Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Well, in my case:
Weeds large enough to eat me grew up in front of our neighborhood sign – which is on our property and which I am responsible for tending. Ooops.
Laundry may have piled up. A bit.
The neighbor asks why my husband has a rental car instead of his truck, and I say, “Um … I’m not sure.”
The downstairs patio area was cleaned up and redecorated without any help from me. (Now, that was a nice surprise, but I do feel a little guilty.)
But I think the strangest thing is this sense of loss. I know most people celebrate completion of a draft, whether it’s the first or the seventh. I always feel as if I just lost my best friends. It’s not as if I don’t have anything else to do (like pay attention to my house and my family), but after the thrill of rampaging through the climax and having it all work out as I (sort of) planned, typing THE END is a bit of a let-down. Anybody else experience this?
Monday, June 27, 2011
Of course, now BOTH my wrists hurt from the feverish typing of last week -- 'cause when the floodgates opened, I couldn't stop writing. So, to rest my poor hands, I'm going to keep this brief and celebrate by sharing this short film, The Tesla Experiment: Twain in Vain.
Tesla is an important character in VOLTAGE, and Twain and Edison both make cameos. This little cartoon cheers me up, because even with my science-fictiony-science, VOLTAGE is not as fanciful as this!
Friday, June 24, 2011
Last week, I googled up the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome and was not happy to discover that it manifests as tingling sensations like needle-pricks in the wrist and arm, extending up into the fingers. Because that’s exactly what I’ve been experiencing in my left arm. UGH.
I know some of you have suffered with this, because I remember reading about it on several blogs. Of course, I didn’t run to a doctor or anything. I googled up home care remedies, started alternating ice and heat, and bought a little wrist brace from Amazon.
But mostly I tried to rest that hand as much as possible. I thought it would be easy, because I’m right-handed. However, while I was consciously trying not to use my left hand, I learned a lot about what each hand does – and I was surprised.
My right hand writes, brushes my teeth, and wields my fork and spoon. My left hand lifts and carries everything, from my hefty teachers’ manuals to every stack of papers I pick up in my mailbox. My right hand dials the phone, but my left hand holds it while I talk. My left hand unscrews all the lids and holds the Kindle, and my left thumb works the page-up key. And although I keep both hands on the wheel while driving, Leftie does all the turning.
When I mentioned this to Gabbey, she said, “Of course, Mom. One hand is always the nerd, and the other is the jock.”
How about you? Do you have a nerd and a jock at the ends of your arms? What have you done to alleviate/prevent pain from repetitive motion stress?
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
I guess it’s all about Gabbey on the blog this week!
No sooner had summer vacation started, than Gabbey asked me to help her with one of her projects: setting up a wiki where teens who like to write can post their work and get feedback from other teens who write. She has tried posting her work in other forums, but these tend to be taken over by adults who write for teens – and then the teens feel intimidated putting their work out there next to the adult work. So, this site is specifically for teen writers.
I helped her set up the wiki, and I will help moderate it. She invited some friends, and I invited some teen writers I’ve met online. But Gabbey and her friends would love to meet other teen writers from all over the world – share their work, talk through their plot and character problems, and commiserate about revisions. If you’re a teen who writes – or you know one – give a holler!
Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you an invitation to join the wiki. It’s as simple as that.
I’d also like to mention that there is still 1 spot open for First Impressions in July. Send me the first page of your manuscript to get a friendly and constructive review from me and Marcy Hatch. Directions for submitting are on the sidebar, and you can check out prior critiques from my archives or by selecting “First Impressions” from the Label cloud.
Hoping to hear from you!
Monday, June 20, 2011
Gabbey and her friend Mike performed in the middle school talent show last week. With Gabbey on viola and Mike on cello, they performed an original arrangement inspired by The Final Countdown by Europe. They had no sheet music – Mike and Gabbey arranged this piece and played it by ear.
It’s a shame they had to perform in the gymnasium, but let’s not get me started on the lack of funding for the arts versus … say, sports. They were awesome in spite of the lousy acoustics.
Congratulations, Gabbey and Mike and all the other performers at the middle school talent show, especially Anna and former students of mine, Lori and Alexis. I was proud of you!
Friday, June 17, 2011
I’m writing this on Sunday and scheduling it to post on Friday – which will be my first day of summer vacation. (Boy, I wish I could jump ahead and skip the intervening days!)
Last summer, I posted a set of goals for my vacation, and I did a pretty good job at meeting most of them. So, it seems like a good idea to make it an annual event. Here’s what I hope to accomplish before returning to school in the fall:
- Finish this draft of Voltage and one round of revisions before looking for beta readers. The current draft will be my first complete one (although I had two false starts) and I already have a laundry list of Stuff That I Need to Change, so I expect to address those things in the first full revision.
- Get at least 1/2 of the way through my first draft of the doomsday story (title keeps changing). I was working on it in tandem with Voltage for awhile, but I put it aside when I started making real progress with Voltage and didn’t want to lose my momentum. I don’t think it will be hard to get back into it.
- Read more blogs. I was happy that I was able to keep up with blogging during the school year, but I didn’t get around to other people’s blogs as often as I wanted. I look forward to reading more of YOUR posts while I’m off for the summer.
- Exercise. This usually means swimming in the pool, although taking the dog for long walks is also fun when it’s not too hot.
- Make over the play room into a teen/tween hangout. I don’t even look in the playroom anymore. It’s a filthy den of broken Barbie parts, half-completed crafts, remnants of school projects, Legos, and I shudder to think what else. It needs a massive clean-out, a new paint job, and then the fun part – shopping for new furniture!
What’s on your list for the summer?
P.S. In the early spring, I posted a picture of my barren back yard. I was asked to follow up with nicer pictures later. That’s one at the top!
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
When my daughter Gabbey was little, she was prone to getting herself into awkward situations and then yelling STUCK! at the top of her lungs. An adult would come to her rescue, and the problem would be solved. For writers, it’s not that easy.
I’ve reached the climax of my WIP – even sent out notice to my characters requiring their attendance – and I’m still not exactly sure how it’s going to all work out. That is, I know what I want to happen. I’m just not sure how I’m going to make it happen. Those little details of location and timing and does that even make sense are still a mystery to me.
What do you do when you can’t make the details line up correctly? Here are some of the things that work best for me:
- Talk it out with somebody. I think this is the the most successful strategy for me when I’m stuck. Several times during this WIP, I have hit upon a solution while typing out the problem for my crit partners KrysteyBelle and Marcy or explaining it all to my husband. Sometimes, I don’t even need to involve the other person! By the time I’d finished typing up the problem for Krystey and Marcy, I knew how to solve it, so I deleted the message and just emailed them to say Never mind and thanks!
- Do something really boring – like cleaning or weeding. I can’t stand either activity, and my brain will usually start imagining scenes and dialogues just out of self-defense.
- Stream-of-consciousness writing. I open up a fresh Word document and start typing what comes to mind. I let my characters talk and think on the page. I list the things I want to happen and the things I need to happen and the things that ought not happen and see how they all mesh together.
- Be open to change. Often I have found that one pre-conceived notion might be the only thing holding me back. (For example, I was certain Mick’s brother would be defiant, but what if he was regretful instead …)
By the way -- Was it wrong of me to take that picture of Gabbey before rescuing her? The camera was already in my hand, I swear! And this wasn’t the first time she’d done it.
Monday, June 13, 2011
Lisa Brown (Picture the Dead, Vampire Boy’s Good Night) recently posted a link on Facebook to My Daguerreotype Boyfriend on Tumblir, and I was all over that immediately. I do like a man in historical dress! When I took my daughter Gabbey to see Eclipse, I didn’t have a flicker of interest in Edward (too pasty) or Jacob (too bulgy), but I sat up and paid attention when Jasper appeared in his Confederate uniform!
Of course technically the men in these daguerreotypes don’t count as wearing “historical dress” because they are dressed in the contemporary fashion of their times. And they are yummy – luminous eyes, tousled hair – I mean, check out the one at the top of this post. I look at him and see … Hodge. That is, Madison Hodge, the romantic lead in one of my manuscripts. I had an image of this character in my mind as I wrote Strange Truths, and when I accidentally stumbled across this picture on the internet a year ago, I couldn’t believe it. Because this man completely matched my mental image of Hodge.
Who is he really? He’s Robert Cornelius, the inventor of the daguerreotype. That picture is believed to be the very first photograph of a human being. It’s a self-photograph; Robert used a remote switch, and it’s dated 1839. That’s about 50 years early to be my Hodge, but still …
Wanna see another one? How do you like this handsome young man? Believe it or not, this is Almanzo Wilder, husband of Laura Ingalls Wilder. NICE, huh? Makes living on the prairie seem a whole lot more attractive!
If you have any interest in some long-gone, but exceedingly good-looking gentlemen (okay, they weren’t all gentlemen – a number of them appear to have been criminals …), definitely give My Daguerreotype Boyfriend a look!
P.S. - One of my 5th grade students, Lin-z, has started her own book review blog, and I was honored to have my manuscripts among her early reviews. She's just starting out as a blogger and already a beta-reader! Way to go, Lin-z! I know she'd be thrilled if you stopped by and left a comment.
Friday, June 10, 2011
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
I know most (if not all) of you have read the article in The Wall Street Journal highlighting the dark and disturbing nature of today’s YA literature. It’s time to consider: Maybe they’re right. Maybe YA authors are poisoning young minds with a tasteless exploration of the darker side of human nature. Maybe it’s time we returned to the classics for a brighter outlook on life.
Here’s a list of some of the heart-warming classics I was assigned to read when I was in high school:
The Outsiders: Two rival teenage gangs violently clash with each other and with the police.
Moby Dick: A megalomaniac self-destructs while trying to kill a white whale that may or may not symbolize God.
Heart of Darkness: An exploration of the darkness of the wilderness, the cruelty of slavery, and the inherent ability for evil in every human being.
Huckleberry Finn: An abused boy and an escaped slave wander the country homeless and fall in with thieves and con men.
The Picture of Dorian Gray: A young man pursues a life of pleasure through all manner of vice and sin, including murder, while his portrait reflects the evil in his soul.
Romeo and Juliet: Two teenage lovers impulsively commit suicide when rivalry between their families separates them.
The Scarlet Letter: A town ostracizes a woman with an illegitimate child, while the minister secretly engages in self-mutilization as an expression of guilt for his affair with the woman.
Fall of the House of Usher: A disturbed man deliberately buries his sister alive, bringing ruin to himself and his household.
The Tell-Tale Heart: A paranoid schizophrenic kills his landlord, chops up the body, and buries it beneath the floorboards.
What books can you add to this list of fine upstanding classics which are (obviously) better for today’s youth than modern, trashy YA literature? Please feel free to share your titles in the comments!
Monday, June 6, 2011
The flat tone of the monitor reverberated through my head as my mother’s now-lifeless hand began to turn cold in mine. I stared into her empty eyes as a doctor came in and pronounced her time of death. A nurse reached over and disconnected the monitors, asking if I needed anything. “I’m fine,” I insisted.
“Take as long as you need,” the doctor told me quietly.
In all honesty, I couldn’t wait to get out of the hospital. I was sick of the cold, sterile environment. I was tired of their sympathetic looks. There was no reason to remain there now that my mother was officially gone. “It’s okay, you can take her now. I’ve already said my goodbyes.”
“We’ll call you when her remains are ready,” the doctor informed me.
I remained in the chair and watched as they covered my mother’s body. They brought in a stretcher and moved her from the hospital bed, and then wheeled her out of the room. Everything felt as though it was moving in slow motion. I wished they would hurry up so I could get out of there. I followed them out of the door and watched until they reached the elevator. When the doors closed, cutting off my view of her for the last time, I finally gathered my things and began to leave.
“Excuse me, Miss Davenport?” a voice stopped me in the hall.
Hmmm . . . I’d never been called “Miss” before. “Yes?” I turned—and froze. Standing behind me was a man who could only be described as a golden god. I realized my jaw had dropped open slightly and I quickly shut it before the heavenly vision positioned directly across from me noticed my brief stupidity. I rapidly looked him over, praying he wouldn’t notice my scrutiny. He had slightly spiked sandy hair that was bleached even lighter by the sun. He had a golden surfer tan. Oh, and he was wearing a police uniform.
The writing is very smooth and clear, and opening with the death of the narrator’s mother and the arrival of a policeman is a good way to grab our attention. I did have some ideas for engaging the reader further and helping us connect with the main character.
The narrator shows no emotion in this scene, and I’m not certain if that’s because she’s numb – or relieved – or even if she disliked her mother. I’m wondering all kinds of things. Is the girl in shock? Was this a long, protracted illness that has finally ended the way everyone knew it would? Or is there some other, more unusual reason for her apparent lack of emotion?
In a way, engaging my curiosity like that is a clever thing to do, but if her lack of emotion is done on purpose, I’d like to see some allusion to it. Perhaps the nurses are put off by her aloofness. Maybe she sees them whispering about it. And if there is a good reason for her to feel nothing, I’d like to see a hint of it. (Don’t tell me the whole story yet – but tease me with it!)
If, on the other hand, it’s just shock that has her acting this way, I’d like to feel that numbness in her narrative. I was sick of the cold, sterile environment. I was tired of their sympathetic looks. Those lines make her seem more annoyed than numb -- but she snaps out of it at the sight of the golden-haired cop. It doesn’t commend the main character to us if she’s more interested in the arrival of a good-looking guy than the death of her mother!
I think Brea demonstrates a smooth writing style and a clear, precise narration, but I’d like to see her let us into the head and heart of our narrator on that first page. That’s something I have struggled with myself – especially in the opening paragraphs. It’s tricky, but it would only take the right sentence or two, dropped here and there in this scene, to do the job.
Brea, thanks for sharing your work! Be sure to stop over to Mainewords, where Marcy Hatch will have her own take on this first page!
Friday, June 3, 2011
Yes, this is my 2nd post of the day! Please look below for First Impressions. This post is part of the Lenny-Lee-Fest, a shout out to a fellow blogger and all around great kid.
My Top 10 Reasons to Love Lenny:
10. Alliteration. Lenny Lee is a GREAT name. From Marilyn Monroe to Fred Flintstone -- Who doesn’t love somebody with an alliterative name?
9. Animal lover. Lots of Lenny’s posts are about animals. He’s always interested in the pets of his blogger friends. He even had my goofy dog Sorcia on his blog sidebar for awhile!
8. Neat handwriting. I got a card from Lenny once, and his handwriting made my 5th grade students’ handwriting look like chicken scratch! How come my students don’t write like that? Wasn’t someone supposed to teach them … oh, yeah … um … Let’s move on.
7. Heartfelt voice. Any writer knows that developing voice is essential to good writing. Well, Lenny comes by it naturally! I used his post on dolphins with my class to demonstrate how voice can be used in a non-fiction piece.
6. Exclamation points!!! You can never use too many.
5. Bold. Lenny’s not afraid to poke fun at his grown-up blogging buddies. Regarding my 16th wedding anniversary, Lenny commented: “Yikes! You been married way more longer than I am old.” (I almost fell out of my chair laughing.)
4. Walking Advertisement. Here’s Lenny’s comment about my We Hear the Dead t-shirts: "For sure those tee shirts are something to make people look. I know cause I’m a walking ad. My brother was flirting with a girl who waited on him at the store and he got asking her what she likes to do and she said she loves reading stuff and likes that history fiction lots. He grabbed me and swung me around like a top and pointed at your book on the back of my shirt and said you just gotta read this book. She wrote it down and said shes gonna get it. Hooray for We Hear the Dead tee shirts! He got a date from it too." (Another ROFL for me …)
3. Insightful. In spite of his age, Lenny is incredibly insightful. When he read my brother-in-law Larry’s guest post about babysitting Sorcia, Lenny shrewdly noted that Larry and his wife seemed to be pining for a dog of their own. Not only was he right, but Larry and Deb now have their own German Shepherd!
2. Fooled me but good! In Jen Daiker’s Guess My Character Blogfest, I pegged Lenny’s character Gunther as a good-looking hunk who didn’t know all the girls were in love with him. But turns out, Gunther was a goat.
And (drum roll please), the Number One Reason to Love Lenny …
1. Smiles. Every single comment and email from Lenny makes me smile!
Have a great day, Lenny! Enjoy your Fest! We all hope to see you back in action and on your blog again real soon! And any of my blog readers who haven't met Lenny yet (can there possibly be any?) ought to stop by his blog and say "Hi!"
Chapter 1: Jackson
I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being, with an independent will; which I now exert to leave you.
-Charlotte Bronte “Jane Eyre”
“Excuse me, are you Jack Thorn?”
I turned around and there was a short, reed thin man staring at me with a timid look on his face, as if he was afraid I’d say no. Or was he afraid I’d say yes? I shrugged my shoulders and answered, “I am, and you are?”
He took a quick step forward, entering my personal space and making my defenses rise. His face gained a mischievous grin as he said, “My Queen wishes your company, if you’d just stand still a moment,” and with that he flicked his bony fingers in my face and I felt cold liquid land in my eyes.
“Hey! What is your problem?”
I rubbed at my eyes as a burning sensation went straight to my brain. My whole head felt on fire for a moment. Then, just as suddenly as it started, it stopped. I opened my eyes and looked around for the skinny jerk so I could punch him in the face, but he seemed to be nowhere in sight. The sound of someone clearing their throat made me spin around.
Suddenly I was face to face with an emaciated, green colored thing that resembled the man from before. His thin smirk was creepy on his face, complete with pointed chin and skin that looked stretched so tight it might tear at any second. He put a bone thin finger to his lips and when he giggled the sound was harsh and biting like rocks crashing into each other.
“If you talk to me now, people will think you’re crazy. Only you can see me at this point in time. Follow me for answers, or stay here looking like you’ve seen a ghost. The choice is yours.”
Immediately, I like the voice of this narrator, especially in these phrases:
… as if he was afraid I’d say no. Or was he afraid I’d say yes?
I opened my eyes and looked around for the skinny jerk so I could punch him in the face.
This is a bold opening, throwing us directly into a fantastical (and confrontational) situation in the opening paragraphs. It actually struck me as a sharp contrast to the Jane Eyre quote above it, and I wondered what connection Jane Eyre had with this sharp-tongued Jack Thorn.
I’m not really sure where the scene takes place, so the little man’s sudden transformation into a green monster isn’t quite as effective as it might be. Just a sentence or phrase to place Jack in a specific location (on a city street? in school? in some alternate universe?) would really help us visualize the scene and understand the significance of the event. The use of the date 1992 suggests it’s our world, but I’d like more information.
There are a couple places where I’d like to see some minor edits. I’m not crazy about the verb gained in His face gained a mischievous grin, and the plural pronoun their should not be used for a noun that can have only one owner: The sound of someone clearing their throat. Other than that, I found the language clear and engaging.
Overall, I liked this beginning, and I liked Jack. The thing I want to see most of all – in the opening paragraphs or immediately after this passage – is a clarification of the setting.
Thanks for sharing your work with us, Em! Be sure to stop by Mainewords to get Marcy Hatch’s take on this same passage – and come back again on Monday to see the third installment of First Impressions this month.
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
I’m also happy to introduce Brandy Hoskins of The Pen is My Sword and the first page of her fantasy work, Sounding Waters. Below is a map that accompanies her manuscript.
I: The Box
Seraphix was used to the awkward stares, but today felt different. From the moment the waterhole was in sight, she had felt a strong presence of eyes on her. She brushed off the paranoia and dropped her buckets on the ground beside the water.
“You‘re not like they say you are,” came a deep and unfamiliar voice.
She whirled around and for a brief second made eye contact with the man. She recognized him; she’d seen him here at the waterhole before. Turning her back, she continued dipping water into her buckets.
“I have wanted to tell you that for a long time, but I could never catch you without anyone else nearby,” he said.
She peered around only to see he was right; there was no one else there. Keeping her head low, she noted that she was much closer to the trail than he was. If he should try anything, she could burst into a sprint and he would never be able catch her.
“I don’t expect you to say anything. I just hope you’ll linger a moment?” he began. When she didn’t react, he continued, “I know everyone thinks you a curse, like you’re something terrible, but when I look at you, I know they’re wrong. I see a girl who works hard to provide for herself and takes all judgment without a word. One who can turn the other cheek. You are the most respectable woman I have ever seen and the most disrespected as well.”
She let the words fall onto her ears, but didn’t let any of them near her heart.
“I won’t take any more of your time. I just couldn’t pass the opportunity to let you know that not everyone looks at you that way.” He turned from her and started up the path toward town.
She watched him leave, contemplating what he had said. She guessed he had cut the talk short because he had already taken a huge risk in speaking to her. If anyone caught him, he would be chastened. She grabbed the full buckets and started home.
Brandy has given us a glimpse of both setting and conflict on her opening page. The simple act of fetching water from a hole is effective in making us picture a non-technological society. The main character is an outcast, but someone has unexpectedly made an effort to reach out to her. We wonder: what sets Seraphix apart from her fellows? And what motive does this unknown man have for breaking social conventions to speak to her?
I don’t think the past perfect tense is needed in the second sentence. It would read more smoothly as: she felt a strong presence of eyes on her. I’d also like to see the word paranoia changed. It seems too modern a word for this setting, and she’s not paranoid if people stare at her all the time and someone is staring at her now.
The mysterious man gives quite a bit of praise to a girl he’s never met before – especially if she’s shunned by the town. His monologue is almost a character description. I like this sentence: I see a girl who works hard to provide for herself and takes all judgment without a word. They make me want to learn more about how hard she works and who is judging her. Why not consider ending that paragraph there? A shorter speech might seem more natural and whet our curiosity more.
Since his prior statement about her is positive, the phrase “not everyone looks at you that way” needs alteration. As written, “that way” refers to what he said about her, not what everyone else says, which is counter to what he meant. But that’s an easy fix.
I found this an interesting glimpse of Brandy’s work, and as a reader I would definitely turn the page to follow Seraphix home and learn more about her. Check out Marcy Hatch’s critique of Sounding Waters on her blog, Mainewords.
Brandy, thanks for sharing your work! If any reader out there would like a First Impression of your first page in July, please check out the sidebar for instructions on how to submit!