Writing is a journey, not a destination.

Search This Blog

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Things That Make Me Go "Hehehe" All the Way Home

Yesterday was a bit of a rant, so here's my list of things that make me laugh out loud, again in no particular order.

1. Grinning dogs. Some dogs grin all the time, but others really have to work at it. They all make me laugh.

2. The Tom Baker Doctor Who theme song. Come on, nerds and geeks, you know it! Oooh Oooh Oooh, Oooh Oooh. Oooh Oooh Oooh, Oooh Oooh Oooh. OK, so synthesizers don't translate well into English. I'm telling you, I love that song.

3. The Friends episode "The One Where No One's Ready." Chandler and Joey fight over the chair. Phoebe "gets the hummus." Monica obsesses over whether Richard called. And Ross has to drink the fat. If you don't know it, call me. I have it on DVD. "I've watched it 150 times, and it keeps getting funnier every, single time I see it." -Beetlejuice.

4. Rescuing worms from rain puddles. Yeah, you're thinking "gross!" but at least I've saved a life that day. What did you do?

5. Anything cat-related except hairballs (see #9 of yesterday's post). Sleeping cats, playing cats, puzzled cats: they crack me up. Probably why I have six. Let the good times roll.

6. Oreos. How I love those little, processed bits of heaven. I'm one of the weirdos who likes the cookie part better than the creme part. Yes, we do exist.

7. Calling a child by name. It's like magic. Call a child by his name and you have a friend for life. Suddenly you are the best grown-up in the world and the personal property of little Hugo. Use this power carefully, or you will never eat hot food again when children are present.

8. Fruit-shaped Trix. I don't think they make these anymore, but they got me through my fourth semester of college. All I had to do to feel better about the world was pour a bowl of these Runt-like rice crisps, and it was giggle-city. I gained a lot of weight that semester.

9. My nieces. Of course, I have to pin them down or wake them up anymore, but they say some of the funniest things. I like them so much better now that they talk. I'm grinning just thinking about them.

10. A good book. You know the kind. You want to read faster because you enjoy it so much, but you slow down because you don't want it to end. These are getting harder to find (thanks to grammar issues like "less" and "fewer" (see #4 of yesterday's post), but they do still exist. I'm reading one now, and I hope to give you a review tomorrow.

Well, that's my top ten. Feel free to share some of your own. I'd like to know.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Things That Make Me Go Grrr!

First thing this morning at work, I ran into a "grrr" moment. It got me thinking. Seven is the number of perfection, but ten is the number of completion, so here are my top ten grrr-makers, in no particular order.

1. Sealing the ends of an envelope in any way (this morning, it was with address labels). I appreciate you want your mail to arrive intact, but exactly how is the recipient supposed to open it? Grrr!

2. Failure to use the turn lane. It's right there. It's entire reason for existence is for your car to occupy it while waiting to turn. I really have to grit my teeth when they are in the turn lane, but their enormous SUV or nineteen-aught-one Lincoln Towncar is so big it blocks my lane anyway. Grrr-grrr!

3. Chewing gum on the phone. You know who you are. Stop it! Grrr!

4. Using "less" instead of "fewer." GRRR! Even TV commercials are doing it now. "Less" applies to an immeasurable substance, like water or air. "Fewer" refers to quantifiable substances, like potatoes or dollars. Less rain causes fewer puddles. Get it? Good. Now call someone and share it. Grrr.

5. Disparity between hot dogs -8 per package- and buns -10 per package. Are we really supposed to buy 80 to break even? Is this some great conspiracy? Grrr!

6. Pump dispensers. How many ounces of whatever are left in the bottom? When did pumping become more useful than gravity? Tip and squeeze. Grrr.

7. Writing "bill me" on a bill and mailing it back. You would not believe how often this happens. Grrrrrrrrr.

8. Saying "wuff" instead of "wolf." There's an "L," folks. Make Henry Higgins proud and use it. Grrrowl.

9. Cats throwing hairballs at anytime before six that ends in A.M. The only worse way I can imagine waking up (that doesn't involve a homicidal maniac, anyway) is with your three year old standing over your bed saying "Mommy, I need to ....blech!" Actually, there's a lot of similarities. Grrr.

And finally, that greatest of all oxymorons,

10. Liberal logic.

Monday, September 28, 2009

What I Learned from Dr. Gene Getz

The very first workshop at Roaring Lambs featured Dr. Gene Getz. Judging by his resume, he is somewhat famous, although you may not know his name. I didn't.

Dr. Getz spoke for 45 minutes, pleasantly, about his life as a writer. He began at the beginning, went on until he came to the end, and then stopped (to paraphrase The White King from Alice Through the Looking Glass).

Early on, I realized this was not a point by point speech. Determined to get my money's worth, I wrote down my own points as I listened. I heard seven. Ironically, after writing his talk, he wrote down points and gave them at the end. He listed six, and we agreed on one. If I ever find a way to contact him, I'll send him this post. I think he would be interested.

Here's what I heard:
1. It's who you know. Dr. Getz, through God's miraculous working, encountered one professor who believed in him. That professor put him in touch with others, and the chain continued until he had links to all the publishers he would later know, who would come to him to write something. Get that? Publishers asked him to write stuff. Sigh.

2. Be open to opportunities. Dr. Getz said "yes" to every chance he was given, whether he was ready or not. I guess he figured if he was asked, he was supposed to do it.

3. Recycle and reinvent previous work. Waste nothing. Many of the 60+ books Dr. Getz has written sprang from ideas from previous books or sermon series or devotionals he'd already written. He simply expanded them.

4. You must be accountable for results (this is the one point we shared although he listed it as #5). Without accountability, you will never finish anything. The more people who will hold you to it, the better.

5. Consider your audience. Dr. Getz writes expository literature about the Bible. He has books translated into dozens of languages, including Farsi, Hindi and Chinese, because he remembers that God's Word is for all people, not just Americans, and he writes that way.

6. Pray always and expect God to answer. Dr. Getz's writing career has been held together with prayer, both his and his accountability group of church elders'. Without God, the workers build the house in vain.

7. Only God knows who your writing will touch. Dr. Getz had no idea some of his books would be translated into dozens of languages, and sell millions of copies around the world. He was simply obedient to God's opportunities.

I have nothing in common with Dr. Getz. I've never tried to get to know anybody. My first response to opportunity is "no." I write new stuff (or try to) every time, and I will not write anything that doesn't interest me (that's why I'm not a journalism major). I've never been accountable for my writing (I have one friend who flatly refused to read anything else I wrote unless it was a completed story). My audience was me. Why pray about my writing when I don't intend to publish at all?

But this was my new start. My Type B+ listening ears took his talk in, and it swished around that big, empty space where a brain should be.

I am not Dr. Getz. I do not expect or intend to become him. But I can learn from him, and the lesson I am trying most to practice is #2: Be open to opportunities.

It's hard. I would rather say "no." However, in the last three months, I have made more writing contacts, admitted my writing skill in public without maternal prompting, and followed up on more potential leads for publishers or mentors than I have in the last twenty years.

Yes, it's scary. Maybe it's supposed to be.

That's probably what #6 is for.

Oh, you'll have to let me know if you want to know his points. I don't intend to write about them without prompting.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Second Born

I cannot tell you when exactly I started writing on Elementals this year. I know I thought of the original idea during my first year of college. I have half a dozen sketches and finished pictures of the characters. I had half a dozen scenes written when I pulled it out of the file. I knew exactly where it was going.

Except I didn't.

Turns out, I'm quite a different person than I was my first year of college. I like to think the essentials are the same, but the knowledge base has broadened significantly. Things that seemed very simple in 1990 are not so simple when viewed in 2009.

I planned a story about two sisters, a story about elemental forces of fire, water, wind and earth. Turns out I'm writing a story about elemental forces of good and evil, light and darkness, forgiveness and anger, plus all that other stuff.

I have fought with this story since I pulled it out of the file cabinet. I've yelled at the computer. I've wrestled with viewpoint. I've gotten so stuck I paced my living room wondering who I could call to tell me what to do (there is no one like that, by the way. I'm the author, so it's all on my shoulders, curse it).

I complained to a dear friend. "I don't understand. Star of Justice wasn't like this. Star of Justice was so easy. Why can't Elementals be easy? The story is all there. I know what's going to happen. Why can't I write it?"

She gave me the best writing advice I may have ever heard. "Stop treating them like the same book. It's your second book. It's going to be different."

I argued of course. What frustrated parent hasn't argued when someone points out the obvious, especially when that someone is a layman? She doesn't write. She couldn't possibly know anything about the process.

She was right anyway. I stopped comparing the two books. I stopped trying to rewrite my first book. I decided to let Elementals be what it would be. Once I did that, something strange happened. I could write again.

One other thing I realized only after I stopped yelling at my book.

If you'd asked me anytime before this year how I like to write, I would have told you I'm a "plotter." That's someone who plots out everything in advance. I thought that because I wrote scenes that could theoretically be strung together.

Turns out I'm a "pantser." That's someone who has a general direction and flies by the seat of her pants to get there. If I write ahead, I stop writing because I've fulfilled my need to get to "the important stuff."

See, I've been plotting Elementals. I should have been pantsing. I've stopped being worried about including all of those scenes I wrote once upon a time (some of which should be served with wine and crackers, they're so cheesy) and I'm letting the story go where it wants to go.

It's going to be different. It's hopefully going to be better. Since I'm the only one who's ever read those original scenes, only I will really know.

I hope I'm right.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Story Children

I am terribly proud of Star of Justice. It is my firstborn story.

OK, the Xmen short story came first, but it's more like the pet a couple gets to practice on before they have children. If only more people took that experiment seriously. We'd have far better-trained dogs and children.

Knowing me as I do, I wasn't sure I'd ever write another book, even though Star of Justice is technically fourth in a spin-off series from another series of three books I have planned. heh.

Earlier this year, as the economy tanked, I realized a second income stream might be a good idea. I had a book. I could try to publish it.

I looked into self-publishing, but I was unwilling to experiment with my firstborn. It was too special. Too important to fiddle around with. It might be my only book, but what if it wasn't? What if I did write those other seven? Would I mess up my chances with a publishing house if I self-published?

I decided to write another book. A stand-alone book. A young adult book. They have money. I know some young adults on Facebook. They could promote it for me, if they liked it. I even had a story idea I had started back in college and set aside because I never finished anything back then.

This book I would write and sacrifice to the self-publishing gods. It wasn't my firstborn. It was just a good story idea I could crank out in no time and maybe make a buck on.

Yeah, story number two didn't like that idea. It didn't like playing second fiddle to its older sibling. Story number two fought back.

If Star of Justice was a labor of love, Elementals has been just plain labor.

Friday, September 25, 2009

A Book Completed

Tired out from intensive writing, I took a break to read and reorganize. My break lasted over a year.

Eventually, while I no longer pursued publishing Star of Justice, I figured I might as well write another book. The first attempt had been quite successful. This time I would pace myself and try to keep a life as I wrote.

The only problem was I couldn't write another book. I started one and got stuck. I started another one and got stuck. By the third book, I was getting nervous.

I had thrown everything I could think of storywise into Star of Justice. Maybe I was a one-book wonder.

A year or so later, I borrowed a book from my brother called How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card. Card is a prolific sci-fi writer, so he should know what he's talking about. He frightened me.

He warned that a writer must publish or cease being a writer. Without the permanence of a published manuscript, a writer faces an eternity of rewrites, revisions and editorial changes for a story that is more or less done. Writers are by nature perfectionists, yet writing itself is not a perfectible act. No one can reach a "pinnacle" of writing ability. "But, like fools, we keep trying" (David Lo Pan from Big Trouble in Little China) unless we publish and move on with our next story life. Yes, we will forever see the mistakes in that first book. There will always be mistakes.

I didn't want to believe Card, so I kept trying to write without trying to publish. I continued to fail. Eventually, I stopped trying to write because I didn't want to try to publish.

Which brings me to this year. This year, while listening to pointofview.net, I heard about Roaring Lambs. I was interested -for the first time in a long time- about writing. I made preparations to go. I went. I planned how to make the best use of my time while there. I think I made the best use of my time while I was there. In fact, the first speaker pretty much set the tone for me. I'll be writing about what I learned from Dr. Gene Getz later.

The result is this blog, and seeking out writing contacts, and doing research on self-publishing and marketing. I've also added an actual plan toward submitting Star of Justice to a publisher. This time, when it gets rejected, I won't put it back into a drawer. I'll submit somewhere else. If I have to, I'll self-publish.

Don't get me wrong. I'm still a Type B, but for some reason, I seem to be willing to act Type B+ about this.

Maybe I'm growing up.

'Bout time.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Book Continued

Where was I? Oh, yes, I said I'd completed a book, stuck it in a drawer and moved on with my life.

To quote Mr. Nimzicki of Independence Day: "That is not entirely accurate."

I did submit to Tor, the publishing house of my favorite series author, Robert Jordan (may he rest in the peace, the brave coward). Following their guidelines and with full knowledge that I had no chance of getting published, I sent the first three chapters to their new submissions editor. I figured I would take the six months before the rejection to research some likely publishers that realistically might publish my book.

I got rejected in a month. My plans for research time were ruined. Being a Type B, I panicked and did nothing. Yes, all you Type A's are yelling at the computer right now. Yes, I had a dozen other options. Yes, I could have done the research I was going to do while waiting. Yes, yes, yes, you know everything. Except what is it to be Type B.

You see, my fear isn't of failure. It's of success. C.S. Lewis described it best in The Horse and His Boy, where he says something to the effect of "Shasta (the hero) had not yet learned that the reward for doing a hard task well is to be given another, harder task to do."

I learned that lesson from Shasta. I took it to heart. I was not ready for success.

So I put the book in a drawer and moved on with my writing life.

Except I didn't.

More on that tomorrow. I'm finishing a chapter tonight.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


This blog has finally made it to search engines! You have to type in Ranunculus Turtle or scroll through 1000s of listings (I did not, so I don't know if that is a fact), but it is there! Yea!

I will also be posting my first official book review next week on Mary DeMuth's A Slow Burn, so I'm listed on that site, too. Yea, yea!

I've mentioned Mary before. She was one of the speakers at Roaring Lambs. She writes normal fiction, as opposed to sci-fi or fantasy, so she might appeal to some of you who are only reading my stuff to be polite. I've listed one of her blogs on my site, too.

For the record, while the book and three-quarters I've currently finished are fantasy, I have about 26 story ideas and some of them would qualify as historical romance. I didn't start with them because I was too lazy to do the research. I hate research. It's why I prefer writing fantasy. Who's going to argue with me about the name of a plant on a world I made up? Someone, eventually, no doubt. People do love to argue.

I also tend to put romance into my fantasy. The potential for tense interplay between male and female is just too tempting for building suspense. Not to mention it's much easier to keep dialogue straight when you can use a he said, she said model instead of he said, he said.

My stories so far could be romance novels except for the presence of dragons, magic and the occasional severed head.

I seem to be rambling a bit tonight. The penalty I pay for having cats who get hungry at 2 A.M. and want me to do something about it.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Book Flashback

Many professional writers and editors will tell you to start your book in the middle of the action. Begin somewhere interesting and fill the reader in as you go.

I could say that's what I did yesterday. I started in the middle of my story on purpose. I would be lying.

After I posted, I remembered I didn't just start writing a book. First, I wrote a short story. So here's a flashback.

The part about scenes is accurate. Most of my writing "career" has been rewriting TV shows for my own enjoyment.

Being a sci-fi fan, I've watched some pretty poorly written shows in my time. Buck Rogers in the 25th Century springs to mind (no offense, Gil. I love you). Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea was another. I watched it on reruns. Wow, was that show poorly written! I guess no one cared about character consistency back then. These were TV shows with a great premise, but no funding, no backing and no viewers. In the 80's, I taped every episode of every new sci-fi show because I knew they wouldn't last more than eight episodes and I wanted them all. Mann and Machine showed real promise. Cancelled after six episodes. Yes, I have them on a 25 year old VHS tape.

Because I liked these shows, usually for the characters, I helped them out by rewriting them so they were good. Believable. Cancel-proof. That was what I thought, anyway. I was young.

This means I have files full of potential scripts for Buck Rogers, Star Trek (not that Star Trek needed rewriting. I just wanted to write for them), Kindred (turns out Aaron Spelling used a role playing game as the model and then did what he always did and turned it into Beverly Hills 90210 with vampires. Sigh), The Legacy (that was a real stinker but I wrote my favorite script off that show), and several others no one but the hardest-core geek would recognize (Hi, Eric!).

Before I wrote my first book, I saw the movie, X-men. I loved it. Being familiar with the genre and the history of Phoenix/Jean Gray, I went home and wrote the next installment, little realizing that was their plan.

I did research. Type B though I am, if I care enough, I will apparently do research. I found a map of New York and studied it to set the tone and figure out how normal people would move from place to place in New York (my villains used trains). I couldn't find Westchester on the map and I didn't have Internet at the time, so I got some of the geography wrong, but I kept writing until I had a completed short story, not just a string of scenes. It's 42 pages long. It took me two weeks. Being who I am, I used the Xmen cast and added three of my own characters. If I live long enough, I may write them a story all their own (I have some scenes already!)

So, that Friday in July of 2003, when I sat down at the computer, I had a little, tiny bit of success under my belt. I was thinking, If I can finish a short story, why can't I finish a real story? Sure, it's longer, but I like books, not short stories. I can do this. All I have to do is not stop until I'm done. That's not hard.

It was hard. Some days I hurt from hunching over the keyboard and not blinking for hours at a time. I couldn't stop thinking about the book. My friends wondered if I'd died. I gave them chapters to read so they'd leave me alone and let me finish. My critters (a whole other cast back then) learned that computer time was NOT play time. They adapted.

I guess I'm saying, sometimes you start with something small and work up to something big. Dave Ramsey uses this theory for his debt snowball. It applies to writing, too.

At least, it did for me.

Monday, September 21, 2009

A Book

I wrote my first book six years ago. Our office had started a summer hours program where if you worked extra hours the first four days, you could take a half day Friday. I signed up, I worked my extra time and I came home.

While eating lunch, I wondered what I would do with my hard-earned free time. On a whim, I picked a story idea from my file cabinet (one I had never really thought about before) and started writing. I wrote for four hours, ate dinner and wrote for another four. My first chapter was done: a real chapter, with a beginning and a middle and an end.

Now, I had never finished a story in my life. Up until that time, I wrote scenes. A scene is an idea about a story, with characters, action and dialogue, but no connectivity with anything. It makes total sense in my head, but it would be several pages of gibberish to anyone else. I enjoyed my scenes a lot, but no one else could.

I wrote more the next day. I enjoyed myself. No rules, except the obvious it has to make sense. If I got stuck, I made something happen. The poor gentleman who dies in the first chapter dies purely because I thought "That proves the situation is serious" (paraphrase from Galaxy Quest. How many Star Trek Red Shirts died for the same reason? I've not counted them, but some nerd will know). A forest of walking trees showed up. A crazed monk with a branding iron. A mouthy little friend who runs like the wind.

With every chapter completed, I wondered Can I go on? Why not? I had the time.

I kept writing. I wrote from seven to nine every night. By August, I was writing nearly all day on Saturdays. By September, I had expanded to writing during the lunch hour. By October, I wrote as long as could before I went to work, and I would write past nine P.M. if I was on a roll. Every weekend minute not spent at church or with family went to my book (and I must admit, I resented more than a few of those church/family minutes).

I always began by reading the previous day's work, editing it for clarity and plunging into new action. I was afraid if I stopped, I would never start again.

Every weekend I would read a completed chapter aloud to my mom. It gave me a weekly goal and I kept it. It also gave me weekly encouragement because I needed it. Mom is a very forgiving audience, though not useful for critiquing purposes. She thinks everything I write is wonderful.

Some chapters were easy and were completed well before my weekend deadline. Some were hard.

Chapter Twelve was hard, mostly because I knew what was coming in Chapter Thirteen and I wanted to get there. I cried when I made it. But the book wasn't over, and I didn't stop. I'd come so far. Could I make it to the end?

Mom was scheduled for surgery November 3rd, and I finished the last chapter and read it to her on the 2nd. I couldn't believe I had written an entire book: 310 pages, 167,000 words. It made sense.

Other people thought it was interesting (I'd enlisted several readers along the way to make sure I was telling a good story and not wasting anyone's time). I had accomplished everything I set out to do (which, albeit, wasn't much) that Friday afternoon five months earlier. I wrote a book.

Being a Type B, I patted myself on the back, stuck it in a drawer and moved on with my life.
Ooh, time's up. Tune in tomorrow for the rest.

One other thing. When I do publish that first book, don't skip to Chapter Thirteen. It's worth the wait. Believe me.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Power of a Name

It is my habit, when I come home, to call out the name of every denizen as I find him or her. I even did it with the fish when I had some. This is a lengthy process, because I have seven critters who occupy various places throughout the house throughout the day. I will not leave the house until I have found and spoken to each one. I do this in part because I want to be certain no one has been shut into a closet or cupboard. I do it in part because I want them to remember their names. I do it because it seems polite to do so, even with animals.

Several classes in college impressed upon me the power of calling a person by name. A name is more than a label. It is an identity, and people respond when you have cared enough to remember their name. I met some young ladies from China last week, and they were obviously surprised and delighted when I called them by name. Well, I butchered one name, but I won't next week! I called them by name, and they knew they were special.

One of my favorite passages in John takes place just after Jesus' resurrection. Mary is at the empty tomb, beside herself with grief. She mistakes Jesus for the gardener, until He says "Mary." She instantly knows who He is because He knows her name. He tells us in Revelation that He will give each of us a white stone with our name on it, a name known only to Him.

I imagine the day my Lord will call my name, and I will go to Him. The sheep know the shepherd's voice.

I just want to be a sheep. Baa baa.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


September is sprinting away from me, so today's writing time will be spent on Elementals instead of the blog. Yea! for book readers. Sorry for blog readers. Someday, you'll hopefully be one and the same.

If you've missed a few days' entries, feel free to review and comment.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Huge Surprise

My 10th anniversary came up again last night at the company picnic. Unbeknownst to me, I was the guest of honor, and my family was invited to attend in a This is Your Life fashion.

I don't know what to say. That I was surprised is an understatement. I never expected anything for the anniversary, which is why the flowers were so nice (apparently, they were intended as a diversionary tactic, which was completely unnecessary. With my attention span, they could have dangled string with the same effect and saved some money).

That I am gratified is an understatement. I have enjoyed my time at Florists' Review so much precisely because I feel appreciated there. Heck, a simple thank you and two Oreos were enough to get me to wash a week's worth of dorm dishes. A whole cake? With my picture on it, too? Well, who knows what I'll do now? (Most likely just the same stuff. Personality Type B and all)

I have the best job in the world. Since I started as a temp, and they had to create a position for me in order to keep me, through the years I have picked up all kinds of tasks I like. My job is a complete hodge-podge of things that make me happy that no one else had time or desire to do. My biggest fear is they will realize how easy I have it and hire a monkey to fill the position. I wouldn't work for bananas. Oreos, yes. Bananas, no. Well, Oreos and cat food.

This then is my conclusion in the matter: love God, serve others, and be content. The rest will sort itself out. There may even be cake.

That's all I have to say about that.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Blog Rules? part 2

6. I will not respond personally to comments.
When I started blogging, I had two examples to guide me. The first was Susan's Sampler from blogspot. (Hi, Susie!) It's a charming blog, written by a friendly, outgoing person. She responds to comments with excitement and good humor.

The second example was HumanEvents.com, my default home page. This seems to be more of an editorial page than an objective news source. I could be wrong. Multiple writers contribute articles each day, and scores (sometimes thousands in Ann Coulter's or Phyllis Shlafly's case) of people comment on the articles. Some of the comments are downright mean or meaningless, but they get to stay because, in theory, they are a real person's reactions to the article. The writers of Human Events do not respond to comments, but the commenters respond to each other, sometimes with vehemence.

These were my examples. Do I follow the friendly, outgoing manner of Susan, or the business-like, tough-skin manner of Human Events?

Perhaps it was a mistake (shocking!), but I chose Human Events. For practical reasons, if I ever garner thousands of comments, I will not have time to respond personally to every comment. Should I set a precedent of doing so and later break it? Would that not seem ruder than not responding at all?

As a nerd, I am not always familiar with standard social obligations. I often walk outside social norms without regret or awareness. Plus, me adding comments seemed to artificially boost the comment count, and that felt like cheating.

Over the last two weeks, I started following a few other blogs. I'm learning that in this venue, specifically the blogspot participants, responding to comments seems to be the more socially acceptable form. It makes the blog more personal and encourages reader participation.

I must admit, my ego is such I want comments. I want to know other people are reading this and finding it useful or interesting or even stupid, if that's really what they think. I'm so egotistical, I've opened this blog up to allow Anonymous comments. A bit of a risk, yes, but I don't want to restrict access just yet. I do appreciate those who add a name to their comment. Knowing who you are allows me to know how much weight to give your comment.

So, while I started with Rule 6 as stated above, I will modify it for now into I may not always respond personally to comments. Some comments do not appear to need replies. Some comments may spark ideas for posts like Allison Bottke and Branding, and thus I will respond in that way. Do know that I read, consider and appreciate every comment, whether I respond personally or not. This kind of reader participation offers a huge benefit to a writer. I can learn in a timely fashion whether I am communicating well through the written word to people who may not know me personally.

Remember, this is a beginning blogger's search to find meaning in the experience. I started with the goal of making this blog meaningful to me. Oddly, I find I also want it to be meaningful to others.

One other, slightly off-topic thing. If I post in the morning, it is because I do not expect to have time to write on my book in the evening. If I post in the evening, you can be certain I am writing Elementals (my current work in progress) soon after. My goal is to have a completed first draft manuscript by the end of September. I am almost there. You'll be reading about that later.

I've officially broken Rule 3 now. Well, they're my rules. I guess I can break them if I want.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Blog Rules?

I am one of those odd people who prefer structure; except, ironically, when it comes to my writing style, but that is literally a post for another day. Preferring structure has to do with my judgmental nature (see post Vulcans).

I like rules. If I can't find them, I make them up.

I made up some rules about this blog without realizing it. I'm sharing them so you know what they are, too. How can a game be played if you don't know the rules?

1. I will write one post every day.
I've already broken this rule, but I have a reason (doesn't everyone who breaks a rule?)
As I've admitted in the post Mistakes and Goals, I misspelled ranunculus in my first blog, so I created a new blog with the correct spelling. I had already posted on that blog and I wasn't willing to lose the post, so I copied it to this blog. That's why the first two posts appear on the same day.

I figure if I'm writing a post, I will follow by writing on my book, and that strikes me as a good plan if I want to finish it.

The only exceptions to this rule will be sabbaths and sick days. I haven't excepted for those yet, but I'm leaving the option open.

2. I will write ONLY one post every day.
This is getting harder to follow every day, but I'm making it a hard and fast rule. If I need to write that badly, I will write on my book.

3. I will keep it short.
I want to write something readable in two to four minutes. I am surprised (though no one else may be) to say this has been hard for me. I doubted I would find something to write about at all.

4. I will be civil.My goal, even if discussing difficult topics, is to maintain a tone of civility in all posts. The world is harsh enough. I don't need to add to it. I would appreciate your adherence to this rule, as well. I will allow for irony and humorous satire, for not to do so is to deny my own nature, but I will not be mean. On purpose. Call me on it if you feel stepped on.

5. I will compose for no more than one hour.
This is an internal rule. You wouldn't know it unless I tell you, but since I hope other writers and would-be writers read this, I let you know the process. For me, an hour of fresh writing produces about a page. That's more than enough to read in two to four minutes.

6. I will not respond personally to comments.
This is a toughie, and requires explanation, but the explanation needs to wait for another post. I believe my time and space are used up.

That's another writing trick - the cliff-hanger. We'll see how many care about responding to comments.

Oh, I expect a few comments on the fact that I did comment on a few comments, but be patient. I'll explain tomorrow, God willing and the creek don't rise.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Pleasant Surprise

Today was my 10th anniversary at work.

I'd forgotten, mostly because I count my anniversary from three months ago. I was hired as a temp. I knew from the first week I wanted to stay and work with those crazy, wonderful, really crazy people.

They must have felt the same way because they promoted me to full time September 15. Hence, the anniversary.

The surprise, however, was not that it was my anniversary. It was the flowers.

Thanks to the current economic stress (that was very PC of me, wasn't it?), no one was getting flowers for birthdays or anniversaries this year.

I got flowers, because it's my 10th. What pretty flowers they are, too.

Hot pink roses, fuschia zinnias, lime green button mums, coral carnations, and tiny white marguerite daisies. It's a small arrangement, but full of color and cheer. No ranunculi, but I'm not a flower snob. I love the garden varieties. I'd grow them myself if I had a yard with some sun exposure.

I don't usually like surprises, even good ones, but this one I liked.

I don't know where I'll be in ten years. I have some opinions, but I'll leave the future to God since
He's already there. I do know, for the most part, I've enjoyed the last ten. Thanks to everyone who's been a part of that.

But don't think I'm sharing the flowers. Those are mine.

Monday, September 14, 2009


What is it we want from our heroes? To quote the Cowardly Lion "Courage."

We want it from them because we so often fail to find it in ourselves. If only we had the guts to do that thing - that one, right thing. Our hero would do it.

Oh, he sometimes has to be forced, kicking and screaming, into doing that one, right thing; but he does it in the end. Why?

Because he's a hero.

It is hard? Of course it is. To quote Tom Hanks from A League of Their Own "If it were easy, everyone would do it."

It is painful? You bet. Sometimes it hurts worse than an actual wound.

It is costly? Many of our Founding Fathers gave up everything, even their lives, to buy freedom for our country.

"When he found a pearl of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it." Matthew 13:46 NIV. Jesus is talking about the kingdom of heaven, not freedom per se, but does it not take courage to give up everything for that one, right thing? Especially when the easier route is right there?

Heroes do the right thing. It's hard. It's painful. It costs. It has to be done. If you're a hero.

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:8 NIV.

Perhaps, if our heroes are courageous enough, some little bit will rub off on us.

We can hope.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Mistakes and Goals

I had to move a cat to get to my computer. I had better make this a good post.

Why are mistakes only visible after they're made? How simple would life be if we saw the error before it happened?

When I created this blog, I misspelled ranunculus. How dumb was that?

My first post should have been called "A Post About Nothing." I didn't know the difference between a blog, which is this entire site and all its accompanying info, and a post, which is a subdivision of a blog (someone please correct me if I am mistaken about these terms). My ignorance seems to have caused a great deal of confusion for at least one reader. Thankfully, she forgave me and stuck with me. Not everyone would have.

I had no goal when I began. I just started and hoped I would figure it out on the way. That may have been a mistake. Allison Bottke has some strong words on the subject: "Always have a goal." She said it several times during her workshop. I heard, but I didn't listen.

Ms. Bottke is a stickler for professionalism. Put your best, most professional foot forward. Study your topic. Become an expert. It has most certainly worked for her.

I have a high regard for competence. I expect it from experts. However, every new skill has a learning curve. Mistakes are made when you start. How many and how often depend on the difficulty of the skill (and possibly the intelligence of the trainee). Competence results when those mistakes translate into learning, adaptation and improvement.

In American (as opposed to English, which we haven't spoken for years), I must practice to get better.
I will always make mistakes. It is the penalty for being alive and human.

Which brings me to the question, should I go back and correct the mistakes on this blog? I corrected the name. Should I correct the name of that first post?

I think not. Mistakes can be reminders: sometimes painful, sometimes embarrassing, but sometimes useful for keeping the ego in check. I have plenty of ego. Better to bruise it with the occasional mistake than be crushed by the weight of its own, false sense of perfection.

Eventually, this blog will have a goal. With each post, I see the need to know where I am going and what I am doing in this space and time. I begin to understand why people have multiple blogs.

Right now, this blog is most useful to me because it offers a segue way from the real world into the inner world where my characters await the breath of life. I generally work on my book for one to two hours after posting (that's a half to a full chapter for me). For that, I am grateful, no matter what mistakes I make here.

I have no idea why it is useful to you. Maybe that is a mistake.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Allison Bottke and Branding

I've had a few comments on my turtle. Thank you! Always nice to know someone other than Mom is reading this. Please allow me to explain.

I continue to mention Roaring Lambs Christian Writer's Conference because it is the most recent conference I've attended. I will mention it in the future, I am certain. Their website is roaringlambsministries.org. If you live in Texas and want to write Christian literature of any kind, look them up.

I attended a session with Allison Bottke about Branding. I'd never heard of Allison Bottke. I had heard of branding. When I see a moon-lit, pencil-sketched, grassy field and spot a tiny antenna in the distance moving closer, I know the next words will be "Bad Robot." That's the brand of J.J. Abrams, creator of Alias, Lost and the newest (and by far the best, no offense to any of the others, which I love anyway) Star Trek movie.

Who can hear "Grr, Argh" and not think of Joss Whedon's Mutant Enemy? OK, maybe normal people, but no geek or nerd can, I promise. Have you seen the mutant enemy? According to rumors, it was sketched, cut out and shot minutes before it was needed. It's been going strong for over ten years now.

Those are brands. They appear on anything produced, written or claimed by those two men.
As far as I can tell, Allison Bottke has four brands. She started with God Allows U-Turns and moved on from there.

Allison is a AA personality-type. She's even more motivated than your average A.
I'm barely a B. God gave me talent but no ambition. Apparently, that's the one thing I'm supposed to work at. Go figure.

Ranunculus Turtle is my brand. I chose her. I named her. There she is. If I develop more ambition, I may develop another brand.

For now, though, you're all stuck with the turtle.

Welcome to my blog.

Friday, September 11, 2009

A Day to Remember

I remember exactly where I was eight years ago. I've heard 9/11 is my generation's Kennedy assassination. Except more than one man died that day.

Why does evil multiply and divide instead of subtracting into zero? Because we live in a fallen world. A world where evil will only get worse until Christ returns and puts an end to it.

Come, Lord Jesus. I, for one, am ready to go home.

Today I will remember 9/11. I will pray for the survivors. I will pray for our nation. I will pray for our enemies, because God loves them, too.

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Rom 5:8 NIV

May God forgive our nation for its arrogance, idolatry, and ignorance of His laws. May He awaken His children to their duty to be real witnesses to His grace and compassion.

"It is not that Christianity has been tried and found wanting. It is that it has been found hard and never tried." Ravi Zaccharius was quoting someone when he said this, but I only remember Ravi.

May God have mercy on us all.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


I relate to Vulcans. For the record, though, Scotty was my favorite original Star Trek crew member.

I took a personality test in college. You know, the test where all Christians show up as schizophrenic because they talk to God and He answers? It told me I was judgmental.

Yes, some of you knew that, but it's not what you think.

In this case, judgmental is the opposite of intuitive. It means my information processes rely on observable facts instead of feelings. No, my conclusions are no better than anyone else's. No one action is perfectly representative of any person at any one time; therefore, my initial conclusions are as prone to error as someone else's snap judgment (in normal person talk that's to really know you I have to be around you a lot). I simply mean to say I don't have instincts about people: I have observations. Like a Vulcan.

I do not meet someone and feel they are kind or stupid or boring.

I meet someone and watch until they do something kind or stupid or boring. Then I label them.

I say this to illustrate the concept of show, don't tell.

Readers cannot be intuitive about your characters. They do not have sights, sounds, tone of voice or any of the other non-verbal cues they would normally have to get to know a real person. Readers have only what you the author choose to show them.

You can tell your reader your character is kind or stupid or boring. It's a little boring to do so, for you and the reader, but you can.

It is far more interesting to show the character doing something kind or stupid or boring. This encourages the reader to read on to see if his judgment is correct. If he sees more to confirm his conclusions, he will read on because he feels justified. If he sees new actions that contradict his conclusions, he is intrigued and wants to know more (unless your character is as inconsistent as a politician. That's never fun to read).

Readers are like Vulcans, too. They want to see your characters in action so they can put the right labels on them. When they get it right, they feel good about your story and you.

Here's the point. Don't presume on the kindness of your readers. Don't assume they're stupid. For goodness' sake, don't be boring. Show, don't tell. They'll thank you for it.

Unless they are Vulcans. Gratitude is illogical.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Direction at Last?

I was told if I want to get published, I have to blog.

No, I don't, I thought.

I was told, serious authors must blog.

No, they don't, I thought.

I was told, blogging is fun.

How could it possibly be fun? I scoffed.

Actually, blogging isn't that bad. Yet.

So far, it is kind of fun to write a brief essay on a topic of my choice. I haven't run out of ideas.
On the other hand, this is my sixth post. Anybody can think of six essay ideas. I think.

After a week of writing, I am having new thoughts. Thoughts like I should pick a direction. Why would anyone other than Mom want to read this? If I were a famous author, what would I write about that other people would want to read?

Setting up the blog was a new experience. I started with a heading and one entry.

The next day, I looked at some other blogs and what they had going on. I added another entry to begin to explain myself.

After my third entry, I noticed I had infinite choices on what to do with this page. Again, I looked to other blogs and why I bothered reading them. What need did they fulfill for me?

Four times I started "About Me" and backed away. What should people know? What was TMI (that's Too Much Information, Mom)? Those who know my narcissistic tendencies may find it hard to believe, but I want this blog to be interesting to someone other than me. That opens the question of who other than me would read this? I would hope they would be those who will one day read and enjoy my books.

If that is the case, what would they find interesting? What would I find interesting in a public journal of my favorite author? Advice? Plot spoilers? A reason to care about her newest project? A countdown of when the next book is available?

I started with a blog about nothing. I discover I want a blog about something.

Let me know if you agree.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Many years ago, I read Stephen King's Misery. I would not recommend this book if you do not want horrific images involving rats forever imprinted on your brain. If you enjoy that sort of thing, by all means, have at it.

My best memory from the book involves the idea of cheating. Allow me to set the scene.

The hero in the book is a writer of romance novels about a character named Misery. He has become famous and wealthy at her expense. Growing weary of her and wanting new vistas to explore, the author kills her at the end of what is to be her last book. Much like Arthur Conan Doyle did to Sherlock Holmes. Misery's many fans are outraged, but he doesn't care.

The hero of the book is then involved in a car accident and wakes to find himself a severely injured prisoner in the home of his biggest, and unfortunately, craziest fan. I believe her name is Annie.

Annie recognized him. She rescued him from the wreckage of his car, hid the car wreck, and took him home to nurse him to health. She also wants him to resurrect Misery.

Realizing the woman is insane, he decides, for the sake of his own life, to humor her. He uses the infamous "it was all a dream" to bring Misery back.

Annie will have none of it. "That's cheating," she explains (or something to that effect. This was years ago for me, remember). So the author has to come up with a realistic way to bring Misery back to life. The story progresses from there.

Cheating in writing is a common concept.

A reader knows she has been cheated when the hero solves a problem too quickly or easily. This results in reader frustration, book destruction, and, if you're lucky, angry emails to the author.

An author knows she has cheated when she did not lay awake at four A.M. wondering how her hero will solve his problem.

I am often awake at four A.M. cleaning up hairballs, so working out plot complications is not that far out of my way. It is the price I pay for writing fiction. And having cats.

Not cheating makes for better stories. It makes the reader love you. It makes the reader trust you as an author.

A worker is worth his wages. Work hard. The wages will come.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Darkness and Light

I recently attended the Roaring Lambs Christian writer's conference in Texas. I was fortunate enough to attend Mary DeMuth's session on fiction writing.

Mary said many interesting things, but one stuck for me. I did not record the exact quotation, but here is a summation. In your writing, it is okay for darkness to be dark, because that is how we know how brightly God's grace and redemption shine.

She credited J.R.R. Tolkien with this concept, quoting from the movie Return of the King when Sam compares the quest to the great stories and wonders how anything could be good again after so much bad had happened. I believe Samwise says much the same thing in the book, although that particular quote might have been said in The Two Towers.

I am familiar with Tolkien's concept of eucatastrophe, the wonderful, miraculous event that follows and redeems the darkest, most horrible event. He illustrates it best in The Return of the King when the black ships bring Aragorn instead of Sauron's armies. God illustrated it best when He raised Jesus from the dead, surely the most wonderful, miraculous event ever witnessed.

I love happy endings. I do not mind cheering my hero through trial after trial (or putting my hero through trial after trial, for that matter) if I believe he will win his goal. I, like Star Trek's Captain Kirk, do not believe in the no-win scenario. My hero's motto must be that of Galaxy Quest's Peter Quincy Taggert: "Never give up, never surrender." I want my evil evil, but I want my good to triumph. The darkest night must lead to the brightest dawn.

This may be an American worldview, or a Star Trek worldview, or dare I say a Christian worldview that refuses to accept that evil will win forever. Evil may win for a while, but not forever.

So, chins up, my friends. Fight the good fight, whether real or imagined. Bloody, battered good will triumph, and evil will be defeated.

In my books, anyway.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

What's in a Name, part 2?

Half the question is answered.

Ranunculus is the Latin name for the common buttercup. I chose it for multiple reasons.

The word represents my classical Latin education. I took (not studied, unfortunately) Latin for five years, although the sum, retained total of that training can be expressed in the song Barcam Remiga (Row, Row Row Your Boat). I fear it is all I remember.

I will spare you the performance.

Ranunculi are cheery flowers, available in the warm colors of the spectrum. They are found in boggy places, which demonstrates we don't need good surroundings to be chipper. Dreary circumstances can highlight my best qualities, if I so choose.

Ranunculus means little frog. The buttercup was most likely named this because of its preferred habitat. I read a book many years ago about Native American horoscopes and learned I am of the frog clan (that would be water sign for those who follow the Roman tradition). I don't particularly like frogs. I kept one for a short while and found him to be a selfish companion at best and utterly devoted to his stomach. In short, we had a lot in common. It is good to be reminded of flaws, lest my ego require its own plane ticket.

Ranunculus is a fun word to speak. It has a lyric quality, akin to that of a little frog droning on in the twilight. It conjures images of sorcerers and herbs and star charts, of conservatories in crumbling towers and knowledge trapped in thick, leather-bound tomes. At least, it does for me. I cannot say what it conjures for you.

Finally, ranunculi, for all their warm, cheery appearance and poetic applications, are poisonous. They cause blisters and ulcers if eaten. They can even, apparently, kill unwary turtles who follow their stomachs instead of their sense. A useful reminder to keep close.

Friday, September 4, 2009

What's in a Name?

Why Ranunculus Turtle?

The most obvious, and least satisfying, answer is "why not?"

In a first season episode of The Mentalist, Patrick Jane asks a group of teenagers, "If you were an animal, what animal would you be?"

The teens, in that wonderfully prompt way of scripted television shows, blurt answers that are key in solving the mystery.

I did not blurt an answer. I paused. I pondered. I mused.

Ultimately, I decided I would be a turtle. Not because I'm overly fond of turtles, even though I wouldn't deliberately run one over with my car. I don't keep turtles as pets. I don't tune in to nature shows about turtles. I don't consider turtles particularly wonderful in any way above any other animal.

But turtles and I share a few traits. We are both slow-moving. We both focus on food and food-acquisition. If I could think of a way to carry my house on my back, I would.

What I find most memorable about turtles is that moral learned from Aesop's fable: slow and steady wins the race.

I have a goal. What I want is single-minded steadiness in pursuit of that goal.

Thus, the Turtle of Ranunculus Turtle.

Besides, Ranunculus Snail didn't have the same ring.

A Blog About Nothing

I wish I had a dollar for every time someone asked me if I watched Seinfeld during that show's run. I watched two episodes. Both of them were the one with the Soup Nazi.

I've been told it was a show about nothing. A show about nothing that lasted ten years. Pretty good run.

I do not intend to write about nothing for ten years. I do not think I have either that kind of time or that kind of interest in nothing. I would hope I will write about something eventually, but for now - today - nothing.

In The Neverending Story, Nothing is destroying the world. At one point, the author asks the reader to think of nothing. The reader learns this is impossible because even the word nothing conjures an image and nothingness has no image.

What's my point, you ask?

Even a blog about nothing must contain something, or it doesn't exist. Have we not heard how nature abhors a vacuum?

I would say that before I began to write, there was nothing here. Now there is something. With something, one can begin.

Where will I go? I don't know.

When will I stop? Not a clue.

Will anyone join me? That is an interesting question.

How many people joined Seinfeld?


I should be so lucky.