Sunday, August 30, 2009

Dan Brown Versus William Dietrich

What am I listening to on the ipod? Nothing.

Where am I supposed to be? In church, but I've two sickly children who are sleeping. Which means that I tried to fix my collapsing posts, but still can't find a way to get rid of the "click here" on posts that are not collapsed. So, Nathan will be home in an hour and wonder why I didn't do anything to tidy up, but the blog is important, people!

What am I reading? The Rosetta Key, by William Dietrich. About a hundred pages in.

Here's Chapter One

Rosetta Key follows Ethan cage though Jerusalem in the months before Napoleon is due to bring his conquest of the world to the Holy City. Cage is searching for a possible artifact of great power- power that pharaohs, Moses, and even Mohammed might have used to establish their nations.

Here's an analogy. Angels and Demons is to The Rosetta Key as National Treasure is to Indiana Jones.

Some, like my good friend the Book Dragon, have issues with Dan Brown, who many of you will know has a third book coming out. (On the other side, my mother-in-law has her copy reserved.)

I feel a bit sorry for him. No, really. Because how many symbols can you pack into a book before it all runs together? Readers pigeonholed him from the start, and good luck to him if he wants to write anything else.

And all of the fame, the over-crowded book signings, the bushels of letters and emails. How tedious. What a curse.

And, as Tevya says in Fiddler on the Roof, "May the Lord smite me with it."

Two snowmen are standing in a field. One says to the other : "Funny, I smell carrots too".

Glutton for Punishment?

Friday, August 28, 2009

I’m waiting for my check

Let's try something. I'll describe a story, and you tell me if you can craft a best seller.

There's this ring, and it's really powerful. So powerful that it can make you invisible and take over your mind if you're not careful. So this hobbit—hobbits are like a short people with hairy feet—gets the ring from his uncle.

Then a wizard tells him they are in danger and Middle Earth will be destroyed if Sauron, the evil lord of Mordor gets the ring back. The hobbit is kind of weak, so he has some friends to help him on his quest. There's the true king, an elf, a dwarf, maybe a few more hobbits…I think I'm going to have a tree guardian…maybe I'll call it a tree herder.

Anyway, Freddie (I may change that. Freddie seems a little too 'Hardy Boys', if you know what I mean.) and Steve (may change that, too) go on this long journey, and finally get to a giant crater in the earth, left by a meteor. (The ring is made from meteor-ore and meteors are the only magic strong enough to destroy the ring.) Freddie struggles, but is finally able to overcome his desire to keep the ring and they destroy Sauron and the new king is crowned.

It's a great idea, right? It could become the next big thing- the basis for a whole new genre...

But could you develop the idea as beautifully as Tolkien did?

I've described my idea to lots of people, and since I've spent some time working on my query letters, I can give a decent synopsis. But I still have this niggle in my brain that makes me want to say, "It's better on paper."

Try describing a #1 song to someone. Knock out the melody on the piano for them. They say, "Oh, that's neat that you write music. I'm kindof working on a song right now, too.

It's not enough to have an idea- you have to have a seasoned, sweated over manuscript. You must polish your story until it reflects the red veins in your bloodshot-computer-screen-weary-eyes.

When I first considered joining an online writer's group, some friends were concerned that my ideas would be stolen. That someone would make millions off my brilliantly amazing ideas, if I may be so modest.

But all the plagiarism I've heard about is pretty doubtful. I've read one comment on a blog where a lady that sniffed that she'd finished her novel about a boy in wizard school a month before the first Harry Potter came out. And Stephenie Meyer was sued over some resemblances, but I wonder that the attorney would even bother. (Nevermind that last comment. Of course they would bother.)

It's all about the execution. And execution is hard. Just as hard as bringing the characters to life. (get it?)

But some people are confused about how much work it is to write it, and write it well. So I'm going to copyright some ideas, and whenever anyone uses my little gems, they have to go through me. Coming up with the ideas is the fun part, anyway. Actually writing it…ughh.

1. Magic. This is my idea, and if you want to use it, you'd better take out your pocket book.

2. Vampires. Duh.

3. Thwarted love. I believe in reincarnation as of this minute, and I invented this storyline in a previous life.

4.Fear of your dead spouse not really being dead and you move on and then it turns out they've been trapped on an island for years, dreaming of you. (Tom Hanks, I'm waiting for you to return my calls. Though, to be honest, this one's my husband Nathan's brainchild)

5. I may add some more. I come up with stuff all of the time. Check back later.

I should be rolling in the dough in no time. And it's virtually pain-free!

What am I missing? Did you ever have an idea and somebody beat you to it?

Glutton for Punishment?

What better way to test a collapsing post than with a joke?

Here's an old family classic. Where does a king keep his armies?
Up his SLEEVIES! Thanks for keeping it alive, Cleo.

I don't like how the button appears at the end of every post. If anyone can help me fix that, I'd love to know how. As it is, I'm going to start closing with a joke. Making lemons out of lemonade, right?
Hang on a second...

Glutton for Punishment?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I forgot to bring fresh batteries, and that’s okay.

Concerning our camping trip to Mount Pigah, NC, blueberries, unbending rangers, and why writing can be superior to photography.

We went up to Mt Pisgah campground last Friday with fear and trembling. The weather did not look great, but Dad and my little sister had driven up from Florida and I'd already paid for the sites. "Not look great" in this case means clouds with little lightning icons on the hour-by-hour weather report until 9am on Saturday.

I called to see if we could switch nights, but no luck. The reservation system has been centralized, which means that the rules are the same for every person across this country, which is great, but they do not allow employees to touch scissors, because they might accidently cut the red tape. As a bonus, because we were inside the four day window from the date we wanted, they had no access to reservation information, so we couldn't even just skip Friday night and pay additional money for Saturday. Very cunning. (I'm excited about the whole health care shebang that's headed this way.)

We got there in time on Friday to put up Dad's monster tent (12'x20') by flashlight. There was lightning, but not too close. Clouds rested below us, then swept up the mountain as night fell. It was very exciting (and damp) for the kids to sleep in a cloud.

On Saturday, we saw the waterfalls and Sliding Rock (Emma went down four times, Isaac and Eli once, me twice, Nathan three times—it was extremely very very cold). Saturday night, which was supposed to be clear-ish, fell apart around seven. We'd finished our charred foil pack dinners and the kids and I were headed to listen to the rangers go on about birds when it start drizzling.

I wasn't sure if it was an open air or covered pavilion, and we all had on jackets, so we kept going. But the drizzle turned to tiny, unencapsulated water balloons, and I ran with the kids to a "comfort station", where everybody took some porcelain comfort and, in chatting with some ladies, I found out that the bird campfire program was cancelled. Hubby and Dad were supposed to catch up to us after getting dinner cleaned up, but I hadn't seen them, and decided to get the kids back to the tent. So we ran back—only no Dad and hubby waited for us. They had taken the car to find us and returned after 10 minutes.

Hanging out in a tent with hours to go before bedtime and four rowdy kids and a tween could have been a lot of fun, but we piled into the car and headed to the Mt. Pisgah Inn. I ordered the Big Fat Chocolate cake, and it was. Big. Fat. Chocolate. So rich, I shared more than the obligatory bite swap with hubby. Everyone at the table got a few bites. And the corn fritters and fried green tomatoes were also good.

Next day, we waited for the law enforcement ranger to come by and write us a ticket for not setting up on the tent pad, which we couldn't do since the tent was too large. (A regular ranger had given us a written warning, which we ignored, and a verbal reprimand which hubby good-naturedly rebuffed. "Sure, I'd like to talk to the law enforcement ranger. Noone told us that our tents had to be within a size…" blah blah blah. She was not used to people trying to have things make sense-the tent was still in the gravel area but she was arguing about environmental impact.)Really, we wolfed down our s'mores for breakfast and got out of there before the ranger could appear.

A fellow camper had tipped us that it was blueberry season, and we drove to mile marker 420, Black Balsam Peak, and walked from the trail head about a mile along an old logging road to a meadow full of blueberries and blackberries. And we didn't have a camera. Drat. Kindof.

I wanted to take pictures of the kids with blue smears across their faces and Jonas asking before each and every berry went in his mouth "dat good Daddy?" "Just the blue ones." The ferny moss that pads the marshy flow of water down the mountain slope. The way hikers and berry pickers seem all have dogs (except us), and Isaac asking every dog owner if their dog is friendly about a half-second before he starts petting them, just assuming they are. The treasure of finding a branch with seven or eight ripe berries clumped together so that you can just hold your bucket up and pull them from the stem and let them drop.

Eli asking me over and over if he's a good blueberry hunter and giving me high-fives. Isaac dumping his cup into my bucket, but making sure I notice how well he's done first, and calling me to come over and see what a great thicket he found. Emma with her little snort-laugh (it's cute, I promise) when Hubby asks her if she'll carry him back.

I don't need to cry over these pictures we never took because I'm writing it down now. And I'm writing down Jonas' secret code- "Do it again Daddy" means drive through a tunnel, and "Daddy, don't do dat" means don't drive off the mountain. How could a picture tell me that?

Glutton for Punishment?

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Price We Pay

This was written yesterday. Today is Friday. I'm almost certain.
Here’s my story with a sobering moral. It’s okay to laugh.Eli had a dentist appointment this morning (he had five cavities- Thank you unfluoridated water of Western PA) -at least I thought so until we were halfway across town- I literally take three interstates to get to our fantastic, cheap dentist. And then I couldn’t figure out if it was Wednesday or Thursday. Then I was sure it was Wednesday. Because we went to April’s house on Monday, or was that Tuesday? And Eli met a kindergarten teacher (not necessarily his), we went to the library…but which thing on what day?

The real problem is that yesterday I wrote all day and stayed up again until 3 AM.

I couldn’t figure it out, so I turned to the ultimate mental calendar- what did we eat? Rice and étouffée last night. And what did I scrape off of the plates the night before? Bean burritos? Yeah. That’s it. So it must be Wednesday.

I turned around and headed home. One exit later, I remembered asking Nathan if he was playing basketball tonight, and he said yeah- so it must be Thursday. Really? Maybe.

I didn’t have my cell, so I turned around again and headed back towards the dentist. Once I was off the interstate, I stopped at a gas station and took a peek at a newspaper. Today was Thursday. ALL DAY, if you can imagine. We got to the dentist two minutes late, but they weren’t ready for us, so all’s well.

Which brings me to...What have I given up for my writing?
A clean house? No. I was never fastidious.
Time with my kids? Somewhat. But I almost always make sure we have a family activity like the library or swimming . The pictures are proof that we spend time together:)

Working out? Well, that comes and goes anyway, but I’m there 4-5 days a week right now, so I’ll say no.
TV? Yep. Evening is prime writing time.

Sleep? Yes, but I can only go so long.
None of that really feels like a sacrifice.

The real sacrifice has been getting a knock on the door and wondering who could it be, and it’s ladies from church arriving right when I said they should.
Or late Tuesday night remembering that today was Boy Scouts, and Isaac missed again. Or “Oh yeah, we’re out of toilet paper”.

In its defense, my brain is really busy right now.

I’m on the elliptical machine, wondering what my character, David, will say to his dad when he finds out about his mom. I’m sautéing onions, and Lara is inside me, trying to forgive David for tricking her. I’m lying in bed, trying to burn an important plot point into my memory because I don’t want to get up and write it down, but I get up and write it down anyway, because I can’t sleep otherwise.

I hope that readers will believe my characters are real. Because otherwise, I’m just ditzy. And if they're not real, then how can they be causing so many problems?
PS, I go on awesome dates with my husband, too.

Glutton for Punishment?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Winner Winner Winner!

What's hot in scifi/fantasy?

A few things, in any order. Zombies, vampires, werewolves, fairies, demons, (or faeries, daemons if you prefer) mean teen-age girls, clumsy teen-age boys with secret powers. And mindmelding dragons.

Time travel is a perennial favorite, as are doomsday prophecies from lost civilizations. Wizards, demi-gods, and boarding school/finishing school.

Any combination of these will do.

Fairy boarding school? Time-traveling vampires? Dragons in the Temple of Doom, Zombies in corsets? Wait- that's been done. (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I read the first two pages while browsing and it looked amusing.)

Nobody wants to hear about vampires any more, right? Whatever. Half the paranormal books out there are about vampires.

You can just pick a few of these elements, mash 'em up and presto! You've got a best-seller, right?

Five ideas in five minutes-

-jealous teen-lost-spirits try to affect the outcome of a beauty contest.

-a wizard and a witch are transported back to cave man time and establish civilization.

-Astronaut is bitten by a werewolf and sent into orbit before he realizes what happened. His space ship orbits the full moon every eighty minutes.

-A zombie falls in love with a succubus and tries to win her affection via multiple blood transfusions. Then his head falls off and mayhem ensues. Gross.

-A fairy gets fed up with being pushed around by other mythical creatures and summons a demon army to bend the forest to her will.

What do you have? C'mon lurkers. Throw me a bone:)

Glutton for Punishment?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

When It’s Too Late for Editing (i.e.- crazy fans are getting wordy tattoos)

Okay, this is when you know that you've made it, that your work will stand the test of time, because you see it tattooed on the bodies of young girls when you go to the mall.

Or it's a sign that you really need to invest in that Taser you've been thinking about. But this blog is not about someone else's permanent love for an imaginary man. (Imaginary class of man, really.)

Not musings about how they are going to explain THAT to their Mothers/grandmothers/significant others. It's about me and my sister, and how proofreading would have saved us a lot of money.

It's about an idea that went too far, too fast.

For instance, if I'd only waited a few days or run it by my crit group—they're great at picking out details like this-- I would have gotten "I am Bella", not "Bella is ME". It's too passive, like Bella is taking over my soul. Which, now that I think about it, kind of makes sense.

And, I wouldn't have gotten Team Jacob on my forehead. 'Cause I'm totally team Edward. How can I take that back though? Will Edward forgive me? I have hope since he so graciously forgave Bella when she kissed Jacob. What's worse, to kiss another guy, or to have another guy's name tattooed on your forehead?

And poor Cindi. Her tat artist…well. It was really late at night. He was about ready to go home, and I guess he was in too much of a hurry. The picture is a little grainy- if you can't read it, it says "Team Eddward"

In our defense, we can cut bangs.

I know it's morally questionable to give children tattoos, but Jojo is so cute…so pale and curly-haired. Edward—er, Nathan and I couldn't resist.

This quote is from Eclipse. (He's been throwing a lot of temper tantrums.) The lines are a little crooked because that needle hurts! He wanted to stop after 'freaking out', but I told him, "No. I told you before we started that you had to do it all the way, or nothin'."

It reads: "I'm okay. I'm just. Freaking out. Give me. A minute."

It will be really cool in middle school, won't it?

I read an article about a sci-fi author (I apologize for losing track of who it was) who HATED the new title the publisher picked. So when he signed copies of that book, he crossed out their title and wrote his own in.

What if something about a passage really bothered you, but you didn't figure out how to fix it until it was already published. And then you're walking down the street, and this girl walks by and she's got it stamped on her back? Can you, legally, take out the permanent marker and fix it? I know the ink isn't really permanent, but just to make yourself feel better? I'm thinking hard about that, and it gives me one more reason to keep on keepin'on.

Line-edit, here I come.

(For those of you who don't know me well enough, I read the Twilight books and thought they were fun. That's about it. Stephenie Meyer's story is rather inspiring:stay-at-home mom takes over world, but that's it. No actual craziness going on here. Just having a good laugh.)

Glutton for Punishment?