Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Warning: Hilarity Ahead

Confession: The Science Fair is in 2 days, so it is taking up a lot of my spare time. So yes, that's why you're getting a video. But it's a good one, esp. for writer-types who love a good story. I suggest you not drink anything while watching, unless you want to shoot it out your nose.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Word of the Week #121 - scurf

I just realized that this Word of the Week never got posted. So we're back-posting to make sure we have a Word of the Week #121.

- [SKURF] - noun

1. The scales or small shreds of epidermis that are continually exfoliated from the skin.
2. Any scaly matter or incrustation on a surface.

A desperate vacuum cleaner salesman tried to scare me into buying his freakishly expensive product with tales of the horrible amount of scurf mounding up in our mattresses. I told him that I grew up in a farming community, and there were a whole lot worse things to be sleeping on. Trust me.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Favorite Reads of 2010

In the interest of full disclosure I have to admit I am shamelessly copying this post idea from Jolene Perry. I'm not going to give you plot summaries or long reviews. You can find those all over the internet. I'm just sharing some my favorite reads from 2010. (Not all, or else it would be the never-ending blog post.)

Matched, by Ally Condie

This book has romance (without Harlequin-style gushing), drama, and characters that worm their way into your heart. In a YA book world where characters are often in your face and their dilemmas are larger than life, Matched is much more subtle, but perhaps more effective for that subtlety. And Ally Condie does a *fantastic* job of worldbuilding through a character's mind and eyes.

The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown, by Robin McKinley

After embarrassing myself by gushing on Twitter that I was now following Robin McKinley and how much I loved The Blue Sword trilogy only to have her reply that there were only two books, not three (yeah, I make a great first impression *facepalm*), I decided to reread these favorites from too-many-years-than-I'll-admit-ago. I still loved them, although I do like The Blue Sword better. It's good to revisit old favorites from time to time.

The Lost Hero
by Rick Riordan

This was a definite favorite of 2010. It builds on the Percy Jackson series, but better, with constant doses of mythology and the "coolness factor." This is a book for those who love a plot that keeps moving. My boys each read it in a day or two.

Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher

With nary a supernatural creature or magic battle, this book still haunts me. I read it based on the recommendation from the author's agent. She gushed about this book and I had to see for myself why. And now I'm gushing. The concept: two weeks after a girl commits suicide, the boy who had a crush on her receives a box of tapes from her in the mail. In the tapes she reveals the 13 people who drove her to kill herself and why. And the fact that the main character got the tapes means that he's one of the 13. Great concept, right? It didn't hurt that the book was also masterfully written.

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson

Another excellent YA SciFi, I would recommend this book to anyone. It's through books like this one that I am learning how to really tell a story through a character, not inserting a character into a story I want to tell.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

One of these books is not like the other,
One of these books just isn't the same...

Forgive the flashback to Sesame Street, but this book isn't like the rest on my list because: 1) it isn't YA/MG, and 2) it's women's fiction, which is not my normal reading fare. However, my sister-in-law handed me a copy and insisted I had to read it. So I did. And I really enjoyed it.

Blackbringer by Laini Taylor

I'd seen this book at the library and around the web, but hesitated to pick it up because of the bird on the cover. (Stupid and shallow, I know, but I didn't want to read about talking birds.) Then I picked it up for my oldest son, who reads like he breathes oxygen, and he inhaled it in one day and begged me to get the next in the series. I was curious, so I started reading it and was totally hooked. This book does a great job of introducing language that transports you to a different world. I'm not talking Tolkein with a whole new language, but the way the characters talk and the slang they use is perfect for the setting, and was different than anything I'd read before.

The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams

This book is heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. It's also haunting. The inside look into a polygamous cult is tastefully done without whitewashing some of the horrible things that tend to happen in these cults.

Soulless by Gail Carriger

I think this cover takes the cake for the most uncomfortable character pose. (I mean, can a woman actually stand with her back like that? ) I read this book because somewhere I saw that the author talked about how she got the idea for the series. She said it was almost crazy that a tiny little island country (Great Britain) could become a superpower, and what if the reason it happened was because GB was using supernatural beings to help them stay in power. And voila, this concept was born. It is very, very fun.

I'm going to stop now because I could keep going. What were some of your favorite books of last year? I might as well add more to my leaning tower of Piza to-be-read stack.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Word of the Week #122 - autoschediastical

I picked this word just because it drips awesome. I dare you to use this in conversation today. Do it!

- [aw-toh-SKEE-dee-az-tik-uhl] - adjective

Something improvised or extemporized.

I can't listen to "Bring It On" by Seal without being transported back to my college Modern Dance final, when I ran out of time to prepare and had to dance an autoschediastical final to that song, and just about died from stage fright while doing it.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Capturing the Magic: 2 Questions You Must Answer About Your WIP

As some of you may know (since you commit all Jaime trivia to your long-term memory, right?) I took a kick-butt, 5 month writing course which has taken me over a year to complete. It's Holly Lisle's "How to Revise Your Novel" and it has been eye-opening in about a hundred ways.

In the course you take a completed book (like my 2009 NaNo train wreck) and go through a grueling, step-by-step revision process where you spend the first 8 lessons (in theory, one lesson a week) dissecting your book so you know exactly what doesn't work and why. This was excruciatingly difficult, because by the end you are ready to burn the thing because it obviously is complete trash. BUT, it is one of the best things I've ever done with my writing. And it's also not the subject of today's post. (Soon, my young padowans, soon.)

The very first thing this course had you do, before you rip your own work to shreds, is to answer some questions. The two I want to focus on are:

1) What was the idea that made you want to write your story in the first place?
What was that magical, shiny idea that struck you while you were driving/eating/showering/chasing kids/watching TV/etc. that made you stop and go, "Oooo! I want to write that!"

My answer: The idea of a boy in a family of villains who wasn't any good at being bad. A villain coming-of-age story.

2) What was the story you originally wanted to tell?
Not your plot outline, but what made you start and keep going on this particular story? How did you envision it before you hit the sagging middle and got sidetracked by that one walk on character that hijacked your story?

My answer: I wanted it to be funny, but have some resonating truth in it because all kids (and even adults) struggle to live up to expectations. I was going for a "Shrek," spoof-y feel with characters you really like. I wanted to take classic villains kids could identify and twist them in entertaining ways.

My answers may not seem that earth-shattering to you, but by writing this down, I was able to recapture the magic that made me start writing this book. Now as I get close to finishing an almost total rewrite, it is exciting to know exactly what I wanted and see how I'm finally getting it. (And yes, I'm a little misty-eyed even right now thinking about it.)

I will now do this at the beginning of every book, so that I make sure I stay faithful to the magic that first motivated me.

Something magical made you start working on a particular story--a nebulous combination of character, concept, and emotion that ached for the words to live and breathe and share with others. Remember it. Find it again. Write it down so you don't lose it.

Then go make it happen.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Random Things About Me You Probably Don't Want to Know but I'll Post Anyway

I just cleaned up my Christmas decorations TODAY. Huzzah!

After playing the Ghost of Christmas Past in "A Christmas Carol" my son started saying "huzzah" all the time, and it's contagious.

I can't stand sitting/laying on bumpy surfaces, like an unmade bed or a bunched up blanket on the couch. My husband laughs at me when I get out of bed so I can remake it to get back in.

My family calls me "Coldilocks." Isn't 80 degrees everyone's comfort zone?

I handle lack of sleep as well as a toddler. I don't need my beauty sleep, I need my not-snap-everyone's-head-off sleep.

I don't like ice in my water. Room temperature, baby!

I close one eye when I put on blush. I don't know why.

I also put one hand on my hip when I brush my teeth. I don't even realize I'm doing it.

Kidlet #2 once told me he falls asleep best to the clicking sound of the computer keyboard. I didn't know my writing habit would become his lullaby.

I am a human static electricity conductor. I shock at least one of my children every day when I kiss them goodnight.

I hate the smell of crispy scrambled eggs. You know, when they start to go brown in the pan? *gag*

I think green peppers taste like laundry detergent. (Don't tell me you've never accidentally inhaled the little powdery particles while doing laundry!)

I like to play in the dirt. Since I'm a grown up now, it's called "gardening."

I am solar powered. Cloudy days make me sluggish.

I love to sing along with songs in the car.

I haven't been able to get the song "Grenade" by Bruno Mars out of my head for over a week.

I love, love thigh-high boots. (But I don't actually own a pair.)

That's probably enough randomness about me. I dare you to share a random tidbit about yourself in the comments. (You own thigh-high boots, don't you?)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

#1 Writing Epiphany from 2010

I learned a lot in 2010, about life and about my writing. The number one thing I learned in my writing was this:

Anything is worth sacrificing to get the story you want.

Any character, any subplot, any chapter, any paragraph, any sentence, any word is worth tossing--if doing so will get your story where you want it.

But it can be so hard, can't it?

How about you? What is your #1 Writing Ephiphany from 2010?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New Year's Resolutions for Everyone Else

Happy 2011! It's only taken me 3 days to finish catching up on 2010, but I think I'm finally ready to face the next year.

Right now many people reflect on their life and resolve to make some changes/improvements, i.e. they make New Year's Resolutions. In fact, I'm sure there are a gabizillion blog posts from everyone and their hamster sharing those resolutions. That's all well and good, and if you're one of those gabizillion blog posts, then I send you my best wishes on finding success in those resolutions. But I'm not going to do that today.

I've decided that I'm going to make New Year's Resolutions for everyone else. Aside: This is not because I think I'm perfect and don't need any improvements. *laughing hysterically at the thought*

So, without further ado...

New Year's Resolutions for Everyone Else

1. For society in general: Resurrect the idea of an "accident."

Sometimes things just happen. Sometimes you slip on a patch of ice and fall, not because someone was criminally negligent and didn't scrape every iota of ice off their sidewalk, but because... get ready... ice is slick. *gasp* It's called life, people! Can we please, for all that's good in this green earth, get a grip and realize sometimes stuff just happens and quit blaming everyone for everything?

2. For Kia: Ditch the creepy hamster commercials.

*shudder* They don't even make sense. For example, last I checked, you can't drive a toaster. (See below) Unless maybe there's a new iToaster in the works? Apple could probably make one that would drive.

These commercials don't want me want to buy your car, they make me have hamster nightmares, which I'm guessing isn't the connection you're looking for with consumers.

3. For those who think because a person is a celebrity their opinion counts more than anyone else: Get a clue.

Just because a person can act (or can't act but pretends to *cough* Robert Pattinson*cough*) doesn't mean their opinions (on politics, economics, etc.) count more than anyone else's. Now if the celebrity has something more than an expensive haircut to back up the opinion, like common sense, then give it the weight it deserves.

4. For Apple: In 2011 make your own stimulus package and give out iPads to struggling writers.

Me! Me! Me!

5. For people who take up the treadmills at the gym to walk and shoot the breeze with each other: Get off the treadmill and use the track 50 feet away.

You can walk and talk on the track. I can't run hills on the track and outside is ice-covered and treacherous. (Guess what happened at the gym this morning?)

6. For the teenager contemplating jumping his bike off the 8 foot rock wall onto the terrace in my backyard and down the 5 foot ramp surrounded by more rock wall: Don't do it. I'm telling you.

7. For movie makers: Just phase out the 3D.

8. For beverage drinkers: Get off the Diet Coke.

Run away! Diet Coke is evil. It's the cocaine of soft drinks.

9. For politicians: Less talking and more listening across the board.

10. For everyone: Chill out, quit taking offense at everything, and smile more.

How about you? What resolutions would you like to make for other people?