Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year (and Upcoming Almost-Kiss Blogfest Reminder)

Happy New Year Everyone!

What did you accomplish in 2009 that you're most proud of? What do you hope to accomplish in 2010?

Here are my answers to those questions:

2009 Accomplishments

*I finished the first semester of my MFA program.
*I completed the first draft of the first novel in a 3-novel series.
*I "won" NaNoWriMo.
*I finished the first draft of Act I of my screenplay.
*Joined an awesome crit group!

(You notice all of these pride-inducing accomplishments are writing related?)

2010 Goals

*Finish second and third semesters of MFA program.
*Finish second novel in 3-novel series.
*Complete first round of revisions of novel one.
*Finish a complete first draft of screenplay.
*Collaborate with Hubby to complete a first draft of stage play/musical.

(Again...all the goals are writing-related.)

One more thing: Don't forget the Almost-Kiss Blogfest on January 2, hosted by Frankie Writes. Writers who are participating will be posting an "almost kiss" scene from a WIP to their blogs. Come back on January 2nd to see mine, then go to Frankie Writes and do the tour of all the other writers' blogs and read their almost kisses!

And I hope everyone has a safe and happy New Year's Eve!!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Northern Plains Christmas Blizzard 2009

Well, here we are in North Dakota experiencing a blizzard. That's nothing really newsworthy since we have at least one per winter. Before we moved to ND five years ago I'd never experienced a blizzard. Having grown up in the Northwest winter always consisted of lots and lots and lots of gray and gloomy rain.

The first ND blizzard was exciting. It was a good excuse to drink hot chocolate and sit by the heater as the wind and snow howled outside. It was cozy and dangerous at the same time.

This particular blizzard roared in late Christmas Eve and has been snowing for two days straight. We got about as much snow in 2 days as we did all winter last year.

Now, ordinarily I would still consider a Christmas blizzard to be a fun experience but I'm supposed to fly to Connecticut for my MFA residency on the 28th at 4:00 a.m. That's only a day and a half away and today the airport was closed completely. I'm suspicious about whether or not I'll be flying anywhere on Monday morning.

Here are some pix from today. When we went to bed last night we could open the front door. When we got up this morning there were about 8 inches of snow holding the door closed. We had to shove it partially open and then Hubby shoveled his way out the rest of the way.

This is the truck after the kids pulled the snow off the window.
This is the front yard. You can't really tell, but there's a good 2.5 feet out there.
This is the garage door all snowed in.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Enjoying the Afterglow of Kissing Blogfest

Yesterday was the Kissing Day Blogfest, hosted by Sherrinda at A Writer Wannabe. Over 90 writers posted kissing scenes on their blogs and it was a wonderfully swoon-worthy day hopping from blog to blog and reading the amazing variety of kissing scenes that all these writers have crafted.

One of the bloggers who participated, Frankie at Frankie Writes enjoyed the day so much that she's come up with another awesome blogfest for writers. It's the No-Kissing Day Blogfest wherein writers are invited to post to their blogs their best almost-kiss - the longing and tension of the oh-so-close-but-not-quite kiss. If you're a writer, jump on over to her blog and sign yourself up! It will be held on January 2, 2010.

Of course I've already added my name to the list and I'm totally looking forward to it. I'll be in Connecticut on Jan 2nd participating in my MFA residency, but I'll still find something and post it, and spend the evening eagerly reading everyone else's post for the day.

I still haven't read all the blogs from yesterday, so I'm off to do that now. More kissing fun on the blogosphere!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Kissing Day Blogfest

So a writer friend of mine started this fun little exercise on her blog, A Writer Wannabe, wherein in honor of the Christmas tradition of kissing under the mistletoe she invited writers to post to their blog a kissing scene from a current WIP. Of course I wanted to participate!

You can read my kissing scene here, but if you go to her site you'll find links to dozens of other writing bloggers who have posted their kissing scenes as well. I think today will prove to be a lovely day full of sweetness and passion, and I can't wait to read everyone else's scenes!

So without further ado, here is my scene. To set it up, it is actually a first kiss scene between the hero and heroine in the first novel of a 3-novel series which remains untitled. The genre is paranormal romance. I know, not much of a setup, but there you go.

Shadow moved quietly around the couch to sit on the edge of the coffee table where he watched Holly sleep. Her breathing was even and peaceful. Her eyes moved back and forth beneath her lids, the long black lashes brushing her cheeks. He liked that she didn’t wear makeup, and he liked the novelty that she was completely clear of any body art. She was pristine, and it made him want to explore every inch of her clear, naked skin. He imagined it was as smooth as it was pure.

He could feel his own skin on fire as he watched her. The urge to touch her was overwhelming. She stirred in her sleep, her lips parted and he thought he heard her murmur his name. He was drawn to her mouth, amazed by what he thought he’d heard. Just one kiss won’t hurt, he thought, and leaned in brushing his lips lightly over hers. He shivered and groaned, torn, then kissed her again, barely tracing her lips with his tongue. He had expected her to taste spicy like her personality, but she tasted sweet instead, and it made him dizzy.

His heart pounded and his mouth was dry, and he knew he should walk away. Kissing her, especially while she was sleeping, was only going to complicate things. He’d feel guilty for taking advantage of her and he’d never be able to look her in the eye. But he just couldn’t stop himself. He gently kissed the corners of her mouth, then took her lips with his in a full kiss. And this time, she kissed him back.

Well, hope you enjoyed it! Now go check out Sherrinda's blog and all the other links to kissing scenes. It should prove to be a very fun day!

Monday, December 14, 2009

One Down, Three to Go

I finished my first semester of MFA study! Yay me!

A huge weight is off my shoulders both because this semester is finished and I have a holiday break now, but also because I'm one quarter of the way through my MFA degree.

Not knowing what to expect going into the program I was overwhelmed and slightly intimidated, but even though it was tons of work...buried under a mountain of reading and writing reader responses for each and every novel and screenplay...I feel appropriately educated, like my academic collection meter has gone up a satisfying notch.

So what did I accomplish over the semester? I decided that my thesis will be a screenplay and I wrote both a detailed outline and a first draft of the first act. I'm happy with the story even though my mentor has a slightly different vision for it. We'll probably have an uncomfortable, maybe awkward, discussion about that at the upcoming residency.

I read (mostly) 19 books and something like 15 screenplays (while also watching the movies), and wrote responses for each of them, plus critiqued written submissions from all the other students.

In addition during the month of November I participated in NaNoWriMo and wrote 50000 words in 30 days on the second novel in a 3-novel romance series I'm working on.

Now that the semester is over, I don't know what to do with myself. Other than finishing the NaNoWriMo novel it feels weird not to be facing ridiculous academic deadlines.

Our next residency starts Dec 28, so I'm sure after that I'll go right back to the overwhelming pressure. I'll be working on my screenplay, finishing a complete draft, but I'll also work on the professional writing aspect of the degree where I've chosen to focus on grant writing. I think that'll be pretty interesting.

And when I'm finished with the second semester I'll be half done with the degree!

In the meantime I'm going to try to enjoy the holiday. Tomorrow is Christmas shopping. Not so much fun, but if we can get it done in one day I'll be happy. It's going to be budget holiday at our house since the checkbook is seriously anorexic this year. But we always find ways to have fun no matter what, so it should be a great holiday anyway.

Hope you're all looking forward to a moderately relaxing holiday!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Renaissance Feast 2009

I belong to a local chamber chorale and our Christmas concert every year is a Renaissance Feast which is hosted at a local hotel. Guests are treated to a meal in a Renaissance-decorated hall as well as a 3-hour program which includes skits, music, and dancing. Of course all of us in the chorale are in period-appropriate costumes, and our stage is set up to resemble a manor hall where we feast along with our guests.

This is my second year as a member of the chorale and I just love the Renaissance concert. The music is festive, the audience is always so receptive, and it's a chance for all of us in the chorale to mix and mingle and have fun together.

Our performances were December 3rd, 4th, and 5th and because we changed the script this year, it was a new experience for all of us, and I think much more successful than last year. But now it's time to put the costume away (and since I'm not in the last bit photogenic I'm not going to post a picture of myself in costume) .

Christmastide feasting and concert is over for one more year, we must await next year to enjoy the revelry yet again.

Wassail! Drink hail!

Monday, November 30, 2009

NaNoWriMo Winner

So, for some reason I thought it would be an awesome idea to participate in NaNoWriMo despite the fact that my plate was already full to overflowing with a full MFA course load, a full time job, and a family who likes attention now and then. But hey, what the heck, who needs sanity anyway? So I plunged into the NaNoWriMo experience. Thankfully I had a strong concept of my story. I had plotted it out in broad terms and knew where I wanted it to go. Of course, along the way it veered away from where I thought it should go a couple of times, but I managed to rein it in and get back on course. And today, on the very last possible day, I crossed the NaNoWriMo 50000 word finish line and "won" - Yay me!

Of course the novel isn't finished yet, but now I can slow down to slightly less than breakneck pace, perhaps 1000 words per day?, and finish it with a little more leisure.

I definitely recommend the NaNoWriMo experience to any and all writers. It's complete and utter insanity, but it's also incredibly invigorating and inspiring as a writer. For 30 days you commune and commiserate with a community of writers who all have a common purpose: to write 50000 words in a month. It's heady stuff; frustrating and fun. I fully intend to do it again next year. If nothing else, it will boost your confidence that you can get that many words on the page - it forces you to write instead of stare at the blankness.

So there you go. I won. Hooray! Has anyone else done NaNo? What was your experience?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Word about POV

Trying to decide what point of view to use when writing can be tricky. Your choice can depend on a lot of different factors, and even then you can get partway through a manuscript and realize you made the wrong choice. I made that mistake myself when I started my first novel. I began with first person and then realized I needed to get into the other characters' heads too, so had to go back and rewrite 25000 words from a third person POV. It was an interesting challenge.

Now I'm working on my second novel, the second in a series of three, and I'm very happy with the third person POV. It works well in this case.

I bring up the whole issue of POV because I just read a novel written in first person plural POV, The Virgin Suicides, by Jeffrey Eugenides. I've got to applaud him for taking the risk, especially since it was his debut novel, and obviously it paid off for him because the novel is well respected and it was made into a movie. However, for me, I'm not so sure it was effective. In fact, because of the anonymity of the narrators (a nebulously vague group of neighborhood boys) and the distance the POV puts between the reader and the suicide victims, I found that the POV specifically made me less engaged in the story. Because I couldn't identify with only one narrator or any of the suicide victims, there was nothing to identify with and as I writer I would think it your first concern would be to engage your reader and keep them engaged.

My guess is that the novel did so well because of two factors (and if you plan to read it but haven't, you might want to stop here): first the uniqueness of the POV, but secondly the morbid curiosity factor with regard to the suicides. Eugenides draws the reader in with one suicide immediately, appealing to the lookie-loo in all of us and then promises more gruesomeness but doesn't deliver until the very end of the book when the rest of the girls kill themselves all at once, in kind of an anticlimax. Everything in between is musings, meanderings, felt like filler to me - philosophical and moderately interesting - but still filler.

So I'm basically on the fence about this novel. As a writer it was an interesting lesson in POV, but as a reader it really wasn't all that satisfying. I think I'll stick to writing in either first or third person (singular!) POV.

What kinds of experiences and/or preferences do you have when it comes to POV?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Progress and New Focus

Well, I'm halfway through National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and I'm keeping up with the word count and I think the plot is still holding together, so that's a really good thing. I read posts on Twitter #nanowrimo about people who's plots are falling apart and they're just writing random scenes to make word count. I really want to complete a coherent story, and so far I haven't had too many hand-wringing moments when I wasn't sure where the story was headed.

I also managed to start writing the first draft of my screenplay (which is my MFA thesis). I'm about halfway through the first act. So far it seems to be pretty solid, considering I'm learning format as I go. We'll see how the first draft turns out.

I also presented my paper at the Women's Studies conference and it went quite well. I was very pleased.

I obviously need to find a focus for this blog. Just updating the writing projects I'm working on is not very interesting, nor is it purposeful. I think I'll spend some time considering what I want the goal of this blog to be and then revamp it some.

Anyone have any suggestions? What you'd like to see? What has worked on other blogs? Something you haven't seen in the blog world but would like to?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Hacking Through the Undergrowth

Yesterday when I posted I was lamenting about being lost in my NaNoWriMo plot already, but I'm happy to report that today I believe the direction has become clear(er) least for the next couple of chapters anyway. It's amazing how immersing yourself in a story and being forced to write daily can cause the imagination to churn into high gear and solve those sticky plot problems.

I'm loving it!

Hopefully I can get today's writing goal out of the way before I step on the train to head to the conference.

Talk to y'all later!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Making Progress

So...I'm participating in NaNoWriMo this month and so far not doing too badly. I'm a couple hundred words behind where I should be, but I'm confident I can catch that up. It's good to get back to these characters. I've missed them over the last month. However, the problem lies in the fact that I'm four days in and already hit a roadblock. The path of this story seems to be overgrown and hazy and although I have an overall global view of the course it will take, I don't have a specific road map so I'm working at hacking through the brush and finding my way through the fog. But that's half the fun of NaNoWriMo...or so I'm told. For any of the rest of you who are participating and want to buddy up, my nickname is: mkdbail.

I'm also working on my presentation for the women's studies conference I'm going to attend this weekend. For anyone who's interested, it's entitled: "Images of Women in East of Eden: Cathy as Masculine or Monster?" I realized my speech runs over the time limit so I need to cut it some and then practice it so I won't look like a moron or have to read it word for word off the page. We'll see how this whole episode goes. I'm starting to get nervous.

And just a trivial note: I'm over halfway through my first MFA semester and it appears I'll survive it, barring any drastic unforeseens. Then it's only 3 more semesters to go...Yay!

Hope everyone had a good Halloween, hope autumn is treating you well, and that winter's vengeance hasn't hit you yet. (Here in ND we've had one snowstorm in October which left us about an inch of snow that melted the next day. Since then just cool and clear. Everyone's on pins and needles waiting for the next shoe - or snowstorm - to drop).

Friday, October 23, 2009


I've been shamefully absent (still) from the blog scene and at the rate I'm going I'll be lucky to blog once a week. This poor blog has degenerated to a journal-style update of what's going on in my life, mostly because all of my deep thought-provoking thoughts are going into my school work. After I drain my mind there, I just don't have anything left for here!'s what's going on in my writing life:

I finished the story summary for my screenplay and turned it in to my mentor. He thinks it's good material. He made suggestions, some of which I agree with, and otherwise turned me loose to write the outline. Whew. I was worried the story sucked, so it's good to have some affirmation! Now, on to the work of outlining....

The rest of my MFA classes consist of drowning in reading I can't possibly keep up with and trying to write meaningful, or at least coherent, responses to said reading. I'm not having a lot of luck with the reading or the coherent responses right now. I kind of feel like a college freshman asking, "okay, now why exactly do I have to read this again?"

I've got the first draft of my romance novel out to a couple of people to read and hopefully get some useful suggestions for revisions. I'd like to get those underway. I don't want the poor book to fall by the wayside. My evil plan is to get it (and the 2 subsequent sequels) published in order to pay for my student loans. *crosses fingers*

I'm also gearing up for NaNoWriMo in November. Because I don't have enough stuff crammed into my life, I thought it would be awesome to ratchet up the pressure on myself and try to write 50,000 words in a month. That's in addition to working full time and going to school full time. On the one hand, I could get the second romance novel in my trilogy written in a month. On the other hand in some circles they would call that masochistic. Glutton for punishment in others. We'll see if I survive November.

And, on top of it all, I'm presenting a paper at the Women's Studies conference at University of North Dakota in November.

I must be crazy.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Blog Award

So I received the "Kreativ Blogger" award from Fran at Fran Caldwell's Notebook, a site I enjoy very much. I love keeping up with other writers and sharing the ups and downs of the writing life! So, thank you Fran.

The requirements of receiving this aware include unburdening myself of 7 things that you would most likely not know about me. Believe me, for the most part I'm just not that interesting, but here are those 7 things:

1. When asked if you could go back in time and change anything about your life, many people are self-deprecating and say no, they wouldn't. I would.
2. I want to write romance novels, fiction, screenplays, and stage plays.
3. According to my mother, I'm a late bloomer. Whatever that means.
4. I'm not religious, but I am spiritual.
5. My primary ethnicities are: Swedish, Hungarian, English, Scottish.
6. I don't like dogs. I'm a cat person.
7. I wish I had more money (I'm sick of being broke) because I think money can, if not buy happiness, at least relieve a lot of stress so that you can allow happiness to flourish.

So there you go. Seven things about my you probably didn't already know, or for that matter even want to know, but now do. I'm now supposed to pass this award on to 7 more people, but because I love all the blogs I follow equally, I can't pick just 7. If you read this and feel so moved, please copy it to your site and inform all your readers of 7 things they don't know about you!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

24-Hr Play Redemption

So, last night kicked off this year's 24-hr play festival wherein five short plays are written, produced, and performed within, well, 24 hours.

We showed up at 7:30 p.m., introduced ourselves and contributed our costume piece and props which were to act as inspiration for those of us writing (but often aren't very useful). After introductions, actors and directors go home and sleep while writers draw actor's names from a hat to use as our cast, then we have until 6:00 a.m. to write a coherent short play - not an easy task when you're sleep deprived in the wee hours of the night/morning.

The five writers (me included) wrote until about 1:30 a.m. at which point, surprisingly, we all had a first draft ready so we decided to do a preliminary read-through. We already had a read-through scheduled for 3:00 a.m. with the show's producer, but since we had drafts we decided to do one early. I'm glad we did because it allowed me to do some edits. It's amazing how something sounds just awesome in your head and you snicker as you type it, but when it's read out loud it falls completely flat.

I edited and then decided I couldn't function anymore because of the fatigue. Plus I was facing a half hour drive home on dark country highways and I didn't want to fall asleep at the wheel. So I skipped the second read through. I finally got home about 4:00 a.m. then, even though I was exhausted, I didn't sleep well because I was hopped up on adrenalin and sleep deprivation.

So, I woke up at 9:00 a.m., showered, and drove an hour to watch two of my kids run a cross country meet in the most miserably icy, drizzly conditions you could possibly imagine. The good news is both of them cut significant time off their previous bests.

This evening we went back to the theater for performance. Let me take a moment to explain how badly last year's festival went for me. I'll admit it wasn't the best play I've ever written, but I drew the worst actors in the bunch, and they didn't memorize the play. In fact, they got lost about 2 minutes in and completely made it up as they went along. And they sucked at improv. I've never been so embarrassed. You could hear the crickets chirping the theatre was so silent. So I was slightly apprehensive coming into the theatre tonight, hoping it wouldn't be a rerun of last year.

I shouldn't have worried, though, because I drew really good actors this year and they nailed it. They didn't forget or drop any lines, they were professional, and overall it was full of awesome. I was so relieved and really, really pleased. The other plays on the program were all funny and went well, too. It's a testament to the quality of the actors this year that even when they forgot lines they covered really well and actually added to the humor in some cases as a result.

So anyway, that's my experience with the 24-Hr play festival this year. It's a really amazing experience for writers, actors, and directors, and I'm very lucky to have been involved in it for three years running.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Writing News and Other Stuff

It's been almost a month since I posted anything. I feel terrible. My poor little blog must feel so lonely and abandoned. I will hereby renew my efforts to post at least every couple of days. Life's been seriously busy, but I can't let that be an excuse.

Tonight is the annual 24-Hr Play Festival at the local university where we'll be writing, producing, and performing 4-6 ten minute plays within a 24-hour period. As a writer, I have about nine hours to write a ten minute play. This is my third year participating. The first year went quite well; in fact, the play I wrote has been produced a couple of times since then. The second year was a major bomb. I drew the worst actors of the bunch and they really messed up the play. My face was red. So this year I need to redeem myself...wish me luck!

I'm also plowing through the MFA classes. Lots of reading and writing. I'm working on outlining my screenplay but have recently hit some roadblocks....mainly, I'm not sure where the story goes from here. So I guess I need to do some brainstorming. On the upside, I finished the first draft of my romance novel and I've got it out being read by someone who I hope can give me some constructive suggestions! Then I'll start working on revisions.

Any writers out there planning on participating in NaNoWriMo this year? Believe it or not I'm going to try to cram it into my schedule. I want to get the first draft of the second novel in my three novel series done during the NaNoWriMo. We'll see how that goes. I need to get some basic outlining done before it starts.

Well, I'm off. I'll try to keep up with posting, and get back to following my fave blogs. I've missed all my bloggy friends and reading what everyone else is up to!

Take care!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Coming Up For Air

Hey everyone. I've been flying under the radar for the last couple of weeks, working hard on the WIP, my grad classes, and the day job. Something had to give, and unfortunately my brain has been unable to come up with anything witty or even remotely interesting to blog about, so the blog has suffered.

But the good news is that I finished the first draft of my novel. There are still plenty of revisions and editing ahead, but at least I can say the first draft is done. Yay!

I've also settled on a story for my screenplay/MFA thesis, so I can now start developing the outline for that. I was getting worried there for a while, but now that I've chosen something I can relax somewhat.

I won't even bore you to death with my whining about the overwhelming amount of reading I'm burdened with for my grad classes. I'm sure you don't want to hear about what a futile effort it is and not humanly possible to read all the novels, screenplays, and fellow-student's workshop material, let alone write reasonably intelligent responses to all of the above and begin to work on the screenplay outline which is the overall goal of the program to start with. So I won't tell you about all that.

So, anyway, that's what I've been doing. I haven't been ignoring my readers, or ignoring all the blogs I love to read, on purpose. I just don't have enough time recently. It's not that I don't love you all, I do, I've just been laying low and trying to keep up.

I haven't abandoned my blog. I'll be back more regularly. I just need to find the groove. Ciao!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Next up: No Country for Old Men

It appears that my blog is suffering from my frantic efforts to keep up with homework and writing my WIP.

My last blog was about Jane Austen's Emma. I promised that the next blog (this one) would be about No Country for Old Men. As it turns out, I can't get the story out of my head, even though I still can't decide if I liked it or not.

If you haven't read the book and you plan to, you may not want to read any further. I plan to discuss story, plot, themes, etc. So be warned.

At first, I didn't. Like it, that is. It's a frustrating book for several reasons, the first of which has to do with style. The author, Cormac McCarthy, doesn't seem to be fond of punctuation. In fact, he completely left out quotation marks altogether, and used apostrophes pretty sparingly. This made it very difficult to read dialogue because you could never tell where it was. It made you actively work at reading the novel. Is that a good thing? I don't know. All I know is that if an unpublished writer (moi, perhaps?) tried to pull that, agents and publishers would sneer at them as being pretentious and throw them out the door. I suppose once you've become a successful award-winning writer you can do that kind of thing and instead of being considered pretentious it's considered innovative.

My second frustration with the novel had to do with story. It doesn't follow that neatly packaged Aristotellian rising-action-climax-resolution model, and that's okay. Not every story has to, I guess. But this one kind of wandered around and I couldn't tell if there was even a plot. And the ending is decidently not satisfying. Of the three main characters, one of the good guys dies suddenly without explanation and just disappears from the story, the other good guy gives up in the end, and the bad guy walks off into oblivion and we don't ever know what happens to him. Where's my happy ending? Why doesn't the sheriff kill the bad guy and avenge the other good guy's death? I want resolution, dammit!

But the point of the story is to examine fate versus chance, free will versus predestination. The drug industry is portrayed as a juggernaut that can't be stopped. You kill one drug runner and 2 spring up in his place. It's futile to resist. And against that backdrop you have a guy who just chances upon a bunch of money and of his own free will he picks it up and involves himself in a mess that gets him killed. The sheriff gives up because he knows he can't win - he's just one guy and he can't make a substantial difference, so he gives in to fate. And the bad guy? Well, he's just crazy and he's obsessed with fate and destiny. But realistically life doesn't always have a happy ending, does it? Sometimes the bad guy gets off scott free.

Like I said, at first I didn't like the book. But I've been contemplating it for a week or so now and I think what I like the best about it is that I'm still thinking about it. It's not cut and dried. There's a lot to consider. It's growing on me.

I also watched the movie, which was okay, but not as good as the book. It's too hard to translate the inner dialogue of the sheriff character to the screen and, to me, the movie felt stiff and choppy and didn't flow very well. The book was hard enough to understand, but if I hadn't read it before the movie I'd have been lost and completely uninterested. In fact, I told a friend of mine I was going to watch the movie and she said "is that the one where the guy finds someone and kills him, then finds another guy and kills him, then finds another guy and kills him?" and I said "yes." and she said, "oh, I fell asleep during that one."

So much for the credibility of Academy Awards. What do they know, anyway?

Overall, though, as I continue to consider whether or not I like the book, I'll probably settle on liking it. It's unothodox, bleak, and stylistic but it makes you think instead of just spoon feeding you a cookie-cutter form where you can figure out the ending one chapter into the book. I certainly didn't expect the ending I got from this novel and it left me scratching my head.

I'm glad I read it. If you've read it, what did you think of it?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

One Assignment Down....

I finished the first assignment for my "Reading for Writers" course this semester: Read "Emma" by Jane Austen and write a review of it. I'd never read any Austen before, but I'd heard some good things about her.

However, I must have chosen the wrong Jane Austen novel to read, because I really didn't enjoy it. I found the main character to be a classist snob and even though I know Austen did that on purpose in order to comment on classism, I'm of the mind that if your protagonist isn't in some way sympathetic, you're going to lose the reader.

Overall I understood and appreciated Austen's themes, but the plot was predictable, the language was stuffy and difficult to wade through, and Austen had an obsessive preoccupation with the semi-colon that I found distracting.

I thought maybe one of the half dozen movies based on the book would be more entertaining so I watched the version with Gwenyth Paltrow - no more entertaining than the book.

My conclusion? You either really like Jane Austen or you really don't. So far, I really don't.

I also read the second book on the list for "Reading for Writers" which was "No Country for Old Men." This book I liked much, much better. I'll comment here on that book (and the movie) after I finish and turn in the paper later this week.

In the meantime, are there any ardent Jane Austen defenders out there? Anybody actually enjoy the book "Emma?"

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

On Gas Leaks, Semi-Colons and 6-Sentences. And A Movie Review.

Okay, so I've been a tad neglectful of my blog since I got back from my residency. I've been a little busy.

As it turns out, when all the guys were repairing the basement bathroom, one of them sank a screw into the propane pipeline and we had a major gas leak in the house. We had to turn off the propane, open all the doors and windows, and evacuate the house for hours before it was safe to return. That was an adventure. Now all we have to do is get the pipe repaired and finish putting the walls up in the bathroom.

Now that things seem to have returned somewhat to normal, it's time to start working in earnest on both my reading and writing. I've ordered the dozens of books I need for this semester from Amazon and they're beginning to trickle in. The more they add up, the more intimidated I am about getting them all read, in addition to all the writing I have to do. I've never been a big fan of the "classics" in literature so I tried to keep them to a minimum on my reading list. Unfortunately the first read is a Jane Austen classic. I've already started it and I swear that woman had an obsessive fascination with the semi-colon. There are dozens of them just in the first couple of pages. I know she's lauded as a wonderful writer, so I'm hoping the book gets better as I get further into it, but so far I'm definitely not impressed. Sorry Jane Austen fans, but she's not my cup of tea.

I'm also still working on my WIP. I want to get it finished so I can concentrate on the reading I have to do, as well as working on my screenplay. The WIP is going well and as far as the screenplay, I've done the story summary, now I need to start work on an outline.

I also published my second six-sentences story. If you're interested it's called "TMI" and you can check it out here. I've become fascinated with this form and I'll probably be submitting many more of them for consideration, and hopefully publication.

Hubby and I went to see the movie "District 9" yesterday. I'm still not sure how I feel about it, other than torn. Technically I think it was a good film, but visually it was an overwhelming onslaught of gory violence. I appreciated the story, which was deeply sociopolitical, but it was difficult to get past the gratuitous violence. The reviews I've read are all very positive, and if I could get the nasty images out of my head I think I'd probably agree with them. There was definitely a profound take-home message. I just don't like bloody violent movies. Call me squeamish, but if I'm going to spend that much money and devote my time to watching a film I'd prefer more story and less blood spray; more substance and fewer flying body parts. I don't know, maybe that's part of the way the filmmakers intend to make you keep thinking about the movie - because it's so disturbing you can't get it out of your head. And they left it wide open for a sequel, so you want to know what happens next. I think overall I'm glad I saw it, but I left the theater thinking I needed to go right back in and watch something lighthearted like Julie & Julia to get the icky images out of my head.

Anyway, I hope everyone is enjoying the waning days of summer!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Home Sweet Home

Well, I made it home from the residency safe and sound.

My in-laws were waiting here to visit, which is nice since I haven't seen them in at least a year. I came home to a bathroom that had flooded and since been torn down to the studs by father- and brother-in-law. They're in the process of putting it back together again after repairing the leaky pipe behind the walls. Yay for not having to spend a fortune on a plumber and contractor. It'll cost a fraction of that, plus supplies.

I'm also working on ordering books for my reading list, and trying to figure out how I'm going to write an entire first draft of a screenplay by December. Best not to think about that for a couple of days, maybe. Perhaps I need a few days to decompress from the residency, re-acclimate to home, get back into my routine, then consider how the heck to best schedule reading and writing for the next few months.

On top of all that, I'm still determined to finish the romance novel WIP I've been laboring over for the last several months. Before the residency I had gone back to rewrite the beginning, which I'm actually almost done with. I think I probably just have one more chapter to rewrite before I get to a place where it will blend well with what I had previously written, and then I can go back to where I had left off and continue on with the story. I want to get it finished so I have a completed first draft to work with.

Anyhoo - the summer is winding down (which is hard to fathom). School starts at the end of the month for the kids, Hubby starts back to work on his undergrad degree, and of course I've already started. Hubby and I stunned each other a week or so ago when, as we sat in the air conditioned house to avoid the sultry heat outside, we were discussing that the snow season could potentially start in the next couple of months. I'm so not ready to dig out the snow clothes yet. I hope winter can hold off until November or December.

Overall, though, I enjoyed the residency and I'm glad to be back home. I'm wondering, though, how it's going to be traveling to Connecticut in January?

Friday, August 7, 2009

MFA Residency: Day Six

Today was the last full day of the residency. Our morning workshop was "Leveraging Your Primary Genre: Reviews." This was a very interesting lecture on writing literary/book reviews with some ideas on how to break into the field.

There was also an agent panel, but they were there mostly for the second year students. We newbies aren't ready to meet panelists yet, but they had good general information to offer.

Finally, we met again with our mentors to finalize plans for each class including reading lists and writing assignments. Although each mentor claimed to not want to take time away from my writing by piling on reading material, I still have 14+ books and 10 screenplays to read for this semester. And that's in addition to writing a first draft of a screenplay, and various writing assignments. I think I'm going to die right now. Just drop dead from anticipated exhaustion.

But, overall, the entire residency has been simultaneously exhausting and inspiring. I met lots of other student writers in various stages of the program, plus many published writers and mentors. I got lots of great information, advice, and writing tools.

This program is going to be great, if I survive it!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

MFA Residency: Day Five

Well, this morning was a brutal critique workshop in creative non-fiction - something I am woefully unfamiliar with - and apparently it showed in my essay. But I got a lot of good advice and suggestions and if I decide I ever want to revise the essay, I'll have a good idea how to do it.

Later this afternoon we had peer workshops where we shared a few pages of something we've written with our genre-specific peers. After the whipping my work took this morning, I wasn't really looking forward to another soul-baring, but this time, since it was my primary genre (something I actually do better), the feedback was much better. Thank goodness. No matter how hard we try not to be, we writers are a sensitive bunch (I'm sure you can relate). Our feelings get hurt easily.

The rest of the day was free and I spent it writing syllabi for my courses. This program is very self-directed. Students work with their mentors to design the courses to fit their goals, including reading and writing to be done based on what they wish to accomplish. Because of the self-directed nature of the coursework, we have to write our own syllabi to be approved by our mentors and the program director. So I spent the day researching appropriate reading material and writing syllabi.

Now I'm going to relax for the evening, consider story ideas for a novel (or a screenplay - I can't decide which I want to write for my thesis), then watch the season finale of So You Think You Can Dance.

More tomorrow!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

MFA Residency: Day Four

Another great day. The morning workshop was "Plot in Fiction" where we covered some literary history, some nuts and bolts of plot and dramatic arc, applied those principles to some reading we had been given a week or so ago, then worked on some writing exercises. All in all it was a very information-dense and informative workshop. I was pleased with what I produced from the prompts.

We then attended a thesis panel and discussed thesis tips and advice.

Next, a reading of three very good pieces.

Another panel with a rep from Barnes and and a literary promoter.

It was a long day of listening, so I begged off again on the evening's readings. It's been a lot of information to assimilate.

During a break in activities today I did a little searching through the writing work I have saved to my hard drive and found a couple of plays I forgot I'd written. It's been a while since I've looked at my writing. It's interesting when you go back and look at pieces you haven't read for a while - sometimes you realize they suck, sometimes you surprise yourself. I was pleasantly surprised by three plays I found. One 10-minute, one shorter, and one unfinished which is intended to be longer. I also found an essay I'm going to submit to an anthology of women's essays.

So all in all a pretty good day!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

MFA Residency: Day Three

Today was an awesome day. The morning workshop was all about screenwriting, and was moderated by Don Snyder, author of many books but specifically of both the novel and screenplay for Fallen Angel (he's also my mentor). He was a welcome wealth of insider information, practical craft advice, and anecdotes. It was quite an enjoyable morning and I learned quite a bit. Now I'm itching to get started on a screenplay I've been thinking about for a while now, and yet I still want to write novels. I don't know where I'm going to find the time to do all the reading that's piling up for my coursework, do the writing I'm dying to do, work full time, and raise a family. Hmmm.

After lunch we attended a lecture on workshop etiquette and a lecture on leveraging your MFA into the magazine industry. Both very useful and informative lectures.

There's another reading tonight, but frankly I'm exhausted and begged off. I'll go to the reading tomorrow night.

Also, a bit of news: my first six-sentence story has been published online at Six Sentences (Strawberry Blues). I've become very interested in this form and have written two more six-sentence stories since I've been here at the residency. I hope they don't get tired of me submitting over at the Six Sentences website.

That's it for today....more tomorrow!

Monday, August 3, 2009

MFA Residency: Day Two

Today was pretty cool. I participated in a creative non-fiction workshop which is actually a 2-day workshop; today and Thursday. Several weeks ago each of us was required to send a non-fiction piece we'd written to everyone else in the class, then we were told to read each of the other pieces and write a one page critique for each one. It was a lot of reading, but very worth it since I'm not primarily a non-fiction writer (though very interested in it), and it also gave me a chance to read the kinds of things other people are writing.

So today (and Thursday) we're workshopping all the pieces. We shared our critiques, helped each other with ideas on where the pieces could be better, how it didn't work, etc. Mine wasn't on today's list, so I'll have to wait until Thursday. But it's really awesome to see other styles and some very interesting subject matter.

Of course instead of narrowing my focus of interest these workshops only seem to be inspiring me to try different kinds of writing!

Our next stop for the day was a panel with recently graduated students discussing the internship requirement for the program, what they did for their internships, and how the internship, if chosen properly, can be a catalyst for learning and possibly employment or publication.

Next, we met with the instructor of the online course we'll be taking this semester, "Online Multigenre Workshop," which as far as I can tell will consist of far too much reading, some critiquing of each other's work, and some online submission.

Finally, we met for peer workshops which was a 2 1/2 hour meeting of about a dozen of us focusing on fiction. We had to really stretch to kill the time with applicable conversation, but we got some useful answers to questions about the nuts and bolts of the program from students who have been in it longer, we talked some in general about fiction, and then we decided that since we have another such meeting, but 3 1/2 hours, on Thursday that we'd share some work with each other and use the time for some critiquing. So now I have to decide what the heck to send to all of them to read.

Oh, and we got our tuition bills today, too. Ouch.

Overall, though, it was a very productive day. Looking forward to another one tomorrow!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

MFA Residency: Day One

I'm going to write a daily blog about my first MFA residency experience, partly as a way for me to assimilate the information and partly because there may be some useful writing information worth sharing.

Today we attended our first workshops. I participated in a workshop entitled, "Writing Like A Painter" where we talked about such concepts as false center or absence of center, narration and master narrative, and unity. The mediator used the novel, "The Sea," by John Banville and the artwork of Pierre Bonnard to illustrate his points.

We attended a discussion panel about getting the most out of mentorships, then met with our assigned mentors to begin discussions about our first courses, defining writing goals and designing reading lists based on those goals.

Finally, we went to a reading in the hotel lounge where we listened to two graduates of the program read excerpts from their novels.

Yesterday we attended a program orientation where we were informed that during our two year tenure in the program, aside from the coursework, we'll be tasked with an enrichment project which is unrelated to writing but is an experience which will make us even more well-rounded. I think I'll use my participation in the local chamber chorale as my enrichment project.

We must also do an internship of some sort, and I plan to approach the English Dept at the local university (where I just finished my BA) and see if I can arrange a teaching practicum. My ultimate goal is to teach at the university level in order to earn a paycheck and benefits while at the same time exploring all the different kinds of writing I want to do.

Finally, of course, we have to write a book length thesis project. I haven't decided yet if I want to write a novel or a screenplay. Truthfully, I want to write both. We'll see how ambitious I am as I move forward. As it turns out, my mentor has done just that. He wrote a novel then wrote the screenplay for the movie version of the same novel.

Anyway, that's it for day one. We'll see what day two brings!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Mountains and Breezes. And, Oh Yes, an Abyss.

I know, I've been a real slacker lately, only blogging about once a week. I really want to blog daily, but my brain is fried and I can't think of anything amusing or interesting or enlightening to say.

The good news is that after much hand-wringing and furrowing of brow, I think I may actually get all of the gobs, heaps, mountains, oodles, and plethora of reading and writing assignments done prior to attending my MFA residency next week. I've got two more 1-page writing assignment, and 3 more articles to read. I should be able to do that in two days. However, I can nearly guarantee I won't remember much of what I read. But at least I can honestly claim to have done the reading.

The bad news is that my in-laws called and are planning on visiting. It's not bad news in the sense that we don't want to visit them, because we do. The bad news is that A) they'll get here while I'm gone so I'll only see them for a short time when I get back and, more importantly; B) their visit means we have to clean the house.

For any of you who have read my blog consistently, you'll know that we are slobs. It's our natural habitat and although somewhere in my consciousness I don't really like it, and I realize that polite society cleans up more regularly than we do, I just can't muster enough concern to really care. I hate to clean. I only do it when absolutely necessary, and so does everyone else in my family. But, I do realize that when you have company coming to stay for several days, it's only civilized to shovel up a bit.

So on top of finishing my assignments, and packing, I (we) have to do some deep cleaning before I leave on Saturday. Ugh. Just what I need is one more thing piled on top of the rest.

What's the saying? -

God doesn't give us any more than will leave us teetering on the brink of insanity where just a gentle breeze will send us careening into the abyss?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Harry Potter Quiz

I went with my family to see the latest Harry Potter flick. My oldest son and I are great fans of the books, having read them a couple of times each. The rest of my family has only seen the movies, which we've all liked.

I won't comment on the movie because I'm sure many people haven't seen it yet. I'll just say that I liked it, but it wasn't my favorite of them all. I am looking forward to the last two, however.

Speaking of which, I ran across a Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows quiz which you can take here. I did quite badly on the quiz (only got 3/10 right). I was thinking I need to reread that book before the final movies come out, and this quiz only reinforced that fact for me. The entire series is so dense with characters, events, and symbolism, it's impossible to absorb it all in just one reading. After watching the most recent movie, I feel the need to reread the Half Blood Prince, as well.

So, I guess it's time to go scrounging through all the bookshelves to find those two books. Even if I should be reading the neverending pile I've got to get done before my MFA residency next week.

Take the quiz and see how you do!

Monday, July 20, 2009

MadLib Winner and other Miscellany

Well, I didn't get nearly as much participation in the MadLibs as I had hoped, but thanks to those who did participate! All of your lists were fun and clever, but I chose "Sink" as the winner because I like the whimsy of Mr. McGregor's garden as a lair! This was a fun way to brainstorm ideas with multiple people. If you'll e-mail me your mailing address, Sink, I'll send you your prize (

Now, on to the miscellany. I will be heading off for my MFA residency in less than two weeks. I've signed up for a variety of workshops, the instructors of which have already sent out piles of reading material that needs to be completed before the workshop, as well as a couple of writing assignments that need to be done ahead of time. Needless to say, I'm going to be spending a lot of time from now until then reading and writing. But I'm very excited about beginning the program so, as least for now, I can draw on some of that excitement to keep my enthusiasm up! I'm sure once I'm slogging through reading the enthusiasm will ebb somewhat though. I've always been somewhat of a slacker when it comes to completing reading assignments, but I'm going to try to turn over a new leaf and actually do (most) of this reading.

Miscellany part 2: I'd been doing a lot of hand-wringing over my WIP because I knew the front end of it stunk and needed to be rewritten. I had basically decided to just write it out to the end then loop back and make the changes. Well, I sat down and did a "story board," basically outlining characters and storyline/action starting from the beginning and going all the way through the end of the WIP. The beginning changed so much I couldn't ignore it and just keep writing, so now I've put the story on pause and gone back to the beginning to rewrite the front end. It didn't make sense to keep writing when I was deleting characters and making my main character several years older. In my mind it called for a complete rewrite.

Some of you writer types out there are probably rolling your eyes and shaking your heads at my naivete. I don't know, maybe you're nodding your heads in sympathy. All I know is that there's really no convention for writing a novel so I'm just going to go for it and do what works for me. I just hate the idea of finishing a draft and then having to rewrite the whole darn thing when I could just rewrite half of it then go forward from there.

Miscellany part 3: I recently got ideas for future projects. I need to write them down so I won't forget them. I don't know about any other writer types, but do you ever have this problem? You're working on your current WIP then suddenly, out of the blue, you're struck with another brilliant idea which immediately seems more attractive than the WIP you're currently struggling and fighting with? Are you tempted to dump your current WIP because you find yourself lusting for the new shiny idea? I'm finding myself turning the new ideas over in my mind, fleshing out characters, etc instead of concentrating on my WIP. Bad me! I need to finish my WIP first. The other stories will wait!

Miscellany part 4: Yesterday my daughter burned her fingers on the iron my husband forgot to unplug when he left for work. The iron was plugged in and stayed there all day and nobody noticed it until my daughter went into the laundry room to do some laundry and was moving the iron. I was in the living room reading and heard a strangled scream then she started bawling. I freaked out because I didn't know what was going on, then instantly jammed her hand under a cold faucet. Turns out she has blisters on all five fingers in a line where she grabbed the iron. Needless to day, both Hubby and daughter learned important lessons yesterday: remember to unplug the iron, and check to see if the iron is plugged in before you grab it. Daughter told her daddy that his punishment is he has to wash her dishes for her until her hand heals.

Okay, that's all the miscellany for today. I have to go finish an essay for one of my residency workshops, then do some reading. *sigh*

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

MadLib Contest

Today, I am going to do a sort of MadLib experiment. Please post a comment with your answers.

After a couple of days I'll announce a winner, based on no specific guidelines other than "oh, that sounds cool."

Winner will receive something nifty.

So, on to the madness.

1. List 3 nefarious or evil mythical or fantasy creatures

2. List 3 superpowers.
3. A business or activity a criminal could use to hide his criminal activities.

4. A violent verb and a nonviolent verb.

5. A color.

6. Favorite form of vengeance/revenge.

7. An emotional handicap.

8. A clever comeback.

9. An ethnic cuisine.

10. The perfect place for a lair.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Pity Party Part 2 - Emerging from Darkness

Yesterday I was feeling very sorry for myself. I've never written anything novel length before, so this whole process is like flailing around in the dark.
It's killer on the confidence.

This morning I feel a little better. I think I have some idea at least for the next scene in the WIP, so at least I can limp at least that much further ahead. The good advice of many other writers (thank you!) has been to just keep forging ahead. Get the story down on paper from beginning to end, then go back and rip it to pieces if necessary.

Okay. I'll do that.

So now that I can put that little piece of misery aside (at least temporarily), now I need to focus on how the heck I'm going to pay for my master's program. Since it's a low residency program I won't be on campus so I can't get an assistantship (which would be ideal, of course). I guess I need to dig around and see if I can find any free money (ha!).

Maybe some rich writer would like to sponsor me? Hmmm, too bad I don't know any.

If I weren't married I could find an old geezer and marry him for his money.

Discover sunken and/or buried treasure?

Win the lottery?

Beg on a street corner?

Plan an elaborate bank and/or casino heist with 10, 11, or 12 of my best friends?


I'm out of ideas. Anybody else have any?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Pity Party

Okay, so today I'm having a pity party for myself. I'm having a catastrophic crisis of self-confidence. Here's the litany that's jangling in my brain: My WIP sucks, I should trash it and start over, or at the very least I need to cut it in half, or better yet someone else should write it. I'm a crappy writer and shouldn't even try.

Plus I found out I won't be getting any grant money for my MFA program because I didn't get my FAFSA in early enough (I was waiting until I had my taxes done so I'd have accurate financials), so my only option is to go into monumental debt to pay for the first year of my master's program.

Between these two problems, I feel physically ill with anxiety. There's a pain in my chest, I feel like I want to barf, and I really just want to jam my head in a pillow and scream at the top of my lungs then cry until I'm dehydrated. If I drank, I would be, but I don't. Thankfully there's no chocolate in the house or my hips would spread another couple of inches.


Instead I'm going to wallow in self-pity the rest of the night and try to sleep it off. I got some advice from another writer to whom I also bemoaned my WIP-loathing and she told me the important thing is to FINISH IT. Don't go back and read it, don't question yourself, just get it on paper then go back and slash it to bits and rewrite it.

I will allow myself the luxury of being a blubbering fool tonight, then tomorrow I will square my shoulders and continue to put words to page, only looking forward, trying to improve as I go, and not worry about perfection until I'm on the thrid or fourth rewrite/edit/revision.

Now all I have to hope for is that I can find a benevolent philanthropic sponsor to pay for my MFA program....

Monday, July 6, 2009

To Prologue or not to Prologue, That is the Question

I had an interesting discussion with Hubby this weekend. I've been working diligently on my WIP, which includes a prologue. I finished a revision of said prologue and proudly announced it to Hubby, whose response was, "Prologues are for sissies."

This comes from a man who has read exactly two books in the 23 years I've known him.

His comment, of course, started a heated debate. I asked him if instead of calling it "proglogue" I called it "chapter one" if he would feel differently. He said that you should be able to incorporate the info you put into a prologue into the rest of the book and do away with the prologue. I told him he doesn't know what he's talking about because the prologue sets up the story, or may give information that is not easily told throughout the rest of the book. He adamantly refused to reconsider his stance.

So, I polled my oldest son. He's 16 years old and reads voraciously, as do I. I asked him what he thought about prologues. He said he likes them because they set up the story.

I gave my Hubby a self-satisfied look, but he was unmoved. The man who never reads stood by his statement that prologues are for sissies.

I, of course, still disagree with him. And to aggravate me even further, the contents of the prologue I added to my WIP (which didn't previously have a prologue), was Hubby's idea. After we had talked about the story, characters, plot, etc, he had suggested adding something at the beginning of the book which would give some insight into the previous conflict that led to where the characters are now.

Sort of like setting up the story?!

So even after incorporating his suggestion, because I named it "prologue" he suddenly doesn't like it. Well, too bad for him. I'm keeping the prologue, whether he likes it or not. He'll probably never read the book anyway.

So what do you think about prologues? Like them? Don't like them? Don't care?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

For Readers and Writers

This is just a brief post, but I ran across these articles today and thought I'd share them with you.

Both articles are from Newsweek. The first is an author's roundtable, called "The Write Stuff" and talks to six different authors about the nuts and bolts of writing, and other interesting issues. It's definitely worth reading.

The second is called "What to Read Now. And Why." It is a list of 50 books for our times, as recommended by Newsweek. I found it fascinating. I've read very few of them, but after reading the blurbs about each, my "to-read" list suddenly got a lot longer.

I intend to spend the next couple of days going back through my work in progress and working on some editing before I forge ahead. There have been some niggling story problems I want to address before I go on.

Hope you enjoy the articles!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Independence Day

I'm not much of a patriot, so I'm not going to wax sentimental about all things American, wave a giant American flag, and cry zealous nationalistic crocodile tears.

Sure, America's a great place to live, but there are lots of great places to live. And sure, the founding fathers were awesome dudes with a vision, but honestly, when they wrote the preamble and said "all men are created equal" they really meant "all rich white guys are created equal." Thankfully they left it vague enough so that it could be reinterpreted to suit evolving cultural sensibilities and the term "men" could be generalized to mean "people" (i.e., to include women and everyone of color).

I'm happy that in recent decades America seems to be coming to better terms with some of the chapters of her past, although admittedly we have a long way to go before we have true equality. At least (for the most part) we're no longer touting the white bread, flag-waving, do-no-wrong vision of American history that was spoon fed students early in the 20th century. I believe that the only way to learn from the past is to face mistakes honestly in order that we do not repeat them. There have been many times in our history where our leadership has swept historical lessons under the rug only to repeat them, with abysmal results.

I tend to think of Independence Day as an opportunity to reflect on our history and examine the ways in which we can improve on what we've got. There's a lot to be proud of, but that doesn't mean the work is done. We should always temper patriotism with humility, otherwise it will quickly evolve into blind arrogance When you think about it, it's only been in those moments in our history when we were truly humbled that the greatest strides away from "all rich white guys are created equal" and toward "all human beings are created equal" have been made.

However, all that being said, independence is pretty swell and worth celebrating. Happy Independence Day!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Depth of Character

I'm wondering, as a writer and reader, what makes characters more interesting?

I know as a reader, I don't want to read characters who are perfect. I like to read flawed and conflicted characters. The more tortured the better, but not to the point of unbelievable. I mean, if you think about yourself, you're not perfect - nobody is. So what are your flaws as a human being? Would those flaws be interesting additions to a character? Obviously those things make characters seem more realistic and relatable.

As a writer, you love your characters and it's so tempting to make them perfect, superhuman. I'm working on flawing up my characters. They're not perfect. They're confused and forced into relating uncomfortably with each other, then dealing with crises. Fun, huh?!

So what are your flaws as a human being? Would those flaws be interesting additions to a character? (time out to share: one of my biggest flaws is that I have no patience - either to wait for things I'm anticipating, or sometimes I lack patience with other people.)

As a writer, what kinds of flaws do you like to write into your characters?

As a reader, what kinds of flaws do you like to read in characters?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Multiple POVs or Head Hopping?

Now that I've done the rewrite on my WIP from first to third person, I'm facing the dilemma of just how many points of view are necessary. Do I want several points of view from the get-go? Do I want just the heroine's point of view from the start then add the hero later? Do I want the villain's point of view? So many choices!

I've read quite a few romances lately and I've noticed that quite a few romance authors hop around between the heroine's and hero's points of view, sometimes in alternating paragraphs, sections or scenes. Especially in intense scenes you'll get the same scene from both points of view switching back and forth. I personally don't have a problem with this. It makes the scene seem more intense and if it's well done, as a reader you know how each character is reacting to the same set of circumstances. It makes the story seem more intimate.

However, sometimes it's distracting or downright confusing if it's not handled right because as a reader you can easily get confused as to whose head you're in.

I've gone back and looked through some of my other fave novels and this intimate head-hopping-within-a-scene seems to be unique to the romance genre (yeah, this is my own little non-scientific study of my personal library). Authors of other genres seem to keep their points of view consistent through entire scenes, and more often entire chapters, before they switch to a different character, if they do at all.

Of course there have been volumes written on POV, the do's and don'ts, etc. What about mixing and matching POV throughout a story? I'm tempted to throw caution and convention to the wind and just write and see what I get. As writers, what's your preference? Does it depend on genre? As readers, how is POV handled in your fave novels? What do you like best?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Planning Ahead

This is another blog for all you writers out there. As many of you know, I'm working away on my WIP. I spent time today working on plot and story arc and I'm beginning to think this story may need to be longer than just one book. I think the overall story arc can be extended over several books, while I can focus on different main characters in each book with shorter story arcs for each set of main characters.

So, my question is for any published or unpublished writers out there: should I go ahead and plan this first book with the idea of extending the major story arc into more than one book? Each book will function as a stand alone, but will also work together in the larger story. What is the best way to approach it when writing and then when querying agents? Since I am as yet unpublished, I'm not entirely sure the best way to approach this and plan it out, and if it's too much of a risk to take with my first book.

Any insight, advice, suggestions, comments, etcetera are very welcome!!!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day Plus Some Other Stuff

Today is father's day and, yes, I know I'm very late posting anything, but we were all out celebrating said Father's Day and now that we're back home and settled in for the night, I finally have time to write something.

First, for those wonderful folks who have been following and commenting on my posts about my writing angst, thank you for your wonderful encouragement! Second, you may be interested to know that I've completed the rewrite from 1st to 3rd person (but I kept a copy of the MS in 1st person, just in case) and added a new first chapter. Now I can finally move on and continue writing the story forward. I have two more days off this week so I anticipate getting a lot of writing done.

Now, on to the Father's Day post. My husband is an awesome father. I could never have asked for better. He has been involved since day one, changing diapers, feeding babies, rocking them to sleep, dealing with loose teeth (I get squeamish about teeth), and everything else from the time they were born until now. He even suffered through the births right by my side and I know it was just as hard or harder for him to watch and not be able to do anything, especially when they were all complicated, painful, and tenuous. I treasure him as a husband and father. I know very well how lucky I am and count my blessings daily.

There are a lot of people today who will say that they have the best father in the world. I'll add my voice to those and say that mine is certainly among the ranks of the best. By way of explanation, my mother has been badly ill in one way or another for over 30 years. She is an extremely high strung, demanding, emotional woman who made life trying for all of us. We loved her, but she was a challenge to deal with on a daily basis and my sister and I have always been conflicted about her, loving her because she was our mother, but feeling bitterness and frustration over her behavior and the way she treated us. As an adult I'm able to understand that her trials and her personality did not mesh and has never been capable of dealing with her lot in life. My heart breaks for her misery, but she is a prickly woman who is difficult to care about.

To his everlasting credit, for as long as I can remember my father has been the steady, quiet rock who held our family together. He never, every complained. He only ever did what needed to be done and what was best for mom and for the family. I admire his strength of character, knowing what fights were important and when to back down (many of the backing down times I couldn't have done myself). He is a remarkably courageous man with the patience of all the saints put together. He has a genius and considered intelligence, and a quiet, gentle demeaner. He is fair and open-minded, curious, and generous. He has never been overly demonstrative, but I never cared. He hugged us when we hugged him, he helped us with homework, he showed encouragement when we needed it. He didn't have to be any other way because he showed us everyday how much he cared by shouldering the lion's share of the burden of caring for our family without a peep of complaint.

Needless to say, I adore my father. I respect and admire him, and most of all I thank him from the bottom of my heart for everything he ever did for us. And he never once asked for thanks. Never. Ever. That's just one more reason why I should thank him.

And because today is Father's Day, I will thank him. Publicly. Right here.

Thanks Dad, for everything. I love you. Happy Father's Day.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Getting Past Insecurity and Doubt

So I woke up this morning with a serious case of crippling insecurity about my writing ability. After whining about it on Twitter it appears I'm not the only neurotic writer out there.

It makes me feel better that even successful published writers suffer the same doubts and often suffer the same struggles with their writing process.

Because somewhere in my masochistic subconscious I hold onto this silly fantasy that those same successful published writers sit down and write a perfect polished first draft the first time through and never have to rewrite or edit. On days like today, when I feel like I'm incapable of writing anything "good" and that every word I type sucks, as does the story as a whole, I tend to whip out that little "published-writers-write-perfect-drafts-first-time-out" gem and flail myself with it.

On good days, I know that every writer has to work hard to perfect their manuscripts and they're all as neurotic as I am so I'm in good company. Then I'm able to coach myself with the belief that if there are so many authors out there capable of being published, why not me too?

Logically, I know I can do it, but I think art and neuroses often go hand in hand. So maybe I'll just allow myself the luxury of wallowing for a little while, then I'll mentally slap myself around until I snap out of it.

Either way, I can't NOT write so my only option is to keep at it and convince myself that even if the first draft sucks, that's what revision and editing are make it not suck!

But for today, I'll just keep telling myself: I know I can, I know I can, I know I can, I know I can......

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Taking a Different Tack

I've been writing like gangbusters on my current work in progress, and being very pleased with my progress. However, yesterday it occurred to me that I may need to make a major change.

I've written the story in first person, which I think gives the main character a very strong voice and allows the reader to feel very invested in the story. However, as a writer I'm starting to feel cramped in one person's head. I can only tell the story of what's happening to the main character and reveal the plot as she finds out about it. I'm not able to examine events through the eyes or experiences of any of the other characters.

So I started thinking I may need to revise the story into the third person. I need to be able to reveal some action taking place in locations other than where the main character is, and I need to be able to get inside some of the other characters' heads.

I had an awesome brainstorming session with Hubby last night, who is pretty good with story ideas. It helped to tell the story out loud and rearrange some plot points, examine the action and characters that work and don't work. So today I feel more confident in the story overall, and excited to start the revision.

Thankfully although I'm 21000 words into the story, it's not an insurmountable obstacle. I'll save a copy in first person, just in case, and then begin working on adjusting another copy into third person. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Reading as an Obsessive Binge

Hubby and I had a heated argument the other day. He said I read too much and that I'm abandoning the family when I do.

I, of course, was incensed. How can reading be a bad thing?

But when I thought about it, I realized that in the last couple of weeks I've read 9 or 10 books. Though they weren't necessarily long, 200-400 pages each, I had to admit that I was spending every free waking minute reading. Sometimes even taking books with me into the bathroom because I just didn't want to put them down.

I realized that perhaps I was being a little overzealous, but in my defense I told Hubby that he and the children all behave exactly the same way when they go on video game jags. Sometimes they'll disappear into the basement gaming room for hours on end, only coming up to eat and use the bathroom, then going back to feed the obsession.

I don't go on reading binges as often as I used to, but when I do apparently I take them very seriously. I wasn't even aware that I was hiding in plain sight. So, after I finished the most recent book, I've forced myself to put on the brakes for a while and come up for air, as it were.

It's turned out to be a good thing, too, because I managed to write about 3000 words on my work in progress today. That's a very good thing.

So even though I'd love to pick up yet another book and get lost in it, I'm going to take a breather. I still don't think reading is a bad thing, but I guess doing it in gigantic binge-tastic quantities is probably one of the few vices I have. When the family accuses you of abandoning them for books, it's time to slow it down just a little!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Making Progress

My new writing group met for the first time, and although it's still pretty small I like it that way. We had a good first meeting, getting to know each other and the things we each like to read and write, talking a little about the things we're currently writing. We established a schedule and decided what we'd bring in to share at our next meeting.

Now comes the hard part: sharing. You may scoff, saying that as a writer isn't that the ultimate goal? To share your story with the world? And I would answer, yes, of course, but in it's shiny perfect final-draft form. What I've got (so far) right now is 14000 words of rough first draft. It's scary to let people read my imperfect bare bones draft. It's like those nightmares of being back in high school, naked, and having forgotten your locker combination. Everyone is looking at you and judging you!!!

I know that the only way to make it shiny and perfect is to get input and suggestions. One of the members of the writing group is a university writing professor who also writes and she has some experience with agents and publishing, so it's not like we're a bunch of wannabe basement amateurs writing cheesy, badly spelled fiction. There's real potential here!

Plus after seeing all the other writers coming out of the woodwork on Twitter, I figure if they can all do it, so can I. It's just a little scary sharing for the first time.

Anyway, I've been making good writing progress; between 500 and 1000 words per day this week. I keep trying to look at the story objectively and although I know it's rough, the story and characters are good, and the more I'm able to keep writing, the more confident I am in my ability to succeed.

I'd also like to have one of those widgets on my blog site that shows my running word count, but can't for the life of me find where to snag it and slap it on my blog. So if anyone knows where I can get it, let me know!

Now, off to write!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Notes on Writing

I've been thinking a lot about my writing goals for this summer, so it seemed only natural to, well, write about them!

Now that graduation is over, and I have some breathing space before I start working on my MFA, it seems like a good time to tackles those WIPs.

As some of you know, I've become enamored of Twitter recently. I'm still learning how to use it most effectively, but one of the things I'm enjoying most is finding and connecting with other writers. There seem to be quite a few writers in the Twitterverse, specifically romance writers interestingly enough. Long ago I had briefly considered attempting to write romance, but despite the fact that the romance genre is the single highest selling genre of fiction, there seems to be a stigma attached to romance as trashy and not legitimate fiction.

So as a writer, you have to ask yourself, which is more important: being published and making money, or literary integrity?

I've decided to do some "research" and have started collecting a variety of romance novels by different writers to see what's going on in the genre. I'm trying to read the work of some of the writers I've found on Twitter, I think it's a professional courtesy as well as practical research. Then maybe I'll give the genre a shot and see if I have anything to contribute. I've never been an eager proponent of "literary integrity." The concept of a "canon" irks me, actually and seems pretty arrogant and presumptuous. Yes, some literature is better than others, but literature is a very fluid animal changing with the times. Personally, I think the accepted canon should be more fluid as well. But that's another blog entirely.

In the meantime, I've got a couple of WIPs I am continuing to work on over the summer. I want to set realistic goals, but having never written anything novel-length before, I'm really treading on new ground so I think I'll just take it as it comes. I've found that, at least for this first time through, my tendency is to get the bones of the story on the page first and then once I get to the end I'll loop back around and flesh it out. When I go back over it and read it now it feels so clumsy in its brevity, but I believe in the story.

One of the things that I think is most helpful to me, as a writer, is to connect in meaningful professional ways with other writers. Writing can be a lonely and doubt-ridden proposition, so talking to other writers and learning that they have the same anxieties and doubts is a liberating experience. It's nice to know that other writers don't just sit down and write a polished final draft the first time through; that they also struggle with character development, story arc, subplots, continuity, etc. I'm finding again that Twitter is an interesting place to learn these things about other writers.

However, I think it's still important to connect in person with other writers as well, so I worked this week toward establishing a local writer's group. I'm happy to say that I managed to pull together a small group of local writers and I'm very excited to start working together, sharing ideas and concerns.

For all of you writer-types, have you been or are you currently involved in a writer's group? If so, what did you find most useful or beneficial about the group? What were the most important things you took away from it as a writer?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

I am not an overly patriotic person - I believe that blind devotion to anything only leads to trouble. But I certainly understand and appreciate the value of the sacrifices made by our men and women of the armed forces.

Although I may not approve of the government policies that find our soldiers in combat (either in current wars or wars past), said soldiers do not get to pick and choose which military engagements in which they will participate. If you're in the military you go where and do what you're told, no questions asked, and part of your job is to give your life if necessary.

So it is appropriate on Memorial Day to set aside our feelings for the government, good or bad, and thank the people who are willing to dedicate, and give, their lives to our defense. I certainly appreciate their willingness to give of themselves so that we will all be safe. It's not a job I would want or be capable of doing, so I'm glad there are others who will.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Picture Perfect: Redux

A couple of posts ago I talked about having our house painted. Well, it's finished and I think it looks great. The painter did a good job of getting rid of the old paint which was chipping off and blowing away in the breeze. However, I'm a little miffed that he didn't make any effort to clean up said paint chips, so now our yard looks pretty nasty. We'll have to figure out an efficient way to clean that up.
But Painter Guy primed and painted the house nicely so hopefully it's sealed against weather and the paint job will last awhile! The pix are before and after shots. I know, the snow brings back bad memories of a long winter, but it was the best before picture I had!

Monday, May 18, 2009

First Drafts: Fat or Skinny?

Today I have a question for all you writer-types out there. I'm in the process of writing the first draft of a novel, and it got me wondering about the what the writing process is like for other writers.

For instance, as you write a first draft do you tend to over-write and then go back and cut when you start the editing process? Or are you brief and then go back and flesh out the story as you start the editing process?

So far I've found that I tend to be brief but when I go back and reread segments I can see where I need to add more to make the story richer.

Which works best for you?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Picture Perfect

We are in the process of having our house painted. The people we bought it from painted it themselves 5 years ago and they did a horrific job. They did not thoroughly scrape the house before painting, and very shortly after we moved in the paint started chipping off and blowing away. Needless to say, I was mighty pissed. Especially since the woman we bought it from is a realtor. Shame on her.

So now, if we ever want to sell it ourselves, we have to spend the money to have it painted. Knowing our own limitations, we've decided to hire the job out. The guy we chose was recommended by our realtor (not the one who previously owned the house). So far, he seems maybe slightly odd, but okay. However, he has brought his 2 yapping runty dogs with him everyday. I'm tempted to deduct from the contract for every dog shit I find in my yard.

The dogs aside, he and his crew did a thorough power wash and scraping, and they've taped plastic covers over all of our windows except the back door. It's feeling extremely claustrophobic not being able to see outside. Our front door is even taped shut. I can feel myself gasping for air....

On Saturday they applied the first coat of primer. I say first coat because shortly after they finished a thunderstorm blew in and poured rain and hail, and then it rained for 24 hours straight. A lot of the primer sluiced off the house with the rain, so I suspect they're going to need a second coat of primer.

It rained yesterday and Painter Guy didn't show up or call. Hubby called him and left a message, but he didn't answer. I'm hoping that since it seems to have cleared up today he will show up and continue working. I really want the plastic off the windows.

I'm also significantly concerned about how he plans to clean up all the paint chips he powerwashed off the house. He promised me that the contract includes cleanup, but I'm at a loss to figure out how he plans to pick the billions of paint chips out of the lawn.

After the house is done I'll post a before and after picture. I'm hoping that once it's all done it looks awesome. Everybody cross your fingers....

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Did I or Didn't I?

Yesterday I participated in a Twitter cruise give-away contest and I actually won a Jamaican cruise! I so can't believe it, because I never win anything!

So with typical me luck, there is now question about whether or not the cruise is legit. Something about a pyramid scheme. I'm still trying to find the appropriate people and information to verify it.

I'm really hoping it's legit because it would be awesomely fun to go on a Jamaican cruise, right? I mean seriously, I really never win anything, and I've certainly never been on such a luxurious vacation. My vacations consist of maybe camping, or a driving trip back to Oregon to visit relatives. *Yawn.* I've never been anywhere fun or romantic with just my husband - even our honeymoon was camping.

So wish me luck everyone. I sure need your luck because I rarely have any of my own!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

I woke up this morning and looked outside only to see SNOW.

Okay, so it was more like a slushy layer with tiny white flakes falling from the sky, but it was still frozen precipitation. Here we are in May, oh hallowed weather and season gods, please make the snow go away. It is time for sunshine. I don't think my psyche can take anymore of the other stuff. We had snow on the ground from November until April; so much so that I forgot what the ground looked like.

Now I just want to plant my veggie garden and enjoy spring.

I just realized, there's a "rain, rain, go away" song...I guess it's time to make up a "snow, snow, go away" song.


Thursday, May 7, 2009

Twitter: Revisited

Okay, so once I finally figured out how to actually use Twitter, I've discovered it's kinda fun. And addictive. Uh oh. I think I'm in trouble.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Upcoming Spousal Writing Collaboration

Have any of you writer-types ever done a writing collaboration with a spouse or significant other?

The reason I ask is, I am trying to plan ahead and line up the writing projects I want to work on this summer after I graduate next week, and one of the projects on deck is a full length musical stage play collaboration with my husband.

Why is this such potentially hazardous territory, you ask? Well, on paper, it shouldn't be. Although Hubby is a physical education/coaching student, he is a hobby writer and often has brilliantly inspired ideas (I'm actually jealous of his muse, who seems to love him more than mine loves me). This play project is based on one of his ideas. He's pretty good at dialogue, but sometimes is a clumsy writer and is the worst speller on planet Earth. He also "doesn't do" formatting.

I, on the other hand, am building a professional writing career. I am a pretty fair writer in general, write good, solid dialogue, and I'm good at keeping story on track. I spell very well and I've got formatting down pat.

So again, on paper it should work well. However, we've tried collaborating before on shorter projects and it often deteriorates into chaos. We have a rock solid marriage - been together for 23 years and counting. But for some reason when we write together it's very volatile. We bicker and argue, heave giant sighs of disgust and roll our eyes as if the other person is just the dumbest lout in the world.

We are further hindered in this project by the fact that neither of us has written a full length play or a musical. Hubby can barely read music, but writes inspired lyrics; I can read music but can't write it, and I write fair lyrics (we do have someone to write the music, though, thankfully).

But this idea is so good it's begging to be written and I know we can do it if we can get through the creative friction and focus on the nitty gritty.

So, what do you think or chances of success are? I've posted a poll so you can vote on whether you think we're destined for success or doomed to failure. Cast your vote now!