Monday, December 31, 2007

Well, ain't that just adorkable?

I have fallen in love with the Unword Dictionary. I have read every single word. And I’m just itching to use some of them.

I think my favorite is:

30. flabbygast (flăb’ē-găst’)

  1. a. (v.tr.) To be over come with astonishment that despite excessive dieting you haven’t lost a pound.
  2. b. (v.tr.) (adj) As if struck dumb with astonishment that you haven’t lost a pound after a rigorous diet.

Brilliance of the Day: Thanks to Jeremy James for leading me to the discovery of Tomorrowville, a blog by David Isaak, author of Shock and Awe.

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Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Wisdom of Emily Dickinson.

Speaking of Our Deepest Fear, Daily Lit just delivered to me this poem by Emily Dickinson:

XIV.

ASPIRATION.

We never know how high we are
Till we are called to rise;
And then, if we are true to plan,
Our statures touch the skies.

The heroism we recite
Would be a daily thing,
Did not ourselves the cubits warp
For fear to be a king.

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Saturday, December 29, 2007

We Have Number Three!

So we have a couple more, now.

  1. Do one thing at a time, with full concentration.
  2. Enjoy the work.
  3. Make health my number one priority.
  4. Visit my niece much more--ideally aim for once a month. (When I say niece I mean my best friend’s daughter; I am only kind of my step-niece and step-nephew’s aunt.)

Health is such a hard thing. The fact is, I don’t like waking up early. Even more, I don’t feel like waking up early to do yoga. I don’t feel like taking a walk after work (my foot doesn’t feel like it either, but that’s another issue).

The irony is that if I woke up early and did yoga every morning, I’d feel great and I wouldn’t be aching all the time. So why, for goodness sake, is it not just a simple matter of using reasoning on myself to get up and do yoga? Why, when I know it will make me feel great (but make my foot swell up), don’t I just take a walk after work?

I read somewhere that when doctors tell patients to make lifestyle changes that will save their lives, nearly 70% do not make those lifestyle changes. How ridiculous is that? Um, yeah, I’d rather eat sugar and trans-fats and smoke and not exercise than live!

Ridiculous.

But here I am, being ridiculous, not exercising, eating meat and sugar and dairy and wheat and in pain twenty-four hours a day for no sane reason. That must be the definition of insanity.

My latest version of insanity is to eat all the chocolate, cookies, sweets, and butter in the house so that there’s none left so that I can start eating right on January 1. And my further insanity is buying and eating more dairy, like spinach and artichoke dip (love the stuff!) with white bread (tastes like candy), while I "still can," as in, before January 1.

The fact is, I have lived useless years where I was mostly in bed, of no use to myself or anyone else. I never want to go there again.

My body is my vehicle for this life, and if I want to go be of service to others, if I want to be of service to my family and friends, then I need a vehicle in good working condition. Skimping on my health "for their sake" or for my careers’ sake will not serve anything.

(Thank you for serving witness to that self-lecture.)

I’ve come to realize that we have to find our own healing. It’s ridiculous, but it seems the only way I get better is to self-diagnose and get out there and research and heal myself.

So tell me: do you have anything on your list that you just don’t particularly want to do even though you would love the benefits? How do you motivate yourself to do that which you don’t want to do but want to have done?

(You can ignore the rest of the post. I’m seeing if blogiverse magic is still working, where, when you put a problem out there, you magically stumble over the solution on the internet.)

The top item on my to-do list this year is to fix my foot. I thought it was better, but since the day of making cookies and running around shopping malls, my foot has been swollen. A foot should not be shooting pain and collapsing nearly a year and a half after a "medium sprain."

I’ve tried nearly everything: chiropractor, soft-tissue healing, MRI, X-ray, damned Cleveland Clinic quack-doctor.

So, blogiverse, got any magic for me? How can I heal my foot?

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Friday, December 28, 2007

More. And Time.

I’m contemplating my life, it being the end of the year and all. Two themes have emerged.

First, I want to do more this year than I did last year.

Second, I want to make more time for the non-careers stuff.

This is a problem, since doing more means I’ll have less time for the non-careers stuff. So I’m looking at my life and wondering where I can cut some time. How can I do more in less time?

What goes with this is a fair bit of guilt. I remember, in my high school weight-lifting room, a poster that read: Are You Working Harder Than Your Competition?

I, being the competitive sort, have a tendency to carry around that saying--or at least the guilt of that saying. The truth is, some people may miss out on a bit of life, but there will always be someone out there working harder and longer than you.

So right now, I’m trying to work out how much I can not sacrifice, and how much I need to sacrifice. I have certain goals that I’m willing to sacrifice quite a bit for, without batting an eyelash. But then, somewhere we need to draw the line. And what if we draw that line too low?

I hoping that my resolution to do one thing at a time with full concentration will make my time spent more productive, and thereby free up some time.

We’ll see, I guess.

I often draw that line unintentionally. Like, I plan on spending ten minutes in the shower, but I spend an hour. It’s the only place I can think. And I seem to need a lot of thinking time in my day. Is that crazy?

Or I’ll plan on leaving the house at ten, but then I see the cats. And I need to spend quality time with each of the cats, play with them a bit, give them cuddles (more for my benefit than theirs) and it ends up being ten-thirty before I leave.

I don’t make thinking time or cuddle time a priority in my planning, but I do it anyway. So I need to plan for it. But when I plan my goals, shower times seems like a ridiculous, unnecessary indulgence. And ... come on ... thirty minutes to play with cats vs. my career/s?

Why do I get the feeling that I won’t even be done with my New Year’s Resolutions in time for the New Year?

Today’s Brilliance: Please don’t miss Ewoh’s comments on Erica Orloff’s blog about Resolutions.

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Our Deepest Fear?

I was busy today, holding the prettiest and lovingest and most adorable baby in the whole wide world.

So no deep thoughts today. When I got home from visiting the world’s cutest baby, DH was watching Coach Carter, and I drew inspiration from these words:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

But is it true? Do we really fear that we are powerful? Something to think about. What do you think?

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Two Down, X to go!

So I’ve got two New Year’s Resolutions so far:

  1. Do one thing at a time, with full concentration.
  2. Enjoy the work.

The first one is pretty self-explanatory, but by the second one, I mean I want to take pride in the work itself. (I’m on the warpath on this one ... my poor students.) Our society, our educational system, everything ... we all tend to focus on results. It’s probably why everything is test-this and test-that. I definitely think tests have their place, but I can also see how sometimes tests get in the way of learning. And sometimes they help learning.

But whatever, the fact is that we tend to motivate ourselves and others by the end result.

That’s definitely motivating, but whatever happened to good old-fashioned pride in the hard work itself? Working hard is a character trait, a character value, something to be immensely proud of.

And when you think of it, that trophy or prize you earn doesn’t give you pride. It represents all your hard work; that’s why it makes you feel good.

So my question is, why should we wait to feel proud of ourselves? Why wait for the end result to feel proud of our hard work and effort? Why not feel proud of ourselves every day, for every bit of work we do? For both the grand goals we make for ourselves and the little ones, like cleaning the living room or vacuuming the carpet?

The same applies to enjoying life. Why wait until the house is perfect to feel happy? Why not feel happy with each piece of dust you pick up? Why not feel happy with each word you type? Why wait until it’s done?

The results only happen in small moments here and there. The majority of our life is made up of the work. So I guess, this year, I want to stop waiting to enjoy life. I want to enjoy work.

Okay, and I kinda want to teach myself to enjoy cleaning. Hah! We’ll see how that works out.

That’s two goals. I’m working on the "idea" ones. I’ll get to the nitty-gritty like No More Sugar! pretty soon. I hope.

What about you? How are your New Year’s Resolutions shaping up?

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

As Long As There's Christmas

If you celebrate Christmas, then Merry Christmas! Whatever holiday you celebrate, may your day be filled with peace and love.

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Blogagitis.

I’ve been at Borders, working and writing. Or at home baking cookies. Which means my primary means of blog-reading is via my little palm pilot while at Panera or while in bed. Which means I haven’t been doing much (any) commenting around town. Even here.

It’s nearly impossible to comment with a mobile screen. I truly, truly am enjoying your blog posts around the blogosphere. Edie’s at Magical Musings (with all the comments, too) was particularly inspiring to me, and I loved Erica’s dinner party post so much I tried to comment via the palm pilot, but my dinner friends disappeared.

So it’s like the blog version of larnygitis. Commentagitis? Blogagitis? (Can you tell I’ve been in a shopping mall today? Brain. Not. Working.)

I’ll be back to normal in a few days. Please just trust I’m reading everything you guys post, every comment you guys make. Okay? I’m addicted to your words!

I’m also typing this at Border’s, so when I get home to post it, I’ll probably collapse in bed before I can tell you guys how much I loved your six-word memoirs. You guys totally kicked ass! I feel almost embarrassed to have such talent reading my little old blog.

Thank you for reading my blog. I never say that. But thank you. Thank you even more for blogging. I love reading blogs. Passionately.

Speaking of which, I just discovered a new blogger, Laura J. Thompson. She has two new blogs in their infancy: The Literary Prostitute, a personal blog, and Write. Now., a writing blog. (Not to be confused with WriteNow, my nickname for Starvingwritenow. ;-) )

If you get a chance, will you pop by and welcome her to the blogosphere?

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Friday, December 21, 2007

"Take a left turn, then fly!"

So last night I was sitting in bed googling "story" because I was just feeling all lovey-dovey about it. (Does it sound melodramatic to say my heart was swelling with it?) So I came across the SMITH Magazine. It describes itself: "SMITH explores storytelling in all its forms. We’re personal and participatory. Read a story. Write a story. Come in."

They host--are?--the Six Word Memoir. Remember that? Where people write a six-word memoir about themselves? Their book is being released in February: I can’t wait!

My favorites are:

"Take a left turn, then fly." – Hillary Carlip
"Barrister, barista, what’s the diff, Mom?" – Abigail Moorhouse
"Me see world! Me write stories!" – Elizabeth Gilbert

Spock, er, Leonard Nimoy has his "Full Body Project," photographs of "proud fat women" in black and white. I was feeling iffy about the idea, but I love it. The human body is a beautiful thing.

There’s also some diaries, including one tasteful and honest, non-Jerry Springer-type diary by a Dominatrix, called Writing the Whip.

I should mention here that there are plenty of non-sexual, non-naked offerings on the SMITH Magazine. The bits I’ve gathered to share are probably more reflective of me than it, LOL. It’s a fascinating site with something for nearly everyone.

I tried a few six-word memoirs, but they don’t feel right, yet:

Music, story: my life, my arts.
Alone. Independent, then joined. Finally safe.
Ten fingers: many words, many notes.
Kick, write, play music. Always striving.

What would yours be? (Or is, if you’ve already done it).

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I. Love. Story.

I mean, I really love story. I mean, I really, really, really, really love story.

More than words, more than language, more than character or emotion or anything else, I am totally in love with story.

I love all the other stuff, too. But I love story the most of all.

What about you?

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Rising Stars, Climbing Mountains.

So I love the way Aimless Writer uses eighteen-wheelers in her short story (how short is flash fiction?), A Short Story to Nowhere. And she can paint, too, gorgeous flowers. I know painting is just another art, another skill, but it’s one that stuns me every time, one that makes me just think Wow! I could never do that!

I’ve been obsessively coming up with projects to keep me busy at the beginning of next year, trying to schedule my schedule, shorten my sleep time, and figure out how to fit more into a day with no partner at home. This is turning out to be a good thing, because I’m actually starting to look forward to the next few months. Busy is crazy, but busy is fun, too. And if I can stay busy enough, time will fly, right?

Tonight I was working on a little scholarship thingamabob, and reading over someone’s application. Boy, does she have her sh*t together. I love (most) high schoolers and college-age students. They’re at such a cool time of life. Infinite possibilities, plenty of time to live and make mistakes, and something else about them. They’re not quite sure who they are yet, and I love watching them become. It’s good to remember to continually explore oneself and the world around.

Anyway, my point was, as soon as I read her application, I was possessed by this calculating. I immediately thought, okay, two more years, and I’m going to recommend this girl for ... and ... and I need to tell ... about this amazing girl.

What’s funny, is that I’d read about many other students and did not have that reaction. What’s even funnier, is this girl has her stuff together so well, that she doesn’t even need my help. It’s clear she’s going to get where she wants to go whether anyone helps her or not.

I don’t know why I’m possessed by this need to tell the important people about this girl I don’t know who is so on track she doesn’t even need my help. Maybe it’s some sense of justice. If she doesn’t fly to the top of her goals, something’s wrong with the universe.

When you have a goal, sometimes it’s better to look up to the top of the mountain, chart your course, and then keep your eyes firmly fixed on only the ground a step or two or three ahead. Maybe look up now and then to make sure no course corrections are needed, but other than that, keeping your eye on the next step is often better than keeping your eye on the mountain top.

Amazing how far you get that way, and how quickly.

Anyway, I was thinking about last year. I can’t remember ever ending a year with a major goal unfinished, but that’s how it is this year. Two of them, actually, but I may yet finish one. I may yet finish both, but that would be a bit of a shock.

I’m a little disappointed, but I’m charting a course correction.

What about you? Are you taking stock? Any disappointments? Not to be a downer, so what are you most proud of this last year?

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Chocolate. The World's Prettiest Baby.

//static.flickr.com/2022/2123124726_447e8ae953_mI’m eating chocolate. Feeling better. I am resolved not to get depressed.

Ever feel guilty about being depressed when so many other people have it so much worse than you? Do you ever think, what right do I have to be depressed when ... ?

So I’m eating chocolate. And the picture to the left is my best friend’s baby (I’d just driven a bit, I’m a little mussed up), in my opinion the prettiest baby in the whole wide world. She’s walking now, this was about eight or nine months ago.

Babies have a way of cheering the heart.

Isn’t she the prettiest?

Speaking of the prettiest, Lainey has some really pretty Christmas pictures up on her blog.

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Do You Believe in Miracles?

Okay, sorry to ask, but, um ... if you pray, meditate, light candles, or think positive thoughts, could you please do your thing for the hope that DH won’t have to go away to work?

I’ve entered the denial stage, I think. Or is it the bargaining stage? Whatever.

Anything will do. Even if he can just get a job locally. I mean, why is it so hard for a man who’s managed three hotels and worked at IBM to find at the very least a minimum wage job? We could deal with that. So what if he’s not so young anymore ... I mean, geeze. He went to Duke. He’s way overqualified. He gets rave reviews wherever he’s worked. When he works, he rarely works less than eighteen hours a day unless he’s not needed. What’s the big deal?

I’ll take a lottery win, too, but ... you know. I’m all for practical solutions. I just want them locally.

Please, universe? Pretty please? I’ll only cheat on eating once every two weeks. I’ll do yoga five times a week and I’ll meditate every day. I’ll volunteer every week. I’ll clean the house every day and make home-cooked meals every week. I’ll write and teach and play until my fingers fall off. I promise.

That’s all I want for Christmas.

On to more fun matters: what do you want for Christmas?

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Clean Living.

I was good today. I ate rice and beans. And only three cookies. I’m weaning myself off. And we’ve run out, so it was an easy decision. :-)

I have a big project to finish today, so unless I start procrastinating (a real possibility), I won’t be blogging much.

BUT, I discovered a new blog by Suzanne McMinn. She writes for the Silhouette Romantic Suspense. She’s got an awesome entry called This Slanted Little House, about how she decided to move to a tiny town in the boondocks of West Virginia so her family could enjoy some "clean living."

Please check it out, it’s a good read.

Let’s see, and did you know First Book has local chapter thingamabobs? They were wrapping presents at my local Borders today. I’m one of those annoying aunts who buys books for Christmas, regardless of what my poor nieces and nephews really want.

And this place is the coolest. Kids Care an organization that has clubs of kids across the country that "develops compassion and to inspires a spirit of volunteering" in children.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas Fever.

It’s kind of like Spring fever, but I can’t wait until break. Of course, I’ll miss my students, but the weeks off are a nice recharge. Three and three-quarters more days before break.

I ate so much sugar today, I’m tired. Amidst all these yummy cookies, I actually can’t wait to eat my sugarless, healthy cookies. I also cheated and had a piece of cheese today. Isn’t funny how when you tell yourself you can’t have something to eat, it suddenly becomes this huge, intense craving? And then you eat it, and you’re like ... that wasn’t that good.

I’ve been off my diet for two days and I’m ready to go back. That’s cool. So cheating isn’t so bad, you know?

But all this cookie baking and Christmas card writing, and I haven’t written a word in days. If you don’t count the obsessive blogging I’ve been doing because I’m missing writing so much. I did discover some cool new blogs, though.

Some bad news, and that’s DH is going away to work again on January 4 for four months. Last time I dealt with it by watching all five or six seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine in bed. Well, I did have the week off.

But you know those people who deal with things by cleaning? Or by being ultra-obsessively productive?

I’ve decided I want to be like that this time.

What type are you? And how do you flip that switch to be a bummed person who obsessively cleans and gets tons of things done?

Anyways, do you get a bit of a break for Christmas or whichever holiday you celebrate? Are you looking forward to it? Any special plans?

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Simon Birch and "I'm sorry!"

Those Amazon reviews sure are helpful. Just today I was thinking of buying a Bic pen, and the Amazon reviews were extraordinarily helpful. After these stories, I feel confident in my choice. Hopefully I won’t need to use one for a tracheotomy.

(Courtesy of Neil Gaiman’s blog, not to be missed.)

There are so many good blogs out there. I just discovered April Henry’s LiveJournal. Very cool layout, too.

So I was thinking of John Irving and A Prayer for Owen Meany. You probably know that it was made into a movie called Simon Birch, about a growth-stunted boy who is a sort of Jesus figure. Well, you can see here what happens to Simon Birch’s best friend’s mother. And his reaction, afterwards, was such good acting, I really hoped for an Oscar for him. Sadly, he didn’t even get nominated.

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

It's Snowing! Really Snowing!

It’s so pretty, isn’t it? Here’s my house, decorated, this year. (Tip: Buy up all the 90% off stuff after Christmas!)

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You strangely can’t tell that it’s near a white-out in the picture above. So here’s another picture to prove it:

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And here’s my love with Caesar, our big lug of a cat whose the cuddliest:

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And finally, our Christmas tree this year (Blue Spruce, painful!):

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Honest Lies, True Fiction.

As usual, I’m the last one on the train. Have you ever read Heather Armstrong’s blog? It’s big. BIG. Her entire family lives off the ads, it’s that big. I wonder if, in part, it’s due to brave, honest posts like this one?

Kids sometimes make things easy. It’s hard to do something for yourself, but when kids are involved, it’s so easy to shut things down and take a hard line, for their sake.

It’s very easy for me to (outside of a few lapses) to not mention my pseudonym for their sake. I know that some day, if real name ever gets published, a few will connect it, and you know how the internet is. I’m not really that worried about that, because that’s just the way I am. I do what I can and do my best for what I think is right, and if things go wrong, c’est la vie.

As usual, Erica brought all this thinking up.

But would I have taken a pseudonym if my publisher had given me a choice? Definitely. How about if things were different, if things were safer on the internet and stuff?

I don’t know. I have such mixed feelings about it, because I hate secrets. I’m one of those people who think and stuff comes out of my mouth, unfiltered. I want to talk about everything, irregardless (sadly) of whether or not the rest of the world wants to hear about it.

I could say I’d have used my real name and sound much braver than I am. I could even think that I would, but I couldn’t really know unless I’d been given the choice. I do think I would have today, but I doubt my younger self would have. She was too young and confused.

I know there’s stuff I’ve written under my pseudonym that I never would have written if I wasn’t writing under a pseudonym. Some traumatic events in my life have made it into my stories. Sure, a little altered, a little changed, tweaked, and modified, but the people who know my history would recognize them.

It’s also easy because it just wouldn’t do for me to talk about writing on her blog. My readers wouldn’t be interested. It would probably spoil the man-behind-the-curtain magic, you know? And no writers, that I know of, read my pseudonym’s blog.

As if crafting a story would take some of the heart out of it, you know?

I know my readers assume that some of my stuff might be true. Sometimes it is. I don’t mind, because it’s always true in some way. If it’s not who I am or what I’ve done, it’s what I would have done if I were my character in that situation.

I guess, to me, that’s close enough. (Disclaimer: they don’t ask, but if they did, I’d tell them the truth.) It’s more that I just get the feeling they’re thinking that from the words between the words, or even the words themselves.

It’s probably very weird for me to think that’s close enough. But the characters become a part of me, or they were a part of me that came out, or something.

If anything, my character’s feelings are what I felt, writing them.

As writers, I think we feel things deeply. I can put a character through an experience, and feel it so deeply, live it so much in their shoes, that it hardly makes a difference whether it’s the character or myself that has lived that experience.

Of course it makes a difference, but at the same time--if I’ve done my job right, it shouldn’t. If I’ve done my job right, I’ve felt it so real in my mind and heart, that it feels a part of me and my experience, all the same.

(Am I starting to sound crazy? Must I put in a disclaimer that insists I do know the difference between my reality and my fiction? I’m just thinking out loud.)

What do you think?

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Measuring Worth.

A friend of mine said of a friend of hers never eats any more, because it’s just too much work to make good food. The friend of mine agreed, and I know exactly how she feels. Sometimes things are such a bother, you know?

I can’t tell you how many people have told me that they’re not decorating this year, because it’s just too much work. I understand that, too. I doubt I’d do it if it weren’t for DH; he does most of the work.

As I spent all day making cookie dough yesterday, I was exhausted. We spent hours yesterday and the day before trimming the tree and putting up the last of the Christmas decorations.

After all that work, at the end of the day yesterday I stretched out on our futon and spent five minutes watching the lights twinkle on the tree.

How is it that those five minutes were so wonderful and relaxing and full of warm fuzzies that I thought it was all worth it?

Then there’s Christmas Day dinner. DH and I spend weeks deciding what we’re going to eat, we spend hours shopping and a whole day and a half cooking.

For what? One hour of eating?

And I can definitely say it’s worth it, every second. Nothing tastes better than your own efforts, you know?

Yesterday, when I was showing DH how to make cookies and cookie dough, I told him he had to stir and beat clockwise, and think happy, loving thoughts. When I make cookie dough, I pray for blessings of health, happiness, and prosperity for those who eat them.

He thinks I’m crazy, but cute. I think he did it anyway.

In our society, we’re so hard-pressed to do more, more, more, especially for our careers. Life is so amazingly busy, that we look for ways to save time, ways to be more convenient.

Hard work finished always feels good; hard work yet to be done makes me feel overwhelmed. Sometimes I forget how much joy a dinner can give, how much love a cookie can spread, and how warm a Christmas tree can make my heart.

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Friday, December 14, 2007

I forget every year ...

... how much work it takes to relax and enjoy the holiday season. I’ve made and frozen about twelve or so batches of cookie dough. They’re our gifts this year.

Well, hey, not to be cheap, but we put lots of fun and love into them.

But now I’m tired and I’m watching The Santa Clause.

What about you? Are you tired yet?

I keep telling myself that the week between Christmas and New Years will involve lots of kicking back and enjoying the tree. And eating cookies and leftovers and cozying up together in front of the TV.

I just got a story idea last night before I fell asleep. In fact, I was so excited about it I woke up three times last night to remember it, because obviously my brain was very fearful it would forget it by morning.

No spies. Sleepy brain got spooks confused with ghosts. I gotta write this one, anyway. It’s crazy and it’s not at all in the plan, but I just want to write it anyway.

Ever have a story like that?

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Bookbiz Santa.

Oh, damn! And what do I open the next blog up to read?

Bookbiz Santa is back! She picks the letter with the most comments, and they get to pick where M.J. donates her charity money. (Okay, I’m fuzzy on the details, but I’m pretty sure I remember that.

Four posts. That’s a record. That’s almost insanity!

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The Best Idea.

Just one more post today, I mean it this time!

I noticed that my blog has been a week of links, this week. But gosh, you guys are way more interesting than me!

Anyway, I promise, one last one. Okay, I don’t promise. I’m going to try to make this the last one for a little while.

Here it is, and it’s the best, sweetest, most generous idea I’ve heard in a long time. I’ve never thought of that, ever. Awesome, Holly!

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Fan Fiction?

Sorry to double post, but I just had to mention this before I forget:

Tobias Buckell pointed his blog readers to a new writing organization: The Organization for Transformative Works.

"The Organization for Transformative Works (OTW) is a nonprofit organization established by fans to serve the interests of fans by providing access to and preserving the history of fanworks and fan culture in its myriad forms."

A fantastic 147-comment discussion is going on at John Scalzi’s blog about the issue, and he raises some great points. The best of which is that fan fiction largely operates on a don’t ask, don’t tell policy, and by organizing and uniting to fight a legal battle on their rights, it’s likely to cause publishers/studios to lend their considerable legal weight to the battle, and fan fiction writers would be more threatened than they are now.

They also debate when the line of "transformative" begins.

My thoughts on the matter are largely undecided. I have a couple worlds that, if fan fiction were to be created, I’d be a little hurt. I feel awful protective of my worlds.

On the other hand, anything with the word "fan" in it isn’t all that bad (maybe stalker fan ...). And it is a compliment to love someone’s world so much, love someone’s characters so much, that they live on in your head and you have to write their stories.

I see good points on both sides, and I would definitely prefer the don’t ask, don’t tell approach. Organizing and making fan fiction legal starts making me uncomfortable.

The thought that all this could lead to other people making money off my worlds? As Lula in the Stephanie Plum series would say, "Nuh-uh."

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Morbid & Happy Thoughts.

So you heard that Terry Pratchett has Alzheimer’s? It’s just in the beginning stages, and he says "I think there’s time for at least a few more books yet."

Let’s hope so. I just discovered him last year or so through Neil Gaiman and his partnership with Terry Pratchett on Good Omens. (Loved it!) So I’ll have a backlist and some new ones to explore! (Let’s hope!)

Diet (or new way of eating) is going well and my brain is working again, but now I’m baking Christmas cookies. We might allow sugar for ONE week. We’ll see. I’m not looking forward to going through sugar detox again, LOL, so maybe I’ll be strong. I hope.

I have a tree to finish decorating and cookies to bake, so wanna play?

1) What’s your favorite Christmas cookie?
2) What’s your favorite kind of Christmas tree? (We got a Blue Spruce: OUCH! We had to decorate it with GLOVES on!)
3) Okay, here’s a morbid question: What author’s (not a friend-author or acquaintance-author, but some author you don’t know) death (or, I suppose, retirement) would make you cry?

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Excellence Defined.

Ello reminded me of Rumi today. My favorite Rumi quote, which is on my MySpace page, is "Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground."

MySpace is fascinating. You know how some people have a quote they live by? Some live by WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?), others have all sorts of quotes. I suppose if I have any quote that serves as a guiding beacon, it would be that Rumi quote.

I adore Edvin Marton (he’s on my MySpace page, just so you can follow my line of thought, LOL). He’s a violinist from Russia who does lots of crossover, rock-style shows. I prefer my musicians to show some heart while playing; we are no longer an aural society. We are a visual one, and classical music needs to remember that.

Anyway, his playing tears my heart out. (The clip below isn’t his best; I suspect the cold from the ice had something to do with it.)

I watched this video nearly every night for months after the Olympics. Evgeny Plushenko’s performances that year were just amazing. They’re everything I strive for in music and words. Sometimes people ask me why we need so much perfection in music, in piano in particular. In art, we strive for perfection because we want nothing to get in the way of our message and the experience we’re providing.

This performance was incredible because it defines excellence for me, defines what I strive for in all art: perfection with passion. I hope you enjoy:

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

thx.

thx 4 stopin by 2day. how r u? i luv da w8 4 xmas.

This is the third message I’ve gotten in the last month or so from the 18 - 24 year old crowd. I can’t bear it.

It’s bad enough that one generation is starting to write like this, but will the next generation, and the next? What I’m asking, is when I’m sixty, will half the population be writing emails in that damned shorthand?

It’s just awful! I read that, and I automatically think I’m looking at an idiot.

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A Roar for Powerful Words!

I have half a bag of milk chocolate chips in my cupboard, and very much want to put four of them on top of my very healthy oatmeal cookie. I’m going to try not to.

Do you ever have a dream where your loved one dies? Please tell me this is normal.

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Mark Terry awarded me a "Roar for Powerful Words!" Thank you! Started by Seamus Kearney, the award "aims to celebrate good and powerful writing in the blogosphere. The idea is for recipients of this award to also choose five blogsters they would like to honour. Despite what some say in the mainstream media, there is some fantastic writing to be found on many blogs!"

We’re supposed to "list three things they believe are necessary for good, powerful writing; and then pass the award on to the five blogs they want to honour, who in turn pass it on to five others, etc etc. Let’s send a roar through the blogosphere!"

Problem is, I’m still feeling sort of blank-minded. (Need chocolate.) Well, here goes, anyway:

1. Blank Mind: (Hah! Nothing to do with my current state of blank-mindedness.) No, I mean that as writers, it helps to have the ability to temporarily erase all prior knowledge of your story, and read it and experience it as a reader would. If we understand how a (somewhat typical) reader experiences our words, we can manipulate the experience for them.

2. Heart: No explanation needed, right? Because I haven’t had those four chocolate chips.

3. Only one more? I want to put so many things, and I can’t decide which. Truth? Understanding? The ability to imagine oneself in other’s shoes? Empathy, even when true empathy does not exist? Respect for characters? Um ... imagination, rhythm!

Okay, I’ll settle on Rhythm for number three, only because not many talk about it and I think it’s ultra-important. Rhythm is intrinsic to life; the ability to perceive off rhythm is inherent in all humans. All the bestselling writers have impeccable rhythm of pacing, words, syllables, the whole lot.

Now I’m supposed to nominate five more bloggers for the Roar of Powerful Words:

  1. Bernita Harris, because every word she writes is used powerfully.
  2. Erica Orloff, because every blog she writes is powerful.
  3. Writenow, because she delivers one powerful laugh with every blog. (Okay, I’ll stop using the word powerful now. See? The award’s gone to my head.)
  4. Aimless Writer, because I wish she blogged more.
  5. Just one more? I can’t choose. Please, anyone who wants, join in! I read everyone’s blog here because I love your words.

On to some cool announcements: StarvingWritenow entered Bernita’s writing contest. All the entries have all been awesome, Writenow’s too.

Oh, yeah ... Bernita is having a writing contest. Under 250 words, inspired by a really cool picture. Ends Friday (I’m pretty sure!).

Brett Battles, author of The Cleaner, is blogging again!

And I swear, I saw this before Oprah did. They make great gifts. The recipient gets to choose for him/herself who they want to help.

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Monday, December 10, 2007

What's Invisible.

My brain, evidently, shuts down when I’m eating healthy. It’s very strange, life without the food I’m sensitive to. I have all this energy, but I don’t know what to do with it. It’s like being in a foreign body, a little uncomfortable. I don’t know how to think in this body.

You must think me strange, but this is true.

No wheat or dairy or sugar makes me feel incessantly happy. It’s really like being high, I suppose, but I never got into the whole drug thing. I suppose I just need to adjust to the feeling. I didn’t particularly feel unhappy before--I was just, normal.

Do normal-normal people feel like this all the time?

It’s very strange, that we humans crave the familiar so much we’re willing to be unhealthy and less happy just so we can keep things the same.

I just finished The Little Prince (thanks for mentioning it, Erica!), and like all good stories, I immediately want to read it again. No, I actually wished I could have a child so I could read it to her every week. (Which is, of course, the best reason to have a child, LOL ...)

One of the many lessons The Little Prince teaches is that things and people become meaningful by how we care for them. And the flower we love is different from all the others, because of what’s invisible inside.

(And since I’m still dying for chocolate and sweets, I’m going to be lame and bring this back to food.)

All the food I can’t eat, like hot pudding and cheesy pizza and creamed chipped beef, have so much meaning because they were given meaning at some point in my life. What’s invisible inside is like a soul of memories I’ve put into my beloved foods.

So now, when I feel like I want a cup of hot chocolate with fresh, homemade whipped cream dolloped in the middle, I need to pair those feelings of being loved and cared for with a cup of miso soup. Or a pot of tea.

Oh, boy.

My brain really isn’t working yet in this condition, is it?

Here’s a recipe for Oatmeal Raisin Cookies that has nothing I can’t eat:

3 Bananas, mashed
2 Cups Oats
1/2 C. Raisins (or any dried fruit, chocolate chips, nuts, the kitchen sink, whatever’s around ... I sometimes use more than 1/2 cup.)
1/4 C. Olive Oil
1/4 C. Almond Milk (or soy milk, or rice milk ... or real milk, if you’re allowed.)
1/4 teaspoon Vanilla

Mix all, let stand for 5 minutes.
Spoon onto cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 15 - 20 minutes.
Infuse with love and memories.

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Sunday, December 09, 2007

Sunday Ramblings.

So have you heard of the Book version of Netflix? Paperspine is pretty much like a library, except you pay them a monthly fee and they deliver the books in the mail.

Or you could pop by the library on the way to the store. Sheesh.

And, coming next year, is the rollable E-ink reader, called Readius. Great size, and it’s really cool that it unrolls to a 5 inch screen.

Alexandra Sokoloff at the Murderati blog has another way to give: books to the Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Detention Facility in Sylmar, California.

Bailey Stewart pointed us to a way to procrastinate, play a game, and help others. At freerice.com, every vocabulary word you get right, 20 grains of rice are donated to the UN. It’s fun, especially since I love playing with words.

The novella I’m writing for January is starting to roll, even though I’m trying to work on my spy thriller. I’m struggling with it, which is nothing new.

I realized, while reading Jane Eyre, how much my next-to-the-last novella was of that same dark, moody, passionate spirit. (Or strived to be.) I loved writing it, and now that I’m half working on the sequel, I’m just reveling in that mood.

And when I sit down to my spy story, all I can think of is how can I write this with the same mood? Should I create an alternate world? Go back in time?

I adore fiction, and spy thrillers have a tendency to try to be ... more realistic than fictictious. Can I change that? Or am I trying to write the wrong genre?

Recently, someone asked me to review a "dark, gothic thriller." Just that description made me do somersaults to say yes! Unfortunately, that ended any illusions I may have held that I could review a book. I felt badly that the voice turned me off, and worse still that I just couldn’t get myself to finish it. And most of all, I was so disappointed that I disliked it, because the description of a "dark, gothic thriller" makes my tongue water.

Well, anyway. I gotta push myself out of the box.

Somedays, I think there’s nothing harder in the world than to "know thyself."

How was your weekend?

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Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Danger of the Written Word.

People talk about the "power of the written word," but there’s also a danger to the written word.

And there’s a weird sort of thing that happens when you practice writing every day: you get a competency for writing. You can wield it in very strong ways. Just by the mere ability to organize your thoughts into coherent paragraphs makes even an email or letter more powerful than an average email or letter.

My English teacher told me that phrases such as "I think" or "I believe" weaken your writing.

Lately, I’ve found myself taking comfort in that. I start peppering my emails and studio letters with I thinks and Maybes and Perhapses, in a way to consciously weaken my writing.

In nonfiction writing, strong writing makes opinion sound almost like fact. That’s its strength. But for me, I’ve never been comfortable in that role. I believe what I believe. I believe it passionately, and when I write it coherently, it’s persuasive.

Unfortunately, sometimes. I mean, sometimes I sound like I know what I’m talking about, even when I’m just talking, or thinking, or spouting an opinion.

I’m not always comfortable with that, you know? I’m willing to hear the other side. In fact, being a Libra, I’m more often going to take the opposite side as a way to flesh out the whole picture.

Now give me fiction, and I’m more than willing to write an argument both persuasive and subtle, with every technique I’ve got in my arsenal.

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Friday, December 07, 2007

I want FOOD!

Brett Battles has a free, new short story available, called Just Another Job. Yay!

I can’t think of much else to say today. I want FOOD. I want chocolate and cheese and pizza and ice cream and yogurt and spaghetti and rigatoni and manicotti and thick, moist bread and pastries and all the food I can’t have.

I know I need to do it for health reasons, and it would be great to lose weight, too.

But still. Gawd. I really, really, really, really, really want a piping hot pizza where the sauce is runny and hot and the cheese is all stringy.

Ohmigawd.

I love vegetables.
I love rice.
I love fruit.
I love vegetables.
I love rice.
I love fruit.
I love vegetables.
I love rice.
I love fruit ...

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Giving Spirit.

//static.flickr.com/2077/2092454832_0b9e46c7c0_m

Caesar’s Palace, DH in front of giant Christmas tree.

This time of year, there’s lots of giving spirit going around. We all want to help, so here’s some authors (let me know if I left off any) combining their giving spirit with their books, and there’s some FREE ways to help below, too!

Eric Stone wants to keep Cambodian girls in school and out of sex slavery. He says:

"For the first 20 donations of $120 made to AAfC by Bleak House readers, the donor/s will receive one limited edition Evidence Collection copy of GRAVE IMPORTS and their choice of any one of five photographs of Cambodia taken by the author, Eric Stone."

Kate Johnson also has a Christmas Appeal for the Cat Protection League. She says she’ll donate all her money from the sales of Elf Gratification and The Twelve Lies of Christmas.

But you can give in free ways, too!

If you’re hard up on cash, there’s still some little things you can do! Try using yahoo’s GoodSearch search engine. You can enter your favorite charity or school from a participating nonprofit, and even add it to your toolbar so all your searches benefit a charity.

Then, of course, there’s the click once-a-day sites (which I often forget about, shame on me, because it’s so easy!), where only seconds of your time can make a difference:

The Hunger Site The Breast Cancer Site The Child Health Site
The Literacy Site The Rainforest Site The Animal Rescue Site

Click to Save Wildlife Habitat for FREE! CLICK HERE! Save Wildernes for FREE! CLICK HERE!
Save Rainforest for FREE! CLICK HERE!

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Unions, Anyone?

I suspect that this post is one of those posts that are generally not spoken of in writing circles. Leastways, not the circles I run in. But you know me, what passes through my mind comes out my mouth or fingers, one or the other.

The other day I blathered about the price of principles.

And today I’m wondering about unions. Talk about a high price. Have you ever been around a strike? Where the union workers are starving, their families are hurting, and they have to decide whether to "cross the picket line" and go back to work to feed their family, or stick by their union and their principles?

For a man or woman at that income level to have to go for weeks and months without pay is ... nearly unfathomable. (And in times past, crossing the picket line could be risking your life.)

But the price today, if they cross that picket line, is that when the strike is settled, they’re likely out of a job.

And the "social price" is they’ve let down their fellow workers. They’ve weakened the power of the union, and by weakening the power of the union, they’re personally responsible for their fellow works making less pay and/or receiving less benefits.

Novelists, as far as I can tell, have no such power, no such ramifications ... no such guild?

What I don’t hear us writers talk about is our social responsibility when it comes to signing a contract. And I’m looking at these contracts that I signed as a newbie who knew jack-shit and am wondering if I should have been negotiating certain points.

On the other hand, what negotiation power do I have? I’m already paid the top of what my little publisher pays, and there are TONS of writers who are willing to write for a third of what I write for. For less than that, even.

So where does that leave me? Where does social responsibility end and self-preservation start?

I heard a NY writer say they’re happy with 8% royalties for ebooks. I cringed, because I really don’t like that. Not when the book costs nothing to distribute, print, ship, etc. I understand you still have to pay for cover art, overhead, editors and all that work, but E-publishers generally pay between 20 - 45%, 20% being on the LOW end. (Only one e-publisher I know pays that, and they were in the print market for years, first. NY has the same problem, only worse.)

Eventually, we will be heading into more e-markets. That’s why the Writer’s Guild is striking now: to ensure the future of e-rights. (I didn’t say that right; you know what I meant, though, right?)

Some say, why strike now when it won’t matter for X years? I say, because now is the time. Once they’re getting the money, they’re not going to let it go without you having to give up something else. Why do you think the studios are fighting it? They know where the future is going.

The power to change things for us writers rests with those writers at the top of their genres. And why would they fight? They’re getting paid well. They’re happy with the arrangement, and why shouldn’t they be?

I would like to hear writers talk more about our responsibilities to each other.

Of course, then you’ve got writers who will PAY to be published. I believe I’m starting to understand why there is such animosity for the self-published. (I don’t agree with the animosity, at least not yet.) The Writer’s Guild screenwriters don’t have "self-publishing," do they?

So where does that leave novel and story writers? Each man for himself? It’s true, we help each other out a lot when it comes to writing and navigating the path, but what about the nitty-gritty? What about the money?

When someone who wants to write for my publisher asks me how much I get paid, what do I say? We writers are notorious for not sharing that information. I regret that I once didn’t share it, mostly because my publisher said "don’t tell anyone else if I agree to this rate." I feel that was a wrong decision on my part (although I did guide the writing friend to ask for the highest price I knew she could get). That writer didn’t end up writing for my publisher, and no one else has asked, so I didn’t have to test my principles again. But ... I made the deal of silence, so it’s out of my hands now. But I didn’t consider my responsibility to other writers, at the time.

In the music world, we share that information. I was clearly told "don’t ever teach for less than X; never play a gig for less than Y; never play a solo recital for less than Z."

So then what power does that leave writers? We must either increase demand for our work to give us more negotiating power, or find alternate publishing paths. But that leads us back to self-publishing ...

Maybe, someday, e-publishers will save us. If they don’t start following NY standards and dropping royalty rates to 8%. Scary thought, that.

I have no conclusions, only questions. What a difficult freakin’ business to navigate, sometimes. No wonder people complain.

Do you have any answers? Any thoughts? What don’t I know?

Heck, I’m turning my business mind off. This is why writers get agents, isn’t it? I’d rather escape to my writing... anyways, it all comes back to write better than the obstacle, doesn’t it?

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Is the Mess Worth It?

So one of Nano’s battle cries is "just write; turn off your internal editor." I must have caught the spirit with my last novella, because I’d plunged waaayy past the point where I usually stop, take stock, and organize the ending.

I made a mess.

It wasn’t fun. You guys heard me gripe and complain. (I don’t know where you guys get your patience!)

In the end, I like what happened. As I cleaned up the mess, I realized that I’d found a theme of sorts, and several important messages. I’d made too many scenes, so I had to throw some away, which made me stop to consider which scenes were integral to the story and which were not. It made me evaluate everything, and forced me to turn on a way of looking at things that I’ve never done with my writing.

My DH is not happy with how picky I’ve gotten with my self-editing, lately. Neither is my pocketbook. But, you know, sometimes you just have to do what you have to do. I just *can’t* turn out a story that’s not better than my last one, you know?

You know, it’s very funny. When I’m actually sitting down and writing at Borders, I’m very calm and happy. Very zen-like. It’s when I get home that I start analyzing and kicking myself to be better, when I start fussing and getting the most frustrated. Or sometimes before I write, my mind throws little mental temper tantrums about pressure or about this or that.

But once I get in the scene, it’s just me and my fictional world.

I don’t know how I’ll approach this next one. That’s what I love about writing. Each story demands a different process, or at least variations on my process. Strange, that.

Where do you get most frustrated? Have you ever made a mess with your WIP?

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Monday, December 03, 2007

The Price of Principles.

The other day when I blogged about principles, I said I don’t often find evidence of real strong principles in most kids, not the code of honor sort of kind, anyway. (Okay, I’ve seen displays of three kids out of hundreds choose to stick by a principle when it was tried.)Well, to prove me wrong, I just had a discussion with a kid yesterday.

To make a long story short, he lied to me and was perfectly comfortable (if a little teary-eyed) lying to me. But when I pointed out that the week before he had promised such and such, the dramatics completely disappeared.

"I promised?" he asked, in the same tone one would say Oh, shit, really?

It totally cracked me up, because in this kid’s value system, he may be comfortable with lying, but breaking a promise, to him, is way in his never-do category. I do wish he would include lying in that category, but I was so proud of such a strong principle at his age, I wanted to hug him right there and then.

I’ve always been fascinated by those in history who have been willing to die--or have died--for their principles or for a truth or a belief.

And we can never really know until we’re tried, but I wonder what principles, if any, I’d be willing to die for. It’s easy (relatively) to die to protect someone else, but to die for a principle? I wonder about that often.

In my estimation, principles have a price. Truth, for example, costs little when it risks little. But if your grade hung on it, if your school hung on it, if your life hung on it, if your family’s life hung on it ... then each person has to decide how much they are willing to pay for their principle.

That, I suspect, is the hardest thing to teach a child.

(You knew I was really talking about writing, right?)

When we force our characters to consider the costs of their principles, their true colors show. And for us authors, the inverse is true: in order to show our character’s character, we have to force them to decide the cost of their principles.

What’s with the deep thoughts, lately? Can you tell I’m in the middle of working through my story in my mind, LOL?

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Sunday, December 02, 2007

Time to Think About Goals.

It’s December already, can you believe it? Many are taking stock of last year and starting to set their goals for next year. I love this process, but I’m late starting it. :-) I’m late realizing it’s December. Nope, I’m late realizing it’s 2007!

That’s okay, because here’s some great posts to get the ball rolling. (The mind rolling?)

JA Konrath has a fabulous post collecting many writers’ goals for 2008. Inspiring! I particularly liked when Barry Eisler said:

It sounds odd, but focusing too much on the goal once you’ve figured out what it is is counterproductive. Cops involved in a shooting typically report a telling sequence: surprised, they get their weapon out and shoot instinctively, thinking things like "Die!" and "Go down!" Of course, hitting the other guy is one of the key goals in a gunfight (the other being not to get hit yourself). What’s interesting is that, at this stage of the gunfight, the cop can’t seem to hit the target. Then, after a second, the training kicks in. The cop stops thinking "Go down!" and instead reverts to the sequence he learned to concentrate on in training: aggressive stance. Gorilla grip. Front sight on the target. Roll the trigger.

And bam, like magic, the bad guy falls down.

And over at Murder She Writes, Karin asks what you would do to reach your goals. BE chimes in with what she wouldn’t do.

Finally, who recommended the Achieve Planner Planning Software by Effexis? I’m sorry I’ve forgotten who, but great advice! Looks fascinating!

Have you given any thought to your goals lately? Can "need less sleep" be a goal? Is it achievable? I picked up three sleep books yesterday and they said "no." Isn’t that depressing?

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Saturday, December 01, 2007

What's Left?

//static.flickr.com/1176/1408973118_48c2dca307_mAt various times in my life, I’ve been in a position to contemplate who I am without family or friends, who I am without health and the ability to participate in the world, who I am without materials or money.

Various answers have occurred to me at different times.

In times past, perhaps people would have taken pride in their name. (How did that become such an antiquated notion? Sad, I think.) Nowadays, maybe their honor, their honesty, their reputation, their compassion, the list goes on and on and on.

Some interesting characters might say their cunning.

The question of who we are when we have nothing has always fascinated me.

The answer always brings me great comfort.

I worry that we don’t teach values to our children so much. Honesty means so little to them. Of honor, they have no conception. True helpfulness is a rare gem. They are good kids, don’t get me wrong. It’s just I wonder what they have to fall back on, if they were stripped of family, friendship, possessions, and security.

I imagine we have only our principles left. I never really examined or thought of my principles before life forced me to, but I often think they should be taught more than they are. What great comfort they would give our children when they meet the trials of their life!

(Eegads! Did you just read that sentence? I have got to get out of this 19th century English lit phase before it destroys my voice!)

MySpace fascinates me at times. So much on a profile seems plastic and meaningless. I used to hate MySpace for that reason, but lately I’ve begun scouring the profiles for that one little detail that seems real and true, that enlightens the person behind the page.

We often don’t know ourselves, in fact, many self-help books advise you to ask your friends who you are, like when you’re struggling to find a career or a passion. But as writers, we not only need to know ourselves, but we need to know others. And we need to know our characters, who they are, who they think they are, and where the differences lie.

Just random, sleepy thoughts today. As Erica would say: thoughts, anyone?

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The Classics and Readability Levels.

reading level

I am ashamed.

Of course I didn’t compare myself to other blogs, and of course I wouldn’t be so competitive as to put in Bernita Harris’s great blog and discover her readability level is High School. ;-) (If you haven’t been to her blog, please check it out. It’s the first one I read every morning.)

Magical Musings (Junior High School), another wonderful blog about writing and inspiration peppered with reviews and interviews, is featuring a guest blog on critique groups and critiquing from Erica Orloff (Elementary School) today, whose blog is my very favorite when it comes to craft.

(Guess I shouldn’t be so depressed about my Elementary School rating, as most of my favorite blogs are rated at that level.)

Since I brought up Readability Levels, I’d be remiss not to mention to all you freelancers out there OleanderSolutions, whose Readability Studio 2007 not only lists the readability statistics for umteen different readability tests, but actually explains why and highlights the difficult words and sentences. And not just for freelancers--YA and children’s authors might find it helpful, too.

And this week I finished Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte, who is not nearly as talented as her sister, Charlotte Bronte, whose Jane Eyre I’ve just started. And I’ve been reading bits and pieces of Dickens, trying to figure out which book I will choose to enjoy and study.

What’s curious to me is that these books were not only shelved in the children’s section of my library--not the young adult section or the junior section, but the children’s section--but I read them as a child. We all did.

Now it’s like I’m learning to read all over again. How is it that I understood these books so well as a child? How is it that I read the plethora of words without batting an eyelash? How is it that I could bear their slower pace, their long paragraphs, their even longer sentences? And the semicolons! I love the semicolon, but we’re talking hundreds on a page!!!

I’ve grown dumber.

I have a feeling I’m going to not write for another week. I want to read A Widow for One Year one more time. I want to finish Jane Eyre and read a Dickens. And then I want to read Jane Eyre again, and I’m dying to see if Wuthering Heights is still my friend..

This thirst for these books is startling and strange to me, but it’s like something in the universe is telling me it’s vitally important for me to read them. I’ve never been one to feel like the universe guides me, but in this case, something in me is really quite insistent that I must read these books, that there is something really important I’m supposed to learn from them.

Or maybe I just miss something in my childhood. Maybe climbing a tree and spending hours reading? Or huddling up to the register, with a blanket draped around me, so the hot air from the register filled the blanket like a balloon while I read for hours? Or maybe it’s just another manifestation of the ticking clock.

Or maybe I’m just curious to see the novel in its old form. The novel today is almost an entirely different form, in comparison.

And I can see why there are writers who don’t write. The part of imagining and making up a story before you actually put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) is FUN!

What are you reading right now? What was/were your favorite book/s from childhood?

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