Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Other Nine

Still trying to claim my blogger award.

Totally unrelated picture. My kids on an elephant at the Shriner's Circus.
Only two of their faces are visible, but they're all there, I promise.

You saw #1 on Monday's post, right? I realized I did this totally backwards. I should have started with #10- I still spear brussles sprouts with a fork and pretend that they are lollipops. Because they still do not taste good. And then followed up each one with something a little more interesting until you got to number one, where you would wonder to yourself what I could share that could possibly top the previous nine? And then I could blow you away! But I didn't do it that way. So I hope this isn't a let-down. Are you going to read this anyway? Well, for myself then. Here goes.

#10 The brussel sprouts/lollipop thing
#9   When we were growing up, we had a cat, two dogs, a guinea pig, two or three turtles, a saltwater aquarium (including a snowflake eel that would eat a cube of brine shrimp from your hand. He did NOT like it when the cube wasn't defrosted all the way.), a rabbit, and for a short time, two ducks.
#8   Now I have one solitary sucker fish in a tiny aquarium on the bathroom counter.
#7   I plan to hike the Appalacian Trail with the family once our kids are old enough to carry packs.
#6   I have four wonderful kids, ages 9,7,5,3. Boy, girl, boy, boy. Their various interests include reading, fussing about who gets to be player one on Wii, and eating. Snack time. All the time.
#5   I've had some amazing birth experiences! The first one was especially amazing because I was...just kidding. I wouldn't do that to you.
#4   When Nathan and I met, I was barely eighteen and he was still seventeen. After almost three years of dating, we got married, just a semester before graduating from college. In fact, we had to come back for a few hours from our honeymoon in St. Augustine so Nathan could take some business class exam.
#3   I love rockclimbing. Except I'm too weak and chubby to do it.
#2   But I'm not too weak and chubby to complete a sprint triathlon. I finished a 500 yd swim, 10 mile bike and 5K run in about an hour and a half this past October. Two funny things- the swim is a free for all, and this lady kept bumping into me. Kind of annoying, but not a huge deal. Until I stroked just as she edged into my water and I got her in the nose with my elbow, very very hard. I was surprised when we both pulled our heads up that she didn't have a bloody nose. (She was behind me, so it was totally unavoidable on my end) She didn't bump into me anymore. Second funny thing- I was on my squeaky bike, just pedaling and cringing (the squeak hadn't been there before the start of the race. And Nathan oiled it for me, so I'm not sure where the squeak came from, but it was embarrasing to have all of these guys on their $2500 dollars bikes zooming past me, sqeak, squeak, squeak.) Most of my bike training took place in the gym on a stationary bike because I don't feel comfortable getting on the roads with my little one in a bike trailer. So I wasn't used to getting my water bottle in and out of the holder. And this Fast Biker came up behind me as I wobbled around while stuffing the water bottle back into the holder. Fast Biker told me Good Job for putting the bottle away. (I think he was happy that I didn't take us both down.) I said "I make this look easy." And he chuckled and blew by me. Everybody was really friendly and  nice and I would say, if you want to do a triathlon, go for it, because you can't feel more ridiculous than I did. 
#1  Still here if you want to see it again.

Thanks again for the blog award!
Glutton for Punishment?

Monday, February 22, 2010

For Moi? or, My Super Human Trick

I am the happy recipient of a blog award (my first!) Krista V, a new friend who spotlights agents (among other things) on her blog, Mother. Write. Repeat. I'm supposed to list ten things about myself that are interesting, but for today, I'm going to go for one really, really big one, like talent show big. The rest on Thursday.

Here goes. I hope this video works, because it took me about ten tries to get it loaded. And it won't center. Grrrr.

From Videos

Glutton for Punishment?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Language Immersion For Kids: Query Speak

In an attempt to convince myself that I'm not neglecting my children, I've been making an effort to be funny. I flew my Jojo around on my back this morning and tossed him (merrily) on the couch until he was laughing (hysterically). Then we had tickle time and I read him a book that ended up being about a grandparent dying, not how to count to a thousand (book name- What Comes After a Thousand?) but he'd lost interest a few pages earlier and was playing with cars on the couch next to me while I finished. Misleading title, book folks.

Here's my play buddy.
Don't let his sweet boy face fool you. He has a LOT of angst.

Stay with me for two lines. This is going somewhere, I promise. When he was done playing with toys (read: covering the living room floor with toys) we ate lunch and had some chocolate wafer straws for dessert, then naps and carpool. 

I'd spent a few hours yesterday revising my query, trying different combinations, attempting to figure out what angle would grab people. And I knew I didn't have it. I posted my query in Nathan Bransford's forums and gave my advice on a few queries and blahblahblah. The point is, I really have queries on my mind and the peculiar lengthy sentence structures and qualifier-heavy phrasing.

So when I woke up Jojo this afternoon, I said something like, "Jonas Bryson, the youngest of four children, is about to make a decision that could change his life and shape the destiny of his world. After his mother, neurotic writer and chocolate addict, puts on his socks, she realizes that, tragically, his shoes are still soaking wet from playing in the melted snow the day before. Will he exercise his God-given right and demand that  the shoes be placed on his feet regardless of how much water they contain, or will he allow his mother to carry him, as if he were a little baby instead of the Big Boy that he so clearly is?" I said this all in my Movie-Trailer voice and he did not tantrum.
Besides the behavioral benefits, it made me realize that Query Speak is its own language. (C'mon. Eubonics? Creole? It's at least that good, and it has it's own set of rules, clearly.) I'm thinking that if I start immersing the children in query-speak now, that if any of them ever decide to become writers in the future that they will have a much easier time of it than I.

I could work on our Query Speak proficiency while doing a lot of daily tasks.

Laundry- A lone sock teeters on the edge of despair, knowing that unless his soul-mate (get it?) is discovered, his life will lose all meaning. His only hope for survival is to telepathically influence the children to make sock puppets. But can he accept such a degraded lifestyle? Or will it buy him enough time to find his other, button-eye-free half?

Dinner-The pantry is a big place, full of possibility and pasta, creativity and croutons. But there are dangers as well. Candied yams lurk in the shadows, flanked by saurkraut and ominous artichokes. When a lost onion is found in the back, sprouted and mushy, even the cook considers surrender. PIZZA NIGHT is novella about the travails of cooking. 

One more?

What's that? You want to hear about potty training? *shocked* But this is my professional blog.  You can't be serious. But I did an actual blurb for Jonas while he sat on the potty, so I guess it's only fair.

Kicking and screaming, young master Bryson is brought to the proving grounds of toddlerhood. His honor and his family's budget depend on him mastering the art of disrobing from the waist down and climbing atop his greatest fear and his greatest hope, the potty. (And he went!) 

And because you needed to know, Jonas is right now having a tantrum because Eli touched his tricycle and Jonas started screaming and I put the tricycle on the back porch in time out. Not a happy ending.

Got any Query Speak in you?

Glutton for Punishment?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Likeable Characters

How to take silly, whining, self-absorbed, and/or weak main characters and make them thrive!

Have you watched 'The Wizard of Oz' recently?
Dorothy is a bit of a brat in the opening. And she develops an opium habit.

I've been reworking my query and realized that I have the same trouble explaining the premise of the story as I do in the actual manuscript. There's not enough action inside the MC in the first section of the book. Things just happen to her and around her for the first forty pages.

My MC is introduced as limp as a piece of spaghetti because her character arc is to learn to stand up for herself. She has to start out as a bit of a push-over so that she can learn to make her own decisions.

Enter protagonist: Mother uses Lara's empath against her, using guilt to force obedience. Lara even helps Mother to 'delve' her sisters so they will follow the rules, too.

I had some reviews on early chapters that said that they didn't connect to the MC because she was spineless. But that's the point, so how do I get around it?

She yearns to be stronger. That's it.

We imperfect human beings tend to have a lot of sympathy for people who want to do what is right, who want to control their destiny, rescue their friends, save the world, etc. BUT can't do it...


Or they can't do it alone, or they can't do it until they care about others more than themselves, or they could do it all along if they'd only believed in themselves, or whatever moral is being expressed.

Still, you want to find out how they succeed, so that you can believe it's possible for you, too.

I've added some blurbs of Lara trying to resist Mother. Here's a section I adjusted recently. You tell me if Lara is likeable or not.

“Please, Mother. Don’t.” I squeezed my eyes shut. I wouldn’t look.
“I have to be sure.”

I opened my eyes and glared at her shoulder. I wouldn’t look any higher.

“Lara,” she chastised. “You will not go near the orchard. Or inside it.” Her eyes narrowed on me, and I leaned away, tilting the rocking chair back as far as I could. I looked up into the skylight, letting the sun scorch my eyes. She pressured me and my breath caught in my throat. I lowered my eyes to her face, letting her look. Her face was blotted out of my vision by the sunspots, but I could feel her probing, finding my fears and crowding them out of my mind with contentment.

She relaxed. My throat opened and I gasped, quietly, though. I didn’t want to make her feel bad; her guilt would infect me, too. Besides, she didn’t like to force me, but we both knew the welfare of the geroth was too important. She dropped her eyes and stood, then laid my veil across my knees. She left as silently as she’d come.

I hope this isn't too far out of context to make sense and please remember this is a middle draft! (could I use the word 'look' more?!) I also see some areas where I need to be more specific about what Lara is experiencing, but I think she is relatable now. That the reader might root for her.
How do you balance your characters?
Glutton for Punishment?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Bag o' Books

Anything is cute and snappy with the o' in it, right?

Exhibit A

I go to my tiny local library twice a week and write while my little guy is in preschool, so I'm not tempted to do the dishes. Haha! Like that would EVER happen.

This has been fantastic because now I tend to get my books back on time and thus pay less fines ( I try to look at fines as a charitable donation to support the book-reading public, but somehow fines still feel punitive).

I've gotten a bit out of control. I have a whopping 50 books out right now. I know. Before you tell me I'm a book hoarder, I will say that probably 30-35 of them are books for my kids (we made a pilgramage to the downtown library recently). I will be sad to see some of them go back- especially the picture book 'Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs' by Giles Andreae. And some are for my hubby. I find it easier to have one account where all of the books I have sworn to protect and return are listed in one place.

Our library has a limit of sixty books and I have finally met that number! Fifty out plus ten waiting on the requested shelf. (I was reading up on agents a few days ago and pulled up my library account and requested a bunch of the agents' favorite books. These books tend to be high quality, but not all of them are according to my taste. So I won't read all of them, but it's informative, nonetheless.) If I was one day late per book that would cost $12.00. That's very charitable.

I'm still slogging through 'Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrel' by Susanna Clark, studying the dialogue. I love the humorous footnotes, but, man, it's long. I could have finished ten other books in the time I've been sipping away at this one.

I've been reading "Making the Perfect Pitch" by Katharine Sands (good, but not necessary if you read agent blogs) and am excited about starting 'Soulless' by Gail Carriger (never read steampunk before, unless you count 20,000 leagues) and 'The Godfather of Kathmandu' by John Burdett (which I picked out for my hubby but it looks really interesting and I didn't see any f-bombs when I thumbed through it, so we'll see). Hubby is slogging through HP7 and I'll have plenty of time to read it before he starts if I cheat on 'JS and MR. N'.

Update- Godfather of Kathmandu, really interesting, engaging narrator who is a detective/consigliere for a Thai mob boss and a devout (really) Buddhist. He spends a fair amount of time in the seedy parts of town investigating a murder of someone with a fondness for working girls. Too bad for me. I'd suggest passing if you're squeamish about mentions of sexual practices (no in the room sex scenes) and what sounds like a very honest rendering of what that life is like. What I read was so very funny and informative (about Buddhism and Thai culture, etc.). Over the line for my tastes, though. 

I used to never read more than one book at a time, but I don't stay up until three am to finish something if I'm dabbling in multiple books, so it's kind of freeing. I guess I have no choice but to return some picture books. The kids'll never know why!

Anybody else excited about the third "Hunger Games" book? The cover is very blue. I was surprised that there was no splash of yellow on it, but what do I know? You can check out the Scholastic blog for more details and to see all the covers side by side. I highly recommend; I stayed up really late to read these books, and so did hubby.

Okay, more on my mind, but I'll save it for later. Bye for now!
Glutton for Punishment?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Rinse. Repeat.

Isn't it lovely to have someone who believes in you? My very good friend and alpha reader Aleta came to visit. She ASKED (can you imagine a better friend?) to read it out loud to me so we could discuss it as we went. So, between taking the kids to the circus and going to the YMCA, we sat on the couch and I listened.

It was really strange to hear my words read aloud. It was almost like they were a real story and made it so easy to spot problems. As we worked through the first hundred pages I realized I have a lot of good things on the paper and some things that aren't there yet.

This photo is from last year.
Yes, we have arranged marriages planned.
 I won't embarrass the kids by naming names.

I've been listening to each chapter on 'narrator' (In case you've missed other mentions, this program comes with microsft windows. You can't use it in office, but if you paste into wordpad, then you can listen as the computer reads text.) Unfortunately, a computer can't inflect or answer questions, so you miss where the meaning or emphasis is ambiguous. And you can't ask a computer if the humor is too much, if the dialogue sounds stilted, or if it's okay to use the word 'discombobulated'. Not that I would try to pull that off. 'Discombobulated' is incontravertably unweildy. See how much I need a reader?

It was like a book club about my very favorite book in the whole world and it went on and on. I cannot say how much I appreciated the time that was given to me. I hope that you find people that expect you to succeed like this, whatever the area of your life it occurs in.

Aleta returned to her home in Arizona but left behind a few hundred items to fix. I'm thinking about reading and recording the other 300 pages so I can listen to it. Truly, this was one of the best writing exercises I've ever done. There is no other way to get such thorough feedback. So, goodbye for now readers. I have a lot of work to do!

Glutton for Punishment?