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Friday, December 31, 2010

Banging My Head Against the Wall

Not in a good way, either.

I cannot find a way to proceed with Past Ties. And I'm really looking.

I've written a hook. I've explored my characters and their motivations. I've moved a bit player into a more substantial role. None of it is working.

I broke down and decided to plot out the story. Remembering my experience with my last two attempts, you can understand my reluctance.

I can't do it. It all just looks so boring and trite and juvenile when I write it out. Just...dumb.
The characters I've treasured in my heart all these years are "just two-dimensional characters in a cheap, romantic thriller."

I have to write Dangling Participles. Without it, Star of Justice doesn't exist. Besides, it's funny. I can write it almost without trying. The problem is the two major characters meet in Past Ties. The whole reason they get stranded on Ah'rahk happens in Past Ties.

Do I give up? Giving up feels like a step backwards. I used to give up on stories all the time.

Then again, I'm spinning my wheels here. I should be able to write more than 600 words a day. I wrote way more than that on Star of Justice. Even when Elementals was fighting me, I felt good about it, like it was going somewhere important.

I'm starting to wonder if I'm not ready to deal with the issues in Past Ties. It's about abandonment, self-forgiveness, and rejecting God. Maybe those issues are too outside my realm of experience.

Quick! Someone reject me!

Just kidding. I've been rejected. Recently, in fact.

I've been angry with God, and I've hated myself enough to consider suicide (good thing I'm squeamish).

I just can't find a way to bring all these pieces into a coherent picture. I can't figure out how to stuff this soup.

I'm thinking I'll give it one more month. If I can't get some kind of traction in January, I'll put Past Ties back in the drawer and pull out something else.

January may be longer than usual this year.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

No Stairway? Denied!

Yes, I watched Wayne's World. I liked it, too. And the sequel. So there.

TT: I don't actually get the joke referenced in the title. I know a song called "Stairway to Heaven" exists. I suspect from context it contains some kind of guitar riff all guitarists play or try to play and the store owner doesn't want to hear it anymore. Since I had to deduce this from the movie, I pretty much missed the humor boat. However, I recognize many people found it funny, so I use it.

This is my way of announcing Elementals will not be a PYP publication by that or any other title. I received word last night.

I am grateful I got my rejection before the "finalists" appeared on the PYP FB page.

Here's my reaction:

1) I love that rejections are now, for the most part, free. Back in the old days (you know, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I submitted to Tor for the first time), you paid the cost of paper and postage and return postage to get that "no thanks" pink slip. Since I keep my email for FV posts, getting this rejection technically cost me nothing. Yea!

2) I can continue with NAF for the foreseeable future (until they sack me). I get the boot when I get published.  Actually, I get moved to the Granny Flat, but it's kinda the same thing.

See? Bright side to everything.

Now, I'll take my cue from that brilliant philosopher Forrest Gump and end with "that's all I have to say about that."

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Happy Reader

PYP continues to threaten "the reveal." Kinda takin' their own sweet time about it, too. Don't confuse patience with complacency, PYP.

Oh, wait. They are the same with me. Whatever. Do what you want.

Talked with a happy Elementals test reader this weekend. The first to come close to guessing why it's titled as it is. That's...one of five people to figure that out.


Of course, My Dear Friend tells me she wouldn't have picked up a book with any of the other titles I was considering. Then again, she isn't my target audience.

Anyway, this happy test reader was quick to assure me how much she liked the book. So much more than Star of Justice. So much better.

TT: That's okay, although I had one twinge of concern for my first born. Then I remembered that Bible story - I'm pretty sure it's in the Bible - about the dutiful elder son and the wild-spirited, disobedient younger son who gets all the attention and the beef dinner. I can't think of the name...

Anyway. as with all test readers, I asked her some questions about the story. Any confusing parts? Any unanswered questions? Anything that just rang false?

"Oh, no. I can't wait for the sequel."

"I'm not planning a sequel."

The stunned look said it all. A flood of questions poured out. But what about-? But do they-? But what happened when-?


Maybe I do have the potential for a sequel.

All I have to do is ask my audience what they want to know.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Too Laid Back

Oh, it is hard to find the motivation this morning. But since I'm back to work today, I'm looking for it. I'd rather be in bed.

The dark days of winter do this to me. I can sleep about 16 hours at a time in Winter if given the chance. I rarely get the chance. Maybe next weekend. I don't do New Year's, either.

We've started a new tradition. No more big dinners with "all the trimmings" on Christmas. We had soup (which I'm craving something awful at this very moment), sandwiches, and finger foods like chips and dip. Brownies for dessert, which I love, since I don't like pie. It's kinda nice to be grown-ups for Christmas. No whining. No yelling. No hitting anybody.

Yeah, I wasn't at my best on Christmas. Or any day involving food and/or presents.

Who am I kidding? I'm only at my best when I'm completely alone.

I did have a funny thing happen this weekend. I got excited about Past Ties.

I had powered down for the evening. Computer off. PJ's on. Brushing teeth. And wham! A scene started talking to me.

I've mentioned how my scenes usually start as dialogue, right?

Anyway, teeth are being brushed as this dialogue gets going. I check the clock. It's actually a little early to go to bed, even for me. I was mostly bored with being awake.

Computer gets turned on, files get opened, and click-click-click another 600 words get written almost by accident.

But these words have something I haven't had much of lately. Passion.

It was a new scene, not an old, reworked one. Hopefully, it's a new direction/complication for the story.

See, it occurred to me my whole story has been a drive across western Kansas - flat and dull (no offense, folks). I need some eastern Kansas in there - ups and downs, a few flint hills, maybe a stream or two. Something to break it up. I need a climb and a climax.

Maybe I just found something. We'll see how it goes.

I was telling Grandma Turtle writing is like marriage. Every day ain't champagne and roses but if you keep plugging away, more often than not you find a reason to keep plugging away.

Friday, December 24, 2010


I'm up after my first nap of the day (5:30-9 AM. I fed the cats @5). I'm showered, dressed, and hair-dressed. The fish are fed, the farm is managed (easy since I planted 2-day crops), and cubes are dropped while I watched Hellboy!

I love that movie. Forget for a moment Ron Perlman's fantastic performance as the blue-collar, red-skinned Everyman Demon. You have memorable characters all over the place. I especially like the scene between Jeffrey Tambour and Ron Perlman when they're lighting cigars. Nicely done, boys. Very masculine. Even the cameo folks from the beginning scene when Hellboy is found could have their own movie if they'd just let director Guillermo del Toro have his head.

TT: They did, by the way, in Hellboy II. There is a distinct difference in those two movies, and I'll probably talk about it some other time. I hope someday to watch Hellboy III. After they make it, that is.

Anyway, I didn't want to post about Hellboy.

Newburydave over at the Sandbox said something yesterday that got me thinking. I'll paraphrase.
According to Baen (whatever that is), it's okay to imagine mechanical doohickys and write about them as long as they work consistently within the story. His example was wormholes. We don't have wormhole technology, but we could someday and until we do, it's okay to pretend. It's called imagineering.

TT: Spellcheck hates that word. Oh, well.

Writers do this all the time, even Star Trek writers. It's possible this imagineering is a real branch of engineering. Frankly, I don't care. I didn't bother to look it up because it gave me what I needed.

I now have permission to write whatever kind of tech I want in Past Ties as long as it is consistent within my world frame. I'm kind of already doing it with psyonics, except that's not a real science, so I feel justified in playing with it.

Yes, Andra, you technically gave me permission to do this a while ago with your comments about "soft sci-fi." But a man is convicted by two witnesses, and a turtle is convinced by two unrelated examples.

We'll see if this new found freedom allows me to get these folks moving.

Another possible assist came in The Lioness' most recent NAF post about The Snowflake Method. I'd heard of it. I'd heard of its developer Randy Ingermansen (oddly enough at the Roaring Lambs' writer's conference), but I didn't know who he was.

The Snowflake Method is about plotting your story ahead of time and getting to know your characters before you write them so you don't have to stop all the time to figure out what happens next. A little homework at the beginning speeds up the end process. I have no reason to argue with the thinking.

I'm a seat-of-the-pants writer. We've established that, but I do think part of my problem with Past Ties is I'm not sure where I'm going. I have no definable moment I'm writing toward. I am not "writing with the end in mind."

With Star of Justice, everything I had was focused on getting to the former chapter 13 - Caissa's confrontation with Gamaliel. I must say, the former chapter 12 was one of the hardest I've ever written. I wanted so badly to just skip it and go on.

In Elementals, I aimed at that last chapter. I wanted everything lined up to make that chapter exactly right. Don't know if I hit it, but that was my goal.

I haven't found that Ultimate Scene for Past Ties. It used to be the revelation of LUCK-I as a robot. Not any more. That's established almost from the beginning. So where do I aim?

I have decided (for the moment), LUCK-I is the driving force of the book. Everything that happens should happen either to or because of it. All the rest is incidental.

But, with permission to give my imagineering free rein and a new-found goal of getting to know my characters and their needs, I hope to find my Ultimate Scene and my writing stride.

Wish me luck.

And Merry Christmas Eve to all!

Hmm. I'm a little tired. I may have to work that second nap of the day in before Christmas Eve services.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Running So Late

I could blame the online Christmas party with Grace Bridges, Andrea Graham of Tales of the Dim Knight and Fred Warren of The Muse, but I left shortly before 9 PM, so that isn't fair.

I could blame this being the last official work day of the week. Thank you, Jesus for that. I'm ready to not be there for a few days.

I could blame the chance I'm trying to develop a cold (got the start of a beauty headache at the moment). I'm taking vitamin D, Airborne and stopping wheat consumption just in case. I do not want to be sick over Christmas. 

No, I need to blame the cats. With the advent of cold weather, I'm letting them stay upstairs at night instead of in the unheated basement. I keep waking up to Mica purring and kneading my neck. At least she isn't crying. I hate it when she cries. She's a colicky cat on her best days.

I wrote nothing story-related last night. I will blame the party on this one.

That's okay. Theoretically, I have almost the entire weekend to write. Church has shrunk to one mid-morning service on Sunday so folks can spend time with their families. That really only works if you have a family with whom to spend time.

I guess the cats count.

TT: That sounds like I'll be all alone all weekend. Not true. I'll be spending time with the human fam, just not every day. Frankly, I like being alone. I need the rest. Oooh! I might watch The Fugitive

I'd like to think I will use the time well. Make some Christmas presents, repair some clothing that's needed it for a while, try yet again to monetize my website, spend a little time with Jesus - that sort of thing. Odds are I'll be sleeping and watching Hellboy I and II. And Galaxy Quest. Gotta watch Galaxy Quest at Christmas.

I have no idea if I'll be posting. I will have all the time in the world to do so, but that's true of Saturdays. If I say I will, I won't. If I say I won't, I will. So I'll say maybe, and we'll see.

If I don't, Merry Christmas and Maligayang Pasco to everybody.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I Don't Date (So How Will I Get Published?)

The warning has gone out from PYP. October's book submissions have been read and sorted. Some manner of judgment will fall in January.

That means I need to get this post out asap. Otherwise it will be gloating or sour grapes. I'd rather you all just took it as "random thoughts."

I pity publishers/editors/agents. I do.

I know. As an author, I should admire/respect/worship/despise/mock/criticize them, but mostly I pity them.

It can't be an easy job. They're human, like me. They're trying to make a living doing what they love. And these snotty folks keep getting in the way by not producing what they really need - a book or short story that appeals to a wide audience and pretty much sells itself.

That has to be hard.

Not only do writers not produce such a book, but they gritch and moan when you have to tell them they didn't produce such a book.

I mean, writers are supposed to be fairly bright. Shouldn't they have figured this out on their own?

TT: This post could read as pure sarcasm, but I assure you, I'm serious as a heart attack here.

"A heart attack is serious," Bones said. 
"Yes it is," Boothe agreed.

Getting published is like dating. Writers are the guy. We scope out the chic (publishing house), we approach, we make our pitch and we wait for the result.

At this point, guys know the girl has all the power.

TT: I also have to say I admire guys willing to put themselves out there. It has to be hard. I'm not interested, but I do admire you.

So the girl, the publisher, has to consider the offer. Is he cute? Is he broke? Can she present him to Mom and Dad at Christmas? Does he own a surfboard? All good questions.

If she doesn't like the answers, she says "no." How she says it depends entirely on what kind of girl she is and what kind of guy he is. We all know it doesn't take all night to wash your hair. That's a solid brush-off. But if she gives you a "gee, I don't have time this weekend, but if you get a job and move out of your parents' basement and maybe grow out that mohawk, we can talk again."
That would be the "it's not what we need right now, but if you reduce the word count, change the vampire to a superhero and get rid of the flying purple people eater, feel free to resubmit in a year" editorial response.

The ball is back in the guy's court. No one wants to see a guy pitch a fit 'cause a girl said "no." It's undignified and it's unnecessary. How does the old saying go? There's plenty of publishers in the sea?
Something like that. 

Anyway, since this submission is not my end-all-be-all-if-I-don't-get-in-now-I'll-kill-myself last resort, I'm good with whatever happens. If it isn't here, it will be somewhere. If it isn't now, it will be sometime.

I have just enough pragmatism in me to believe that. 

One other thing, and this one could qualify as a bit judgmental and snarky.

Me? Shocking! 

A guy who demands of a girl a detailed explanation for why she rejected him is a loser. If he pulls that, he's got his reason, he's just too dense to know it.

Did I say a bit judgmental? My bad.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Third Book, or First?

Past Ties plods along. Thanks to Elementals, I was prepared for difficulty in reshaping and reworking a partially written story. It's been harder than I expected, but I have progressed.

While complaining about it to My Dear Friend last night, and while considering ways to accurately describe my troubles to non-writers, I stumbled across a revelation.

I've been thinking of Star of Justice as my perfectly behaved first born. Elementals is my strong-willed second child. So what would Past Ties be? The clownish, attention-starved Baby or the more serious, independent Youngest-For-Now?

But that's all wrong.

I wrote Past Ties in college. I finished it in college (clocking in at 37,500 words, I suppose it would count as a novella).

That makes Past Ties not only my first book, but my 17-year-old, near-adult coming home to demand why I abandoned it shortly after birth and what kinds of reparations I'm prepared to make.

That's a whole other can of mealworms.

I'm not dealing with a fresh idea and uncharted ground. I'm not dealing with a partially plotted group of scenes in need of smooth transitions and a coherent plot structure.

I'm dealing with a hacked-off first attempt to bring order out of chaos, and a story firmly settled in the legend of my story worlds.

No wonder it's been hard. I already wrote this. And now I'm writing it again. Differently.

Why do I do this to myself? Is writing a good story not hard enough?

My Dear Friend encouraged me to let it go and write something else (her ulterior motive no doubt is to read the much-touted but unwritten sequel to Star of Justice).

Can't do it. The Turtle sheer-cussedness is out in full-force. I will make something of this homeless urchin. I will whip this Galatea into shape to inspire everyone, including her creator, to fall in love with her.

That's the goal, anyway. I talk big when I'm nervous.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Where Is Everybody?

Does that title even make sense? It sounds wrong. But everybody is singular, so the verb would be singular. Where are everybody sounds worse.

TT: Whatever was voted The Most Annoying Word of the Year for the second year running. I suppose if I heard it eye-rolled at me daily I might agree. I'm going to try working it into every one of my posts until January.

Just kidding.

I'm sure it's purely subjective, but people I'm accustomed to "seeing" daily have vanished. Crazyhair Vaulter. Certain Neighbors. Gungho Iguana (although his semester is over, so he may be back on the scene for a bit).

Are normal people really this busy around Christmas?

TT: Not being normal people, I have to ask this question. 

I vaguely remember this time last year we were all waiting for the final results of the MLS Contest. I don't remember a lot of chatter.

The year before that I wasn't on FB or FV or the Internet so I didn't have any Friends to miss. I don't know what I was doing. Watching Galaxy Quest, probably. I know I wasn't hanging around with family and shopping all day. This turtle don't play that. A great disappointment to Momma Turtle it is, too. 

I know I wasn't writing.

I was talking about writing. Thinking about writing. Blogging about writing.

But I wasn't writing. Mostly I was huddled under blankets and dreaming of a hot Kansas summer. Which failed to materialize, thanks so much, Al Gore. Maybe if we'd burned a few more tire piles, I wouldn't have my current gas/electric bill.

Have I mentioned I consider man-made global warming a farce, and its prophets charlatans and thieves? Or worse, misguided fanatics worshipping at the altar of Earth Mother Gaia, who has to be slapping her forehead and wondering, "I gave them Styrofoam. Why won't they use it? I'm cold here. I need the insulation."

TT: Hmm. The lack of socialization is showing in an uptick of sarcasm. Sorry, folks. This is what happens when you leave me alone for an extended period of time.

Anyway, since I am actually writing at the moment, and TV has finally reached a point of such utter inanity I find myself looking forward to the commercials, I guess I'll stop lamenting the solitude and put it to good use abusing the cast and crew of Past Ties.

God willing, some of you will reappear after the New Year.

You know where I'll be. Right here, covered in a mixture of Styrofoam and mud, staring at frozen buttercups.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


After doing absolutely nothing for three weeks, my website has fixed itself. I have no explanation for this.

I got on last night prepared for battle and discovered all the "saved" stuff in the queue had vanished, but I could publish again.

I went slowly, just in case. Everything seems okay. So, if you get the chance, wander over to Ranunculus Turtle the website and check out the Elementals page for some artwork relating to the book.

TT: That's www.robynntolbert.com if you didn't know.

Went to bed early, but did manage to dash off some writing last night. Sloooow and steady, remember? I'll get there. At the moment, it's a 3 viewpoint book. At the moment, it's working. Hopefully, I'll stay in the moment.

Don't know if I'll have time to write this evening or not. Depends on the roads.

You know, I've started and deleted 3 potential post topics. I guess I'm not feeling it this morning.

So, I'll quit, you can take the time to visit the website, and we'll both get on with our day.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

First Love

If you got that email a year ago with the wave file called "Wake Up" (a line drawing cartoon of a cat trying to get his owner out of bed) and enjoyed it, hop over to Scita Scienda for C.L. Dyck's "Happy Holidays" post.

TT: Forgive her for the PC title. She's Canadian. They don't have Christmas, I guess. Or they'll imprison her for mentioning anything with "Christ" in it.

Just kidding, Cat. Mostly.

I was a writing fool last night. Too bad I started so late. It won't last, I'm sure.

What helped was remembering one of the things I love about Past Ties: all the psyonic stuff. I thought, why on earth am I not writing more about that? That's good stuff, chock full of conflict with hints of occult to draw in the modern day reader.

Viewpoint Character Tayra Shah is a member of the Psyonic Guild. Her title is "Tracker," and her ability category is Empathic Precog. That means she is able to sense past, present and future emotional states in regards to a specific item or person. In the case of an item, she senses the emotional states of the people surrounding it.

This awareness can be used for a variety of purposes, but since Trackers are rare (about 1 in every 1 billion births), the Guild uses them to locate stuff. Valuable stuff. Good P.R., and pays for all the upkeep.

Trackers have a hard life. They have very little control over what they sense and often get bombarded with unwanted information. Think TMI for every person you ever meet. Or pass. Or see. Or don't see, 'cause the precognitive aspects of the ability mean time is no barrier to reception.

Doesn't sound so fun, huh?

It isn't fun, although Shah used to be very, very good at her job. Arrogant good. Then she got spanked. Hard.

When we meet her, she's a mess. A guilt-ridden, shame-filled, emotionally-crippled mess being forced to take her first assignment in three years.

Good times.

Like the best therapy sessions, good story-telling is about conflict. I was forgetting that. My favorite part of writing, and reading, is the conflict. The yelling, the blaming, the sarcasm and the fear of failure. I won't be able to chop off heads in this book (unless I get really creative), but my folks can fight.

Add in describing abilities no one has ever experienced before and my fingers are itching to type just thinking about it.

TT: That last sentence was a little bold, even for me. With the resurgence of interest in psychic phenomena, people have certain expectations of what a psychic or psyonic can do. I don't care about their expectations too much. My psyonics will be judged on their own merits, and Shah will be judging herself for a while yet.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


If you haven't had a chance to hop over to NAF and tell me about your favorite robot yet...why not? I'm not getting any younger here.

Speaking of which, I've found my first wrinkle. It's the beginnings of a neck wattle. I knew I'd develop one eventually. I just didn't know "eventually" would be "now." I figured my first wrinkle would be a smile line. Alas, no. To be fair, my co-worker doesn't see it, and she's not the kind who won't tell me something just to be nice. I'm grateful for that, even if it means occasionally I get a hairy eyeball for my choice of clothing.

Hey, I thought they matched when I was dressing in the dark.

Anyway, it's easier to comment at NAF than here. You don't have to log in, and the site remembers you when you come back. Plus, no one has identified my movie quote yet. 

Moving on. 

I should never have mocked Anne Lamott about writer's block. I suspect that's where I am right now, at the intersection of Stuck and Braindead.

I'm not worried. I'm not on deadline (not a paying deadline), so I don't have to panic.
I have some tricks to try.

I can do a little research. I won't go crazy like some folks, but taking an hour to toodle the web and look at current robots or biological breakthroughs or monsoon destruction footage or giant helicopters can oil my brain gears enough to get moving again. I'll have to do it eventually, and I hate it when I have a great scene written only to find out they didn't wear their daggers on that side and even if they did, the type of dagger would be inadequate for doing what I needed it to do. Better to do some research early in the process.

I can Make Something Happen. If I get bogged down, so does the reader. So, bang! Throw a curve ball. Drop a bomb. Explode a lab. Get the stupid story moving, gooberhead!

Ooh, sorry. That was my internal editor. She's not as nice as I am.

A thought struck me last night. While I was icing my cheek, I pondered. I've always assumed Past Ties is part of a trilogy. Past Ties, Present Tense, Future Perfect. Great titles, aren't they?
But I don't necessarily have books to go with those titles. Fact is, I don't have to write Past Ties. I made it through Star of Justice without The Oracle's Words. I could move on with my series without ever committing Tayra and Gavran, or LUCK-I, to paper.

I don't want to do that. I'd prefer to write their story, but I've been thinking I have to. I don't. I don't have to write three books, either. I might be able to do it in one. Shoot, I might be able to make it a short story.

Maybe not.

The point is, I said no limits, and then I find limits I didn't know I had. Story of my life.

I'll start with Making Something Happen, and move on to research if that doesn't help.

Otherwise, I'll just stare at my neck wattle in the mirror. That's not helpful.

Monday, December 13, 2010


It didn't post Saturday, but to read some of my thoughts about robots, click

The New Authors' Fellowship.

Then share some of your thoughts about robots.

Friday, December 10, 2010

My Trouble with Scifi

No writing last night, and unlikely writing time tonight. Other things, you know. However, tomorrow is supposed to be cold with rain and possible snow. Surely I can find 3 hours of writing time between all the napping I intend to do. Who knows? I might even find a little time to research.


For me, research is typing a word into the Google search bar and picking the first thing that isn't an ad. Not very directed, I admit, but research is a concept beyond my reptilian brain's ability to grasp. I never know when to quit or what to trust. Who has the last word on a topic, after all?

One of my big issues is with the character LUCK I, a robot. I'll be writing about that at NAF, possibly tomorrow. I'll have to see who else has what else scheduled.

Who am I kidding? I have a problem with all the technology. On last night's drive home, I heard computer hard drives may soon be a thing of the past. Something called Chrome is going to create computers whose info is stored in online servers only.

TT: The whole idea freaks me out. Has overtones (real or perceived) of socialism and shared property that put my back up and my head down.

My book is set in 2132. What on earth will Earth look like? What kind of tech will we have and what will we have outlawed?

It's my choice, really, since it's my vision of the future, but I'd like it to at least seem plausible.
My typical readers compliment me on my innovation and creativity (It's not arrogant if it's true). I correct them constantly. What I write is innovative and creative to them, because they aren't familiar with the genre. It's not innovative at all in comparison to other fantasy offerings.

And that's why writing scifi freaks me out. The MLS contest showed me how far out of touch I am.
Which means I either have to catch up fast or make the story so compelling it appeals to readers other than hardcore scifi fans.

I'm a turtle living at the poverty line. Guess which option I'll chose?

I suppose a third option is not to write scifi.

Too late. Already started. Must finish.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


It looks like I didn't write last night. I did, but I also cut some stuff. So while I think I wrote about 600 words, I can't prove it.
TT: I am craving nachos. I wonder if I have any?
At least Tayra and Gavran are out of the car. They've been sitting in there mid-fight for nearly a year. Waaaay past time to move on.
When I first envisioned this story, I had all these secrets I wanted to reveal at key moments. I'm thinking now I'll just throw it all out on the table and use emotional drama for tension purposes.
One reason for this change of plan is one of my viewpoint characters is not only a secret-keeper but privy to all kinds of other secrets. You can't have a viewpoint character who should know stuff not knowing stuff so the reader doesn't know stuff.
Ya know?
TT: Oooh, now I'm craving vegetable soup with corn chips. I know I don't have that.
That's one of the tricks of viewpoint characters. I've written about this before, sometime last year, but when choosing a viewpoint character, an author must consider what information that character would have and what information the reader will get as a result.
This is why Sherlock Holmes is written from Watson's point of view. Holmes knows too much too quickly. The book would be over in a few pages.
As I wade through the compost of the original story, all kinds of forced spots jump out at me. Places where Gavran doesn't have information he should because the reader can't know it yet. Places where the characters go for no other reason than I the author wanted them there because it was easier to write the scene that way.
Not good, Turtle. Not good at all.
Being older (not wiser, necessarily, but definitely older), I am developing the discipline to work hard so the reader doesn't have to. My readers should not have to go out of their way to forgive me for blatant laziness. The only one who would, really, is my mom.
No, this is the effort of writing. We work hard so you don't have to. That's a jingle, isn't it?
I won't have as much time to write this evening, other plans and all, but I'll see what I can do.
I'm just glad they're out of the stupid car.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

It Continues

Hit the first hiccup last night. I didn't know what to write about next. That can be a problem. So I cleaned litter boxes and took the trash out and washed dishes while I thought about it. Subsequently, I wrote about an hour, but I wrote a bit over 600 words. I'll take it as a win.

Having the little counter up the corner helps. I'm not generally a "must write this much per day" kind of person, but since I'm usually at the keyboard anyway, I may as well write as not.

If my math is right, I'm now 1/8 finished with my first draft. That can't be right. Then again, I guess it could.

The virtual world has been void of writers the past few days. I can only guess this has to do with approaching Christmas. This is the time of year for decorating, shopping, family get-togethers and whatnot. Doesn't leave a lot of time for writing. Probably another excellent reason for not starting a book in December.

Except I'm not starting it. I'm continuing it. Take that, Anne Lamott! 

Crazyhair Vaulter published at NAF this morning. It was good to see her. I was beginning to worry the other Borg had left the turtle to run the spaceship by herself.

Elder Brother dropped by to assure me my computer Internet issues are not my fault. Good. One less thing.

I will have to contact Support about my continuing website issues, however. Those are not resolving themselves.

I'd like nothing better than to return to bed this morning. I seem to be trying to get a cold. I will not succumb. Our office Christmas party is this Friday and I will eat salmon and creme brulee! This I swear.

Well, not swear. I don't swear. But it is my goal.

Wow, this is a totally boring post. I hope I do better at Virtual Buttercups.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Start

Last night went well. Not perfect, but well enough to keep going.

I think my math is wrong. Shocking!

I wrote a bit longer than an hour (one of the reasons the night wasn't perfect) but I wrote almost 700 words. I must have written my previous books single-spaced for a page an hour. That bumps a page up to 500 words or so, which based on last night, seems about right.

I can officially calm down. One to two hours of writing to meet a deadline of 600 words a day I can handle. I'm sure I can. I'm pretty sure I can.

I will not get cocky. Slow but steady is my approach. If I should happen to speed up at any point, it will be purely accidental.

Here's a funny thing.

Not 24 hours after reading Roland D. Yeomans post about finding the magic and loving your writing and getting inspiration where you can (and the link to that lovely song I can't get out of my head), he posts about not starting a book without the end in mind.


Well, he has a point (one firmly shared by Jeff the Publisher), but I'm going to ignore it. Mostly. I need to write here, not continue thinking about writing while doing nothing.

TT: This came in quite handy last night. Aside from a quick Internet search about big helicopters, followed by an immediate invention of a bigger helicopter, I glossed over any fact that might possibly get in the way of my fiction.

What will I have to fix later? I don't know. What I know is it's easier to revise than create. Right now, I'm worried about creating. I'm using the NaNoWriMo mindset in December.

What I did take from Writing in the Crosshairs was the need to consider the themes of the book. What giant, over-arching emotional issues will these characters address? That should help keep me focused. Except my current list has about 8 things on it.

Oi. Again.

No matter. As I write forward, I have faith my subconscious will spit up something useful. The trick is letting it do so.

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Month of Mondays

Joining NAF has offered many opportunities. One of them is public accountability. More public than here, anyway.

It is one thing to say you are an author. It is another to actually write. It is yet another to get published. Each comes with a certain level of esteem. Each comes at a price.

The price for moving from saying author to being author is writing. You can't be it without doing it.
With this as the ugly reality before me (and that lovely yet terrifying NAF accountability chart as my lurking demon), I once again open my Past Ties file and begin.

Anne Lamott says to never start writing a book in December because December is a month of Mondays.

I have no idea what this means. Aren't all months months of Mondays? I don't get it. Maybe she's being poetical. I don't get poetry, either.

In defiance of her vague decree, I began writing Saturday. Of course, I wrote about 35 words, but I hadn't even looked at the file in close to a year, so I had to read it over first.

It's compost.

Anne Lamott would say it's supposed to be compost. That's what first drafts are (she uses a coarser word, but I keep it clean in the Turtle swamp, so I'll use compost). I'm holding her to it. I don't remember thinking this about Star of Justice or Elementals.

TT: Still considering title suggestions on Elementals, by the way. I need something about two sisters, light and dark, hot and cold, Jew and Gentile (just kidding). I've considered Treaty of the Lifespring but it's a bit too, I don't know, "choose your own adventure" for me. Or just The Treaty (too John Grisham). Or The Swap (too modern). Or Brideshead Revisited (wait, has that been done?). I don't know.

I'm also trying to relax and let this story come, something I didn't do with Elementals until the very end.

Here are my problems.

1) When I wrote and finished (or so I thought) this book 20 years ago, I never bothered to count words. 37K. That's it. Oi. I don't know what the heck I'm going to write about for another 40K words. Not a clue. Has me a little worried. When I add in my intention to scrap most of what I wrote previously, I'm a lot worried. Almost petit mal panic attack worried.

2) The original story was a romance with robots thrown in. I didn't mean for it to be a romance, but it is. I don't know what else I want it to be, but I want more out of this very beginning of the Star of Justice universe than a romance with robots in it.

TT: I find it ironic I seem to be writing backwards. Most people start small, with compost, and get better. I feel like I wrote my best book first, and everything coming after it gets worse. I hope my feelings are as wrong about this as they are about other things.

3) I am terrified of the "real life" aspects of this book. It is set in the near future (within 100 years). It has robots, nano robots, electronic gadgetry, terrorist cells - all kinds of stuff I frankly don't know anything about. This wouldn't concern me, except my audience will know about it, and they will laugh me out of the Comic Con for guessing wrong. Or being wrong. Or spelling nuclear wrong. (I know there is a difference, I just don't remember what it is, and it hasn't come up yet, so I haven't bothered to refresh my memory).

Those are my top 3 reasons for balking at beginning.

TT: Reason 4 is Paul's math. To achieve my goal of a completed first draft by end of March, I have to write 600 words a day. For me, that's 3 1/2 hours of writing (I'm a very slow fresh writer) per day.
Panic attack. Where's my paper bag?

Why am I writing this book? Simple.

Without LUCK-I, Star of Justice never happens. It must exist, therefore Past Ties must be written.

But...I have a plan. For writing, anyway.

I'm going to start. You can't finish if you don't start.

I'm not going to follow an outline or put any kind of rule on myself in any way (with Elementals, I originally tried to limit it to 2 viewpoints every 3 chapters no matter what. Boy, was that fun. Not!). If I end in March with 14 viewpoint characters, so be it. I'll have something to work with in April. Other than my tax preparer.

I'm not even going to set an end goal other than word count (like, the book is finished when "Z" happens). Nope. I wrote Star of Justice by the seat of my pants. Elementals got constipated when I tried to follow a plan. I'm going totally crazy with these 80K and see what happens.

Could be a very interesting ride.

PS. How weird is this? After writing this post, I went trolling through the Blogs I Follow and found this link at Writing in the Crosshairs. I'd never heard it before. It may become my inspirational song for Past Ties. Enjoy.

Walking In the Air.

According the poster for this video, the singer in this version is Declan Galbraith, whoever he is.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Problem with Yes

Reader feedback is trickling in. Thank you, test readers.

I can't share what they're telling me, of course. That would taint the remaining feedback. So far no one has "complained" about the same thing twice. I suppose I should take that as a good thing.

Warrior Woman has promised a critique filled with red.

Deep breath. Bring it on. I'm tough.

TT: That used to be my lamb's catchphrase. I remember her no more than 3 years old with a skinned knee or some such, holding back the tears and stammering, "I'm tough." She is far tougher than I, bless her buttons. Feel better, dear heart.

You know, when I started this journey in July 2009, I knew it was going to be a big step. One giant leap for turtlekind and all that.

What I didn't know for certain was how it would affect everything else in my life.

The problem with saying "yes" to one thing is an increasing pressure to say "yes" to other things, too. I didn't use to have this problem. I said "no" to everything. It was quite peaceful.

Now, people know I can write. They know I can speak in front of crowds, and draw, and step up to sing the National Anthem if no one else has the chutzpah to do it (I can even do it with a puppet). They think I have more time than the average family woman (they're wrong on that) and they don't mind impinging on it.

I don't like people knowing these things. It means I get tapped. More often than I did when folks thought I was just the tall gal in glasses who's first question upon entering a room is "where's the food?"

TT: That's actually true.

What people don't seem to realize is who I am.

They see the public me: the loud, confident, competent, opinionated recovering brat former therapist who isn't afraid to call them on their stupidity in public. Loudly, if necessary.

Yes, that's me. But, I'm also the quiet "live-and-let-live" gal who doesn't care what you do as long as it doesn't interfere with my FV time.

I'm not shy, but I don't like to be put in the spotlight. I don't like to be the target. I don't care to have all attention focused on me all the time.

That does sound odd, doesn't it, considering what I write here. But it's true.

I also don't like having to decide when to say "yes." Now when people ask me to do something, I have to think about it. Can I do it? Will I do it? Are crops coming due about that time?

It's a pain.

Maybe it's a growing pain.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


I am not dead. My Internet Explorer seems to be, but I'm fine.

Except I'm not.

I may be experiencing a mid-life crisis. It's a little early. By my math, I should have one at the earliest 6 years in the future. I refuse to accept the notion having one now predicts my expiration date.

It's possible this is why I started my journey out of the swamp. I take longer than most people with most things, so I shouldn't be surprised my mid-life crisis would span several years.

I'm grieving today. Took me a while to figure it out. It's also a bit early, but I'm a preemptive griever. Comes with being a cynic. I regularly borrow trouble, even though Jesus tells me not to.

When the time came to buy my first new car, I wept. For days. I loved my 4-door 1983 Suburu GL-10 metallic green Cricket. He'd been in our family from the day he left the lot. He'd carried my grandfather, dad, and finally me so faithfully. If I were a different person I would have found a way to keep him, but I'm not and I needed the trade-in money as a down payment. He got sold to some flighty high-schooler, and I just know she destroyed him in a cell phone-related incident.

TT: Dave Ramsey says stuff is just stuff and you can always get more stuff. Sometimes Dave is wrong.

I mourn that car. I knew it had to go, and it tore me up inside. Still does.

I loved a cat named Timmi. She was my baby. I brought her back from the brink of death about 8 times over the course of 13 years. Until the last time. I couldn't stop that one.

I mourn her, too. I thought I'd gotten it all out while she was alive. I was wrong.

Some wounds won't heal in this life.

That's what today feels like. I'm standing near the end of something. I don't know what it is or when it will finally come, but the air is heavy. Clouds are swirling, and I'm waiting for the storm.

Change is inevitable, inexorable and inescapable.

What will it bring?

God's will.

That's why I do not mourn as those who have no hope. Mourning will turn to gladness and sorrow to joy. Once that storm passes, I will emerge with a shinier shell and a fresh crop of buttercups.

I just hate the waiting. And the mourning.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

15 Movies

Another FB game. Like the last time, you list 15 movies that have affected you taking no more than 15 minutes and tag at least 15 friends. I was tagged by author and artist Holly Heisley, who went the pre-emptive one step further (thanks, Cat, 'preciate it) and listed the why.

Would it surprise you to learn I find this harder than listing 15 authors? It surprised me.

First, I am reluctant to admit I've been affected by certain movies. Isn't that odd? I'm not reluctant to admit much.

Second, this isn't a list of favorite movies, although they could overlap. This is a list of movies which have for whatever reason made an impact on my life. Are there 15 of those?

Third, I am rarely affected by an entire movie. It's usually about scenes for me.

Since I'm a bit of a coward, I decided to try listing them here. If I'm pleased with the results, I'll put it Out There.

1. Jaws. This is why I do not swim in lakes, muddy pools, swimming pools or those little plastic kiddy pools you buy at Walmart for $15. Seriously. Absolutely terrified of what's lurking in the water. Thank you so much for that, Steven Spielberg. I hope your virtual sheep makes you happy while...

2. The Grudge. Scared the poopooweeweekaakaa out of me. Couldn't walk down my basement steps for a couple of weeks afterwards. Woke up in the middle of the night with a panic attack thinking the freaky Japanese ghost was under my bed. It came out in 2004. That means I was 33 when I saw it. Yeah, safe to say, I was affected.

3. The Sixth Sense. I cannot remember a movie surprising me before or after this one. The most amazing part? No jerks spoiled it for anybody. You didn't hear anything before you went except, "Man, you've got to see this show." I'd say it affected everybody.

4. Pan's Labyrinth. I was 37 when I saw it, and, again, I was shocked and horrified, and that doesn't happen to me very often with a movie. The sheer brutality of the thing. At one point (if you've seen it, you know it), I simultaneously contracted into a little ball and tried to hurl myself over the couch to get away from the crazy homicidal murderer (and I don't mean the thing with the eyes in its palms). As much as I loved the special effects, I don't think I can watch it again.

5. Kill Bill vol 1. Yes, I'm ashamed to admit it. I love the fight scenes set to music. I watch the initial knife fight between Uma and Vivica (oh, so fierce, my lovelies, fierce and furious) and skip through most of the movie to get to the "Showdown at the House of the Blue Lotus." I'm sick. I know it. I'm a bad, sick person. But this is my inspiration for my written fight scenes. Minus the "wire-foo," of course.

6. Galaxy Quest. The only movie Holly and I would share, I think, as far as impacting goes. This is the perfect movie. It is the only movie I never fast forward through. The irony? All the deleted scenes involve the crew. Chuckle.

7. Shining Through. I don't care for war movies. Well, war movies without aliens. But this one keeps my interest. It may be the first heroine I can remember who was both quiet and rowdy at the same time. She seemed to be soft-spoken and polished but she was scrappy. I admire that. I wish I could emulate it.

In that same vein...

8. The Spanish Main. Thanks to the voracious demands of South Korean audiences, you can find this on dvd. A Dutch pirate (Paul Heinreid) marries a Spanish lady (Maureen O'Hara - whatever) as revenge on his enemy and they fall in love anyway. I've always liked the idea of arranged marriages. This is one that worked. It keeps showing up in my stories.

9. Nell. I've watched this a lot. Maybe 30 or more times. Almost as much as Galaxy Quest. Is it possible for someone to live completely alone? I don't know. I wish I did. So I watch it. And wonder. And create Raven the druid.

10. Mirrormask. I'm a sucker for a weird soundtrack, and this movie has one. It's just your standard coming-of-age tale but it fascinates me. Was this what growing up was like for Brian Henson, son of the famous muppeteer? Plus, like the crazy lady in the mask shop, I'm surrounded by sphinxes. Don't let them see you're afraid... I strive for a little weird when I'm writing.

I hate to admit this one...
11. Batman. The Tim Burton one. Which now seems so silly and corny and ridiculous. But after watching it the first time, I went home and promptly wrote a short story inspired by the movie about an FBI agent exposed to toxic chemicals which simultaneously mutated her into a super-warrior and made her certifiably crazy. In other words, pretty much the screenplay for Batman Returns, so I guess I wasn't the only one inspired. I filed Catspaw, and started writing other stuff. It was kind of my start in the writing world.

12. Conan the Destroyer. I have to put it up here. It's a B movie at best, but it contains all the necessary elements for a perfect D&D adventure, and thus the perfect fantasy story. Dungeons & Dragons the movie was a sad little remake in comparison. Plus, as often as tall, bald, black warrior women show up in my books, I'd be lying if I didn't admit this movie affected me.

13. Heavy Metal. Not the whole movie, just the part with the white-haired warrior woman. Big Brother (unbeknownst to our parental units) allowed me to creep out of bed to view this last segment. In his defense, he did not allow me to watch any other parts. I've wanted white hair ever since. Don't know why, since the warrior kills herself and her giant bird by flying into the sun. But her hair looked good while she did it.

14. Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone. Never heard of it? Not surprising. Like Conan the Destroyer, this has a little bit of all the things I love in a story. An older bodyguard (Peter Strauss), a spoiled princess (Molly Ringwald), a sturdy wingman (Ernie Hudson, ladies and gentlemen, let's give him a hand!) and a quest involving a scary evil man-thing (Michael Ironside). I could have written it. I wish I had.

I left 15 open, knowing I would remember one later. I did.

15. The Blob. The original, with the jello-mold creature. This movie convinced me people are stupid.
How hard is it to drop the stick? I mean, really. It also tapped all my fears of the inexorable, inescapable horror of being chased by something that won't stop until you're dead. Like the Terminator. Or The Bodyguard. Probably why I've never married. Anyhoo....

Okay, that list took me 8 days and 3 hours to compile. Not bad for this turtle.

Monday, November 29, 2010


I've tried very hard to live without regret. Blame The Last Unicorn. It sounds like a good idea.
What I mean by that is I don't do anything I might regret.

TT: Most people seem to mean the opposite. They'd rather do it than regret not doing it. Not for this turtle. I've found I regret doing most things.

This is one of those areas where Dr. Gene Getz and I differ. He takes every opportunity. I shy away from most of them.

I don't regret it. hehe!

In my recent journey to publication, I've stepped far outside my comfort zone. I've submitted manuscripts. I've gained critique partners. I've started a blog. Shoot a monkey, I've started 3, and joined a fourth.

This is not normal for me. This is not typical turtle behavior.

Sometimes I regret it. Sometimes I wish I'd stayed in my shell.

Honestly, most of the time I regret it. One of the reasons I don't do things is because I've learned once you start, it's much harder to stop. That's a rule of thermodynamics. I don't remember which one.

As I venture out of my comfortable swamp, I find a world of people who frighten or annoy me. I've found many who excite and encourage me, too, but being a cynic, I focus on the bad first.

Rabbi Lapin says change is constant, inexorable and necessary. Yes, I'm still reading Thou Shall Prosper. He says if your job doesn't evolve from year to year, you're dead or dying.


I must have suspected this a year ago when I started this journey. I must have realized I will only live to eleventy-one if I take on new challenges and learn to adapt. The vampire Lestat learned the trick, and he was an idiot.

But it is not easy. I do not like it. I don't know why I'm here or what I think I'm doing.

I'll keep doing it, of course. According the rabbi, I have to. It's a good thing turtles don't need reasons other than food.

Publication = opportunities to eat. I must keep that firmly in mind when I am tempted to regret starting all this. I never regret eating.

Well, almost never.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Stumped but Thankful

Were I the kind of turtle prone to swearing (and I'm really, really not), I would be letting loose with a string of invectives to make the dad from A Christmas Story proud.

I'm continuing to fiddle with my website to no avail. I am convinced it is not my technological incompetence causing the problem.

The "Publish" doesn't seem to be working.

Inside the queue, it all looks correct. Things are in the right places, pictures are there, copy is complete. When I "publish," everything goes wonky. I now have two identically incorrect pages on my website, and I can't change them back.

The site renewal was in October. Maybe something changed, and Elder Brother didn't notice. We will be in conference this weekend. I can't have a website like this.

On the other hand, it's Thanksgiving, and I am thankful to have a website at all. I'm thankful for an Elder Brother who can not only help with my tech issues but is willing to do so.

I am thankful for all my family, the old and the soon-to-be.

I am thankful for the ability to let the world know how thankful I am.

I am thankful for my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, without whom life would have no meaning and gratitude would be useless and empty.

God bless you, dear readers. May He continue to show us a love we did not earn with never-failing mercy and compassion. May you practice and express your gratitude today and every day.

Keep the faith.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Buckle up, dear readers. A rant is coming.

Not about marriage this time. Chuckle.

No, it's about pressure. Real and imagined. Mostly imagined.

Two days ago, I was happy. Driving to work, humming, I thought, "I'm happy." Chirping "Have a great day" to customers, I was happy. Planning and writing my first NAF post, I was happy.

Today, I am not happy.

Nothing has changed. Well, the weather has turned gloomy, but doggoneit! that shouldn't matter. My mood should not be tied to whether I can see the sun! It's still there. It hasn't gone anywhere.
But, mostly, nothing has changed. Except my expectations of myself.

I don't know what to write at NAF. I have these "great" ideas, and when I go there to draft them, they disappear. The format is different in the Borg spaceship, and the white space looks funny, and I'm supposed to provide images other than my FV pics, and it's all just weird and different and new and scary.

I want to amaze and tickle and provoke, and I'm paralyzed with indecision about how to do that.
What if I break a rule? What if I offend a reader instead of provoking? What if I embarrass the team?

"If she doesn't run after that, she never will," Horus said.

"Caissa doesna run. She freezes. Like a rabbit," Merritt said.

I will turtle my way through, but only because I chose the turtle as my totem for this journey. I'd rather freeze. Or, better yet, run away like Sir Robin.

Which leads to another problem.

I promised the Gungho Iguana I wouldn't mirror post (or basically I promised). That means posting the same stuff here and there.

TT: Wordcrafter is now Gungho Iguana. He's earned that by continually jumping ahead of the slower and occasionally reluctant Turtle in his excitement. And Harvey the Rabbit just didn't have the right connotation.

Every time I start to post here, I wonder if I should post there. But I post here 5 days a week. More, if you count Virtual Buttercups' posts. Seems a bit inappropriate to post there 5 days a week. No one else does that. They all have real lives. They're probably all writing that Nanoo thing and setting the stage for publication one year from now.

Deep breath. I will not resent The Collective. They aren't causing this insecurity. Heavens, they have no idea I'm feeling this way. I didn't know I was feeling this way until I started feeling it.

Having written all this, I'm sure I will feel better. I will assimilate. I will learn to just write something while I'm there and something while I'm here, and if it amazes or tickles or provokes, it will most likely be completely inadvertent.

Basically, I need to calm down and lighten up.

And figure out what "downloading" the frelling images from IStock means. Where on earth do they go? Mars?


Thanks for listening. I do feel a little better.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Turtles & Technology...

Don't mix.

I spent a portion of last night trying to remember how to post reviews on Amazon and Barnes and Noble with moderate success. Fortunately, those sites are willing to remember me even if I don't remember them. The Turtle has spoken on Alpha Redemption in both those places. Unfortunately, they don't let me give 4 1/2 stars.

Flushed with success (or maybe just brain exertion), I decided to update the Turtle website with a page about Elementals. Success was sporadic.

I added the page. I added the first sentence of the page. I can't add the lovely sketches I scanned yesterday morning for just that purpose.

They exist. When I go to edit the site, the images are there, along with all the copy I wrote for them. But they won't publish. Have I run out of space? How would I know?

I've gone to "help." Once again, less than helpful. Why are my questions never the questions listed? Am I really the only person to have these questions or do they just not want to answer them because they're angry geeks living in their parents' basements?


Add the technological challenges of NAF, and I'm teetering on thinking about being depressed. I have to figure out how to "network" my posts with FB. Clueless. I can't even get my "Ranunculus Turtle" FB page to tell me when someone has commented on it, leading me to believe I set it up wrong at the beginning.

And don't talk to me about Twitter and RSS feeds and whatnot. My phone still flips and doesn't have a keyboard. I'll upgrade when all the cats are dead, and I can speak a text instead of typing it. Oh, wait. Phones do that already. Ingenius speaking tubes, as Giles would say.

Fortunately, The Collective is more responsive to my screams for assistance than my website moderators. I'm sure I will get help with my technology issues in that corner.

I'll crawl back into this data-encrypted torture chamber of technology tonight. I've got to learn this stuff. I don't know why, exactly, but if the nieces can do it, so can I.

I hope.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The New Authors' Fellowship

Occurred to me this morning, I haven't officially announced here my recent inclusion among the Esteemed Unpublished of The New Authors' Fellowship!

On days I post there (like today), I will leave a note here telling you to go there.

Don't know where they are?

I added a link just under my word count meter, and they will continue to be listed in "Blogs I Follow."

So hop over there and see what amazing wisdom and humor I mete out today!

No, really. Go.

Here's a link:

Friday, November 19, 2010

Plot Holes

In the event you don't know what this is, dear reader, I will explain.

A plot hole is a gap in the story. A place where something doesn't make sense. A moment where an obvious problem presents itself but no character acknowledges it. The elephant in the room.

A plot hole jars a reader out of the story with an unintended emotional or rational objection.

"She would never do that!"

"The knife is right there! Pick it up!"

"Why would you go into the house where the kid was murdered? That's stupid."

I just made those up, by the way. To my knowledge, I'm not referring to any specific story.

I said I have a plot hole in Elementals. I meant it. I will award points to the reader who figures out what it is.

TT: I've promised My Dear Friend to tell her instantly should someone tell me.

Why am I being so cruel as to say the hole exists and not tell you what it is? Obviously to find all the plot holes I don't know exist.

And, if no one else notices, I'll leave it alone. It's not like I have any word space to work with here.

Keep those comments coming, dear test readers. I'm making my list for Elementals 3.0. And if you think of another title, let me know that, too. I've been told this one is a bit obscure.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Men And Black

Warning: this post is one long question.

What is it about guys and blogs with white text on black backgrounds?

Nine times out of ten, I visit a man's blog, it's gonna be white text on a black background. Why?
What is it about men or black that makes this true?

I haven't visited tons of blogs. Maybe 35 so far. I'm learning as I go. But this white on black has happened enough to make me surprised when it doesn't.

Is it a Star Wars thing? Some kind of homage to George Lucas? Or did Lucas do what he did because men have a predisposition to white text on black backgrounds?

TT: hehe! I accidently typed "blackgrounds" instead of backgrounds. I made a new word, Mom!

In my blog travels, I've seen only one female-maintained blog with white on black. She's one of the "Blogs I Follow," A.L. Marquardt. I think it was black on some color when I started following her and changed a while back.

I don't get it. I find the white text harder to read. I know men are statistically more likely to be color-blind than women, and even more likely to be red-green color-blind (which means I'll either never have the "cut the green wire" moment in a book or I'll have one that ends with a terrible explosion. mwahahaha!).

Does that play a factor? Do they see white on black better?

Just one of those thoughts bouncing around my head for a while. Thought I'd let it out for a romp.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Questions to Test Readers

Not all of them read my blog, but it's good to have a place to store such things.

I love hearing people enjoy my stories. I enjoy them, too. It is gratifying to know I didn't waste however much of my life.


When it comes to cutting words or increasing clarity, what I need to know as a writer is where I went wrong.

Here are some typical questions I ask my test readers.

Did anything ring false? Was there a moment when you thought, "Oh, I don't believe that" or "that was too easy" or "yawn."

Were you ever confused longer than a paragraph or two? Was some new concept or creature so inadequately explained you finished the book wondering what the heck was going on with that?
Did you think something was going to be important that turned out to be nothing or vice versa? Did it annoy you?

Was something obviously wrong? Like his eyes were one color in one chapter and a completely different color in another? Did you wonder where the ladle she was holding went? Did she take too many drinks in one conversation? These are continuity errors and very easy to miss when you're writing but very easy to see when you're reading. I need to know about those.

And here's the clincher. I have a plot hole so big Gahanna the spider-guy could walk through it upright. Do you know what it is?

You can't offend me at this point, so don't hold back. What didn't you like about the story?

My never-ending thanks to those who've agreed to read and comment on my stories. It's a bit scary, but I promise, your efforts will contribute to a better experience for all future readers. Plus, you'll get mentioned on my website!

PS. I'm not asking anyone to answer these questions here. My test readers have other ways to contact me, and I prefer not to ruin a story for future readers.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


No, not to hear back from PYP. Although, I am doing that.

And, no, not to hear back from my test readers. Although, I'm doing that, too.

TT: Hi, Cilla! Thanks for the thumbs up!

I'm waiting for the return of normal time.

I know, I know, this is normal time and Daylight Savings is the facade, but my body is attuned to the other. I'm jet-lagged, and I haven't even enjoyed a trip.

Every hour crawling by seems late. I look at the clock and can't believe it's only this time or only that time. It should be later.

I'm tired at 8. I know the clock says 8, but it ain't 8. It's 9, and that's time for this turtle to go to bed.

I wake up at 4. I know the clock says 3, but it ain't 3. It's 4, and that's time for this turtle to get up. But I don't, because the furnace won't kick on until the real 4, and I'd freeze to death. Reptiles are cold-blooded.

So I lie there, and wish I was asleep, and wish the day would hurry up and get done because I'm already tired of the whole thing and ready for Spring and we haven't even started Winter yet.

The light bulbs aren't helping, either.

Fortunately, the sun is shining here in Kansas for the moment. I dread the Dark Days to come, and I don't just mean the expiration of the Bush tax cuts.

I'm not depressed in the "bluesy" connotation. I'm tired and annoyed with the whole business.

My Lamb asked if I intend to boycott the whole time change thing.

Sounds like a plan.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Drowsy Chaperone

Music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison. Book by Bob Martin and Don McKeller.
Presented by Topeka High School.

Two hours of yesterday were spent watching My Lamb light up the stage as "Kitty, the dizzy chorus girl." This is her fourth role as a ditz, and she's concerned about type-casting.

I say she gets the roles because she brings a charm not usually seen to stupid. Her characters are adorably stupid. There is a difference.

TT: The Flash was backstage, and unseen, but that's how it's supposed to work for crew. I am willing to maintain she also did a great job.

I've watched many of these players since 4th grade. I am happy to report their talent has increased with their size.

This play is billed as a "musical within a comedy."

It was funny. It had songs. I did laugh. A lot. I got a little tired of laughing, frankly.

The whole thing was deliberately larger-than-life and goofier than even stage reality. A bit like Ballroom Dancing. Or Hero, Second-Class.

It was an "A" mockery of a non-existent "B," possibly "C," play. The funniest parts are when the modern day narrator points out the deeply insulting treatment of theater starlets, alcoholics, old people, Latin lovers and gangsters. 

TT: At one point, mom leaned over and said of the gangsters, "They dance very well."

Naturally leading to my quoted response from The Beautician and The Beast when the son is asked for his assessment of West Side Story: "I'd heard of the gang problems in New York. I just didn't realize they were so proficient in ballet."

A few times the author (through the narrator) intruded with his own pain and angst about divorce and possibly being gay. Those were not funny parts, although the young man playing "Man in Chair" performed them very well.

What's a Broadway musical without a little angst? Oi.

"Man in Chair" says a prayer in the beginning about "Please God, don't let them leave the stage and show up in the audience. Please let the time go quickly. Please don't let me regret being here." Those kinds of things. I need My Lamb to write the words down for me. I may start taking it to all future plays to recite before the curtain goes up. I'm not the theater-buff in the family.

No one came out of the audience. Time did go quickly. I did not regret being there.

Thank you, Lord.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Benefits of Practice

As a new Aunt, one thing I dreaded (yes, even when the first was in diapers) was school concerts. Talent shows. Plays. Recitals. Band.

Oh, it kept me awake when my lamb started the violin. Not because I was in the house, but because that instrument meant I would be listening to other instruments played by tiny little fingers better trained with Playstation controls. Shudder.

What I learned is God plans for this.

When the tiny tykes are truly awful, they're cute. You go, not to listen, but to watch the goobers. Events are kept short (relatively) and you go home with pics to post on FB.

TT: Yes, yes, some hyper-tech parents videotape everything, but who watches it? Maybe when I'm 80 and deaf I'll throw on a cd.

As the kids grow and lose the protective "cute field," the disinterested drop away. Even if the notes are flat or the timing is off, I find myself listening as a cheer leader, urging these determined souls to higher levels of proficiency and proud to be a part of the learning process.

The nieces are in high school -HIGH SCHOOL! Oi!- and the proficiency has increased to bearable levels.

I attended my first high school band performance last night. I enjoyed it. I was a little sorry it was over.

Couldn't hear The Flash's flute for all the percussion and trumpets but she looked like she was playing.

The writing tie-in?

We all start badly. With practice, perseverance and a good ear, we get better. So practice. Persevere. Develop that ear for rhythm and lyrical prose. And someday, we'll all show up for your premiere performance.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Why Do I Do This?

In the last year, I've wondered how people can write books of only 50, 60 or 80K words. How can you possibly create a world and a plot in so small a space?

TT: Yes, I know George MacDonald did it all the time, but he's a master. Most folks, excuse me for saying so, aren't.

Last night I set Elementals aside to wait for feedback. I decided to pick up Past Ties and write my fingers off for the remainder of November.

That's when it hit me.

People can write shorter books when they aren't so complicated.

Elementals has 4 viewpoint characters, 5 villains, 4-5 supporting characters (depends on your definition of supporting) and a bunch of named cameo characters.

What was I thinking? I can't believe I kept it as short as I did. No wonder I was ready to stick my head in the toaster oven while I was writing.

TT: Irony? Star of Justice, my 166K word book, has 2 viewpoint characters (one only gets two chapters, though), 3 villains (who pretty much work together), and 6 supporting characters.

I've said before I over-stuff my books. I just hadn't done the math.

New goal for Past Ties? Keep it simple.

I should go warm up the toaster oven.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


I could be so mean. I will keep a tight rein on today's post.

While surfing blogs a while ago, I happened upon a lament concerning the content of proposal letters. The blogger wrote nothing I haven't read before. Based on reader comments, my experience was typical.

Until Anonymous posted. Anonymous was offended. Anonymous believed the blogger had taken his/her proposal letter and displayed it for the purposes of ridicule (how that was possible is a mystery, and since Anonymous used the tag Anonymous, it could hardly be proven).

No names were mentioned by the blogger. The sentences used were completely generic examples I've read in books on writing. But Anonymous was mad.

I once "liked" a FB page "some people just need a good smack."

The blogger was polite and professional with Anonymous. The readers were mostly polite and somewhat understanding of the hurt feelings.

I maintain "some people just need a good smack."

I wanted so badly to write an answer to Anonymous (I guess I am), but the answer chosen by the herd seemed to be acknowledgement of feelings followed by a good dose of "moving on."

Mary DeMuth says a writer must be thick-skinned with a tender heart. Dare I say it yet again? It isn't all about you. Except you, My Dear Friend. It's always about you.

Anonymous got his feelings hurt for no reason. Toughen up, dude. You're making a spectacle of yourself.

TT: No reader posted such a comment. They were all so polite, I wish they were my Friends!

We've seen Anonymous' hypersensitivy. Let's look at the kind reactions of blogger and readers.
These nice folks understood how easy it is to take it personally. Maybe they'd been there. Maybe they're just that empathetic.

I got annoyed with his annoyance.

Part of the Curse of Natural Ability is impatience with those who do not share that natural ability. While I am deeply grateful to those who have encouraged me in the writing journey, I lack the innate first reaction of encouragement to others.

Anne Lamott uses an illustration of a writing class where a newbie gets up and reads complete tripe. After a moment of stunned silence, the class praises the good parts they can pick out of the mess. One lone dissenter, after listening to this, asks "are you all crazy?" and proceeds to list every technical flub in the piece. Anne thanks her for her honesty and reminds her we're all learning and the point is to keep trying.

It's a good point.

Most people can draw until they get to school, start comparing their work to someone else's and get discouraged. The fact is, you won't write like me. I won't write like you. That's okay. If we were identical, one of us wouldn't be necessary.

I am learning to relax my "only this way to write is right" attitude. Must be hanging out with all these spec-fic authors. No, they don't sound like Jane Austen. That isn't their goal.

Fortunately, the ability to encourage is something I can learn. I don't have the natural talent, but I'm practicing the skill.

And, Anonymous...well, in the interests of practice, have a cookie and try again tomorrow.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Commence 3rd Draft

As promised, I figured out the YouTube address for the funny post from Jennifer Allee's site. That's Jennifer Allee of Vinnie's Diner and The Pastor's Wife fame.

TT: I really need to figure out how other bloggers post those nifty video frames, but I remain clueless.


I've been assured this video is funnier than the last one I posted. Be sure to read around the highlighted sentences on her "hate page." Four minutes. Totally worth it.

On with the post.

Silly me assumed finishing the second draft would bring a sense of completion. It didn't.
Tightening sloppy sentences brought an acute awareness of worthless words. "Now (about 250 removed)." "That (about 300 removed or sentences rewritten)." "For that matter (Where did that phrase come from? Said 3 times by 3 different characters. Crazy)."

I have yet to search "I think" or "realize." You may notice I've dropped the word count almost 1K just doing this. Talk about tedious dulldom. Oh well. Writing ain't all root beer and daisies. Or white fish and chips. Or nachos and artichoke dip. Oi, I need breakfast.

During this rush to crush, I have experienced a few moments of trepidation about losing my "voice." In my headlong word cutting frenzy, am I sterilizing my prose? Out of fear, once I've finished with the next two "find and replaces," I'll send the full mss out to my test readers and let them guide me on what goes next.

I'm hesitant to cut plot until forced to do so.

I also find myself in the unusual position of uncertainty about what to plant. Not on FV, dear readers, but within my story.

When a writer drops hints about things important in later chapters, it's called a plant. If you do it right, the reader doesn't notice a thing until the thing gets put into play. It becomes a brilliant move or an "of course, why didn't I think of that?" moment and the story moves on. If you do it wrong, you may as well post a giant blinking neon sign over the hint: "warning: this item will resurface at exactly the right moment to save/screw the hero."

I have a few tricks (a very few) up my sleeve, but I don't know how much finesse is necessary to avoid the feeling of contrivance. Even worse, I don't seem to remember to plant them while I'm digging around those scenes anyway.

My subconscious often knows what it's doing even when I don't. This leads me to believe I should leave things "as is." The two folks who read the first draft didn't complain, and one of them is a real...hmm, what word am I willing to publish? Stickler when it comes to cheating. It's good to have one of those in your writer's survival pack.

TT: You're wondering if it's you, right? Yeah, it is. You know who you are.

So the Nanoo-Nanoo November writing thing is on hold until I'm happier with Elementals. On with 3rd draft revisions.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Greatest Compliment

Before I start, you have to go to Musings from Jen and check out the youtube "Facebook Etiquette." It is a solid four minutes of laughing and totally worth it. If I can figure out how to post it, I will.

I've received a couple of compliments over my years as a writer. One of my favorites was from my postman Smiley Steve.

"It's like a real book," said with just a trace of astonishment about Star of Justice.

Thank you.

TT: Once upon a time, my automatic response to compliments was "I know." My Best Friend elbowed me every time I said it until I learned to say "Thank you" instead. Took a lot of years. In the interests of full disclosure, "I know" was the first thing I wrote while writing this post, so my Best Friend has some supplementary training to do. Hope my ribs can handle it.

But the greatest compliment I have received so far came from The Lioness in her recent edit of Elementals.

She wrote, "You mention this a lot. Are you doing this on purpose?"

That is why I love her. The respect.

You see, she gave me the benefit of the doubt. It was something that struck her as too much, but she wasn't sure if that's what I was trying to do. Carefully, respectfully, she questioned it.

The only real way to insult me is to question my competence. It's the Bane of the Beaver personality type to be seen as incompetent. Lacking proficiency, possibly. Ignorant, occasionally. Incompetent?
Them's fightin' words.

I've kept that question in mind while editing Elementals. Am I doing this on purpose? Is this necessary? Can I show this some other way? It has resulted in some cutting. Not severe enough possibly, but some.

I hope one day to practice this same respect with other writers. Another Bane of the Beaver is a clinical detachment when speaking from areas of perceived competence (for non-Turtles, that means I don't care about your feelings when I think you're wrong). I want to "help" people correct their "errors," and I'm not always nice (or right) about it.

Fortunately, I have a tiny bit of caring Retriever in me so I figured this out early and keep my Beaver side muzzled most of the time. Not always.

This is why I will never offer myself as a copy editor. Just because I think I'm right doesn't mean I am. I restrain my critiques to plot holes or impressions and leave it up to the author to decide what -if anything- they will do about it.

My goal as a critique partner will be to practice the same competence in respect I have admired from others.

And, Lioness, yes I was, and yes it was too much. I've modified it. ;) Thanks for the respect.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Hard Place

As Winter creeps closer, I'm losing my mornings. I no longer rise shortly after 4 AM. Soon, it will be hard to get to work on time with clothes on and belly full. Darkness equals bed to this turtle.

The good news is 2nd-draft revisions for Elementals draw to a close. I hope to be done this weekend. Very good news for some of my patient test readers who've waited a month longer than promised.

The bad news is my poor math skills appear accurate in this instance. Unless something drastic happens, I will finish with 5K words over the limit and no idea how to remedy the situation.
I'm considering cutting the prologue and maybe the flashback scene with Cahnar and Corehnar, but those can't be more than 1K combined.

One option PYP offers (which I haven't seriously considered) is dividing the story into two books of 60-80K each.

Pre-PY, I'd planned on adding some words for clarity and wrap up around 110K. I did leave some dangling plot threads in the event a sequel ever sprouted in the compost I call a subconscious, so I have wiggle room to increase to 120K for two books.

The problem is where to divide for book 1 and book 2? The story is two pieces zipped together to form a single unit. I don't think I can unzip it without losing something. That something would be tension, followed closely by cohesion.

TT: Here's where some writing acquaintances would tell me to zip it, and "unzip the story. It will be better." I disagree with that thinking. Not vehemently, but enough to balk. And enough to expound.
We writers are told over and over re-writing only makes it better. I disagree.

Writing is not a science. It's an art. Artists understand it's possible to ruin the piece you're creating by fiddling with it too much. Writers are prone to fiddling. We can always find a sentence to modify. How could we not?

I've got 105K words to screw up while conveying meaning. Add in the variety of readers and the filters they use to process and possibly misunderstand my words and you're looking at a turtle ready to crawl into bed and never write again.

Maybe I am a little insane.

I'm not saying the first draft (or second or necessarily the third) is the best we'll ever write. But sometimes, our brains spit out the story in a certain way, and that's the way we want to tell it. Dare I say, "that's the effective way to tell it," or is that just too arrogant for a Thursday?

TT: The Lioness butts up against this all the time. It's how we connected. I heard her pain and responded out of the norm. Kind of like her story.

Sometimes the first time is the best time. I don't redo my hair in the mornings. Anything after that first attempt just gets worse. Learned that the hard way. It's a common enough phenomenon in my life to make me hesitate about fundamentally changing the way this story is presented.

Inhale. Exhale.

This may make me sound difficult. I don't mean to be. I do try very hard to meet or exceed expectations. But I don't jump quite as fast as I did in my younger years when I don't agree with the reasoning. Call it an occupational hazard of aging.

You could also call it laziness. I don't want to rewrite 100K words that took me months to write in the first place when I'm not convinced the end result will be better.

Leaving me with "slash and burn."

Inhale. Exhale.

Turtle that I am, I will wait until revisions are finished and test manuscripts are dispersed. Perhaps reader feedback will give me some direction.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


I made a few corrections to Sunday's post. After pulling out my ancient hardcover copy of Dodie Smith's book, I realized she spelled out 101. I also used an incorrect verb. My bad.

Not certain where today's post was going, I provided myself fodder in my first paragraph.

Ginny Jacques of Zinovy's Journey fame recently posted about the "10 Words You Must Kill." These are not her words. She's sharing them from a workshop she attended. Check out Something About the Writing Journey in "Blogs I Follow" for all 10.

The one that struck me (other than that) was realize. As in, I realized I felt this, or I realized I hadn't noticed that. hehe!

Realize is a perfectly good word expressing a perfectly real concept. On occasion, wandering through my day staring at buttercups and wondering if they taste as good as they look, I realize stuff. Some concept previously unacknowledged impresses on my consciousness and becomes real, i.e. realized. I'd like to think folks with a modicum of self-awareness realize stuff all the time.

I've found a few realizes in Elementals. I wasn't going to let them bother me, no matter what Ginny's workshop teacher said.

I realized I might be wrong.

If the point of tight writing is to put the reader in the immediacy of the action, realize isn't necessary. The reader and the character gain awareness at the same moment, thus making it a feeling or thought to be expressed at once, not a few words later.

Too technical?

The Lioness sent me an article last year about...well, now I can't find it, so I'll have to pull what I remember out of my brain.

TT: Did you know the information stored in your conscious brain is filtered through perceptions, assigned meaning and stored under that meaning? That's why seven people can hear the same sentence and come away with seven different applications. It takes an idiot savant to remember the actual words. Or a trained therapist, but even they can get sloppy and out of practice. Anyhoo...

The article was about filtering. About taking a step back from the moment by using words like felt or realize. When you write those words, you're actually distancing yourself and the reader from the immediacy of the moment and possibly breaking POV.

TT: In my own brain, I realize things when stuff happens, but I have the emotional issues of your average Vulcan, so I distance myself from the moment most of the time.

Ultimately, Ginny's workshop's leader makes a good point. People who aren't Vulcans (that would be most of them) tend to feel first and think later. When they feel, they don't generally pause to think "ooh, I'm angry." They react. I will attempt to express this in my writing.

Which means I'll be finding and removing all those realizes, along with seems, thats and feels. I don't know if it will be enough to drop me below 100K but every word cut counts.

I'm more than half done with 5K word to go. It's a race now.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

15 Authors Who've Influenced Me (expanded version)

I made the mistake of joining in a non-Zynga FB game yesterday. Why do I do the things I do not want to do?

Anyway, after taking the required 15 minutes to list the authors, I took more than 15 minutes to figure out who to tag, and almost didn't get my hair done, but that's my personal hell and one of the dangers of FB.

Returning from my busy Saturday of election volunteering (vote this Tuesday and don't be stupid), I found I was not the only sucker to take part in this game.

I enjoyed jumping around people's walls, for once not looking for virtual sheep, and stumbled across C.L. Dyck (of Scita Scienda)'s note.

Not having enough to do with being a mom, wife, writer, editor and Canadian, she upped the ante by listing reasons these authors were on her list.

Thanks, Cat. 'Preciate it.

Well, I don't want to repost my FB note. I don't want to remember who I tagged. It was hard enough to think of them the first time.

But I do want to play with the revised rules. I may have done this before, but if I can't remember, I suspect you can't, either, so here goes.

I'm listing the rules in case you want to play this silly thing during your FB time. Yes, you can tag me.

The Rules: Don't take too long to think about it. Fifteen authors (poets included) who've influenced you and that will always stick with you. List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes. Tag at least fifteen friends, including me, because I'm interested in seeing what authors my friends choose.

These are not listed in order of importance, just as they come to me.

1) Anne McCaffrey - Pern stories, but almost anything, really.
My writing style, my linking of worlds, and my fascination with psychic powers all started here, with the itty bitty book Dragonsong, which appeared on my shelf by teleportation because no one I've questioned seems to remember putting it there. As I've aged, I've learned to appreciate her subtle treatment of the more -ehem- adult themes of her books. As a child, I had no idea what she was writing about, and I hope I can master the technique should I need it.

2) Jane Austen - Pride and Prejudice.
I've read her other books, but they seem pale imitations of this one. I love the civility, and the way the meanest things are couched in the most polite terms. I could also wish for Lizzy's spunk and Jane's serenity.

TT: Hey! I just realized Dyana and Glorya could be Lizzy and Jane. Hmm.

3) C.S. Lewis.
Narnia, anyone? How could you not be affected?

4) George MacDonald.
He could thumb-wrestle Anne McCaffrey for number 1. How many times do I bring up The Lost Princess? If you haven't read it, and you know a brat, find the book. If it doesn't change your life, you're dead. Go lie down. Love his short stories, love The Princess and Curdie, love Lilith. Have no idea what Phantastes is about, but read it regularly anyway 'cause it was one of the books that inspired C.S. Lewis.

5) Wendi and Richard Pini
Elfquest rocks! These are not listed in order of importance because these guys would be number 1. Maybe. This comic book series formed most of my opinions about love, long-term friendships, tribal loyalty, leadership, parenthood, the "quest," tall women as villains, and the drawbacks to immortality. Pretty much everything I think. Thanks to Wendi, none of my drawings had five fingers until I was in my 20's. And, Cat, they're Canadian, too!

6) Robin and Stephen Cosgrove.
You may know them as the illustrator and author of the Serendipity books. I assume they're going strong, but my library contains older works like Little Mouse on the Prairie, the Saveosaurus and Nitter Pitter. For years, I called my lamb a "furry Eyefull" thanks to these people. Beautifully illustrated stories with animals as main characters and a tidy moral lesson at the end. It was the illustrations, mostly.

7) Piers Anthony Xanth novels
My favorites were Castle Roogna and Golem in the Gears, although A Spell for Chameleon was pretty cool. How often have I remembered that giant adult spider teaching the young boy in a man's body how to act like a man? How to think ahead and be prepared? Plus, it was a world unto itself, but it followed rules. Creative, unique and never-ending. He's written, what? 100 of them? Moving on.

8) Frank Herbert
Dune is the only book I've read more than once, and I wish I'd never read any of the others. It was a huge story told in a little book. Families that control entire planets? An emperor who rules the galaxy? A bunch of women who rule everything except the Quisatz Hadirach? Talk about scale. Now that I'm grown up, I think Herbert had issues with wives and Muslims, but as a child I just loved Paul and wanted good things for him.

9) Antoine de Saint Exupery
The Little Prince is all about love. How one rose among a million others can mean more because it is your rose. How to tame something makes you responsible for it (I learned this one too well). How two separate minds can link through the miracle of imagination. What more is there to learn?

10) Peter S Beagle
The Last Unicorn is a nearly perfect book. He sweated, he bled, he cursed, he wished for death while he was writing it, but in the end, he loved it. So do I. A unicorn that regrets. Can there be a more tragic tale than that? So many quotable lines, too. "Butterflies remember only songs and bits of poetry." "Your death sits in that cage." "If she touches me, I will never belong to myself again."

11) Robert Jordan, may he rest in peace.
I loved Conan the Destroyer, but discovering The Wheel of Time plunged me into despair almost as great as Stuart Stockton's Starfire. Jordan truly created a World. I don't know how he did it. I don't know how he kept it going. I do know he died so he wouldn't have to finish it 'cause he didn't know how. Actually, I don't know that, but I've suspected it for a long time.

12) Robert Aspirin's Myth Adventures
Itty bitty witty books again illustrating diverse friendships, coming of age, the benefits of loyalty and pitfalls of success. I don't know how many he finally wrote. I've read 10 or 11. I picked them up for the cover art and kept buying for the friendships.

13) Lloyd Alexander
I read Taran Wanderer over and over for years without realizing it was book four of a series. Yet another coming of age tale showing the benefits of hard work and craftsmanship.

TT: You know, with all these coming of age tales in my background, you'd think I would have grown up a little faster.

14) Dodie Smith
The original author of One Hundred and One Dalmatians - a fabulous book, if you can find it. I have no idea if she ever wrote anything else. I could taste the hot buttered toast and sweet milky tea. I ran with the dogs as they escaped, and cheered as Perdita the wet-nurse's eight liver-spotted children pulled the little carriage so faithfully with the tiniest puppies in it. I smelled the wet hay of the barn they slept in on the way home. Good writing should stay with you, and it has.

TT: I will point out here I will not watch the Disney movie because they got it wrong. Pongo's mate's name is Missus, as in Missus Pongo. Perdita was the liver-spotted Dalmatian brought in to help nurse Missus' fifteen original puppies. She stayed home with the Darlings while Pongo and Missus went to find their children and helped them cope by constantly licking their hands, "forcing them to use copious amounts of hand cream to prevent chapping. Fortunately, she loved the taste of this." I didn't look that up. I remember it from 30 years ago. That's good writing.

15) Barbara Hambly
I can't believe I almost forgot her (and got her name wrong to boot. Sheesh)! I know I've posted about Those Who Hunt the Night before in my "TUTAW: Some Authors Only Write One Book." I love her because she uses words I don't know. That almost never happens for me. I love her because once in every book is a perfect sentence. I search for them. And I love her because as boring or unintelligible as she occasionally is, she got published. She gives me hope.

There're my way too long reasons for choosing these authors.

Now I have to get back to that real life I'm trying to have.