some leg stretches. Back on to jog for a minute, then off, then on, then off, then on again, etc.

From the corner of my eye I watched the numbers count up on the treadmill display. According to it, the lady had been exercising for 10 minutes and gone a certain distance, when in actuality she'd only spent maybe a third of the time actually exercising. The rest of the time she was fidgeting (and making me motion sick).

After she finished, this lady very likely would feel good about her 30 minute run at the gym, but the truth is that she fidgeted her workout to death. And I'd bet my favorite treadmill in front of the fan, that she gets frustrated at her lack of progress.

Here's where I liken this to writing. Let's say you have an hour to write. If you're not careful, it's very easy to get sucked into writing-like activities. So in that 60 minutes, perhaps only 20 of it was spent writing, while the other 40 was checking email, or Twitter, or researching the perfect rock for that single sentence that really has no major plot importance but if you could have a picture then you could make the description be-awesome. And like the treadmill fidgeter, you probably will get frustrated at your lack of progress.

In the spirit of my treadmill epiphany, I've been doing whatever writing I can at my kitchen table, or making myself do it before I even turn on the internet at all. It's true I haven't found nearly as many cool blog posts or fun Youtube vidoes, but I'm getting a whole heckuva lot more writing done.

The great thing is that this can apply to all sorts of things in your life. Got to clean a bathroom? Make sure you don't keep stopping to do this, that, or the other. You might be surprised how often you Fidget to Frustration. But now you're aware and can start to change, right?

Anyone else out there a fidgeter?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Word of the Week #93 - mondegreen

mondegreen - [MON-di-green] - noun

A word or phrase resulting from a misinterpretation of a word or phrase that has been heard.

Mondegreens can be found in every area of the spoken word, from the record buyer who asks for a copy of the Queen single "Bohemian Rap City" to the schoolchild who is convinced that the Pledge of Allegiance begins "I led the pigeons to the flag."
-- Gavin Edwards, 'Scuse Me While I Kiss This Guy: And Other Misheard Lyrics

Monday, March 22, 2010

Not Your English Teacher's Theme

In writing you can't help but trip over the idea of theme.

Wait! *grabbing your finger before you click away* Don't let the word theme scare you. I know it brings on flashbacks of high school English where you read "classics" that made you want to pull your hair out (House of the Seven Gables, anyone? Bo-ring). And then you had to BS your way though a 5 page essay on the theme when what you really wanted to write was: "I don't believe there is a theme to this book, but based on the seven pages describing a single house, if I had to choose one it would be the coming-of-age of a long-winded architect."

So moving past that book that I didn't like, the question for today is, "Do I *have* to have a theme in my writing?"

The short answer: Probably.

And here's the long answer: I never really gave too much thought to a theme in my stories. The very idea made me think of pompous people sitting at a coffee shop drinking overpriced lattes as they dissect books.

But then came this monster revising workshop I'm in the middle of. And Holly Lisle changed my whole attitude. To quote her: "Your theme is the central idea of the story that you’re demonstrating by writing your story. It is the philosophical and emotional foundation of your book. It’s why you’re writing the thing."

You mean I need to have more reason than I had a shiny concept idea and want to entertain others while living in my own fantasy world?

If you want something that moves people more than a billboard, then probably.

As I sat and really thought about it, I discovered that I had woven issues I from my own life through my characters and the conflict and challenges they faced. I found out what made my story personal, and in so doing, I found out why it mattered to me.

So forget pulling a story apart to find out what it has to say about world peace. In it's most bare bones, basic essence, theme is why it matters. And once you figure that out, you can tap into something powerful to engage and compel readers.

BUT, **warning** you don't want to beat your reader over the head with your theme. No one else may ever guess what your theme is, but if you've done a good job, they'll pull their own themes out of your stories.

If you want to delve more deeply into this idea, you might want to visit this blog post on The Power of Allegories.

Complete Aside: Now I'm tempted to read House of Seven Gables again, just to see if it really is as bad as I remember.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Weird Wednesday

I think every once in a while it would be fun to post a Weird Wednesday. This is when I get to list (Yea! Lists!) things that make you go, "Hmmm."

  • The dot over the letter "i" is called a tittle.
  • Harry Potter Puppet Pals is one of my kids' all-time favorite Youtube videos. Warning: the song has a tendency to stick in your head all day.
  • A rat can last longer without water than a camel.
  • Yes, you really should try yoga with your cat. can show you how.
  • The phrase "rule of thumb" is derived from an old English law which stated that you couldn't beat your wife with anything wider than your thumb. **Apparently, this is a myth, but it's still fun.**
  • Someone actually took up Jerry Seinfeld on this statement, "Maybe they should have a toilet paper museum. Would you like that? So we can see all the toilet paper advancements down through the ages. Toilet paper in the Crusades. The development of the perforation. The first six-pack." Voila! The Virtual Toilet Paper Museum.
  • The housefly hums in the middle octave, key of F.
  • Ever wanted to build your own Aluminum Foil Deflector Beanie? (And who hasn't?) This site gives instructions, information, and--don't miss it-- testimonials. (I almost fell off my chair at the foil undergarment.)
  • If you toss a penny 10000 times, it will not be heads 5000 times, but more like 4950. The heads picture weighs more, so it ends up on the bottom.
  • Oh, the endless fun you're missing out by throwing away your Dryer Lint.
  • Dueling is legal in Paraguay as long as both parties are registered blood donors.
  • If a statue in the park of a person on a horse has both front legs in the air, the person died in battle; if the horse has one front leg in the air, the person died as a result of wounds received in battle; if the horse has all four legs on the ground, the person died of natural causes. **Yep, this is a myth, too. But I'm leaving it because I'd like to think that all horse statue makers belong to a secret association that determines things like this.**
  • Goethe couldn't stand the sound of barking dogs and could only write if he had an apple rotting in the drawer of his desk.
  • 'Stewardesses' is the longest word that is typed with only the left hand. (You're trying it now, aren't you?)

I hope that leaves you enlightened (or at least entertained). Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Word of the Week #92 - fractious

fractious - [FRAK-shuhs] - adjective

1. Tending to cause trouble; unruly.
2. Irritable; snappish; cranky.

Here's hoping we have a less fractious day than yesterday, when almost everyone I came in contact with had gotten up on the wrong side of the bed--and an hour earlier.

Monday, March 15, 2010

What Type of Morning Person Are You?

I love mornings, but I have to admit it was a little harder than normal to get up this morning. A little secret: I've been accused of being one of those annoying morning people. *hands on hips in indignation* Today I discovered just how good my 3 kids are getting at giving dirty looks. Apparently they didn't appreciate getting woken up an hour earlier than normal by me singing this.

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

Now I'm curious. What type of morning person are you?

Announcing... A Poll.
What type of morning person are you?
You leap out of bed and sing songs like "Good Morning to You," "Have a Very Happy Morning" and "Reveille."
Mornings are good.
You go through 5 alarm clocks a year because you wear out the Snooze button.
Yeah, I think I've heard of mornings...
Don't even use the "M" word.
If you want to keep your limbs intact, don't bug me before 9:00.
Ever heard of the Rancor from Star Wars ( That's nothing compared to me when I get woken up early.
= see results =

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Good Quotey Quotes

He attacked everything in life with a mix of extraordinary genius and naive incompetence, and it was often difficult to tell which was which. -- Douglas Adams

Some authors should be paid by the quantity NOT written. -- Anonymous

To write well, express yourself like common people, but think like a wise man. Or, think as wise men do, but speak as the common people do. -- Aristotle

Why do writers write? Because it isn't there. -- Thomas Berger

If the doctor told me I had six minutes to live, I'd type a little faster. -- Isaac Asimov

A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit. -- Richard Bach

You know how it is in the kid's book world; it's just bunny eat bunny. -- Anonymous

Start in the morning, through to the evening
Dance like you’re the only one around
Move like you want it
Grove like you need it,
Dancing it up till the sun goes down
David Jordan, "Sun Goes Down" lyrics (Love this song! Random fact: I played percussion in jr. high & high school, so I love this on more than one level. Go on, give the song one minute and see if you're not tapping your toes.)

I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be. -- Douglas Adams

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

No Deep Thoughts; Just a Mermaid

This would be where you would usually see an insightful, thought provoking, and entertaining post. And that's honestly what I planned before I just now realized that my kids get home in 30 minutes and I still have a ton of stuff to do before Homeworkapocalypse begins.

So, apologies. Today you get me as a mermaid:

Which is pretty darn cool, so I don't want to hear any bellyaching! (Just getting into Grumpy Mom mode.)

Thanks to Elizabeth Mueller for taking the time to draw this for me. My hair *does* look awesome, if I do say so. Or maybe it's the crown...

*I promise to get on the ball tomorrow. Yes, tomorrow!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Schizophrenic Tuesday

I've been trying to think of a great blog post for today. Ummm... How about at least a coherent post?

I'm coming up with nothing. Nada. So this post is going to be purely Bits of Random, and we'll see where it goes.

Welcome to my Schizophrenic Tuesday.

(I'm thinking this is a fabulous T-Shirt for today.
I just might have to get one. I found it at OriginalsRBest. com.)

And the voices say:
  • I love lists. I have lists upon lists, although last week may have been a record. I needed 3 pages of lists to keep my brain organized. Ai yi yi... (Or however you spell that.)
  • If you're ever in need of a Super Villain Lair, I found this little gem yesterday. And yes, I do need a lair for one of my Works in Progress, so it was helpful as well as amusing. Now I'm trying to figure out how I can fit all those elements in.
  • Bullet lists are cool. Me likey.
  • When in doubt during revisions, throw in a ferret.
  • Spy gadgets are freakin awesome. I now want a gun that shoots a little GPS tracer that will stick on an object. I wonder if it would work on my kids, so I don't have to hunt the neighborhood for them.
  • Sleep is good. I love sleep.
  • It's challenging to find a good, traditional Italian name for a villain because a lot of Italian names have religious ties, and I don't want my villain named after a saint.
  • I will not be going to a show of my favorite stand up comedian, Brian Regan, because the tickets for his shows near me are now selling for $200 a ticket! I kid you not. So I'll just embed a quick YouTube snippet of him, so you all can mourn with me that I have to miss him.

I wish you all a more coherent day. The voices are telling me it's time for lunch...

Monday, March 8, 2010

Word of the Week #91 - eructation

(I know I usually post these on Tuesday, but I really couldn't resist this one. It is so perfect for my house. Yes, I have boys.)

eructation - [ih-ruhk-TAY-shuhn] - noun

The act of belching; a belch.

It is a cruel trick of fate that I cannot perform an eructation on demand, despite all the boys that surround me on a regular basis.

*Doesn't that sound a little more classy than belch?