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.