Thursday, February 28, 2008

A Free Book! A Neil Gaiman Free Book!

Neil Gaiman's publisher, Harper Collins, is giving out a free copy of American Gods.

Enjoy!

I'm thrilled! It's the only Neil Gaiman book I haven't read. I feel like I've been given a present!

(Oh, I have, haven't I?)

Read more...

Protecting the Writing

Edie's post at Magical Musings got me thinking. She asked, "why do you think we love this business so much?"

My first reaction to that question was to laugh and say that I don't love the business at all. And then I was taken aback, thinking, why in the heck would I love the business?

(I do realize that was just her wording, and she really just meant why do you love writing?)

Anyhow, it made me think of teaching and piano. Both passions and loves. Both have been severely injured by business of it. Severely. There will be, I hope, a day where I can teach piano strictly on scholarship.

Because it doesn't matter what passion or love you turn into a money-making endeavor, it can easily spoil that passion or love. And just as easily completely destroy it. No matter if you dream of getting published every day, once you're making money from it, it's a completely different sport.

And so, as I was lying in bed and surfing blogs on my palm (took me two hours to get up this morning, because I knew I'd have to shovel when I did, LOL), I considered that I don't have any of those screwed-up feelings about writing. And I wondered why I thought of the writing business as a completely separate entity.

Then I realized: separating the business and the writing was the smartest thing I ever did. At home, I do the email stuff, the marketing stuff, the business stuff. I send my stuff. I do the internet thing. I do the next-step plotting and the career planning at home. I do the worrying at home.

But at Borders, I write, only write. And I read.

I realized: that's my protective bubble. That's what it really means to protect the writing. For me, separating the two means I never have to see the pressure of the business while I write. Separating the two means I never have to worry about my career while I write. It even means that I write at the speed of the story and not my pocketbook, which I'm not sure is an entirely good thing, LOL.

People often say to protect the writing from interruptions and distraction, to protect the writing in your schedule and your family's priorities.

But the smartest thing I ever did was to protect the writing from the business.

Read more...

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Priceless -

I'm currently putting off shoveling myself out of the driveway as long as possible. (I must have the WORST snow plow guy in the state.)

Anyway, I stumbled across this quote from David Montgomery's blog. Dennis Lehane said about the "homage" novel what I've always thought but haven't said:

"... the "homage," which involved grafting the plot
of a Shakespeare play or some similarly pantheonic
work over a contemporary setting, thereby proving
the writer had read his/her classics and was
therefore worthy of our attention and esteem but
also wholly overlooking the small fact that he/she
was too devoid of originality to tell a story that
he/she had actually, you know, created."

ROFL. Made me laugh today. Wanted to share.

Okay, I really just wanted to take a break from shoveling. Don't make me go back out there?! Where is my snow plow guy?!

Read more...

Kids.

What's weird, is that when you're a teacher, kids can sense it. They just ... come up and talk to you. They just know, somehow, that you understand how they see things. So when I'm in public, I feel like I practically have to hide from strange kids, so that the mother or father doesn't yell, "Don't talk to strangers!"

Last year, and this drove me nuts, a mother literally chased me through two WalMart aisles, insisting that she knew me. We had discovered that we did NOT know each other, but she continued to interrogate me, to the point where I was about to tell her to go on her merry way. I just knew we had nothing in common and that we'd never met. I could tell she was doing something manipulative, and it was pissing me off because I didn't know where she was going with it.

But when you're a piano teacher, you have a certain public image to uphold, just in case, you know? One of those things is to be nice to every parent you meet in the community.

So I tried to be pleasant as possible, and you know what she did?

After, literally, ten minutes of chasing me with questions and not letting me go on with my shopping, her daughter started talking to me.

THEN, she yelled at her daughter for talking to me. "Don't talk to strangers, not even if Mommy talks to them!"

So, basically, this lady hounded me, bothered me, for the sole purpose of teaching a lesson to her daughter.

I was pissed.  If her daughter hadn't been with her, I would have given her a piece of my mind. Don't use and manipulate me to teach your daughter a lesson. Period.

Anyway, I'm even more leery of talking to kids in public, now. They approach me, but I end up avoiding their eyes. It's weird. I hate it. Why can't I just talk to them?

What's worse, is that if you don't talk to the child who approaches you, parents will think you unfriendly. Some parents will actually think better of you if you have a conversation with their child.

It's the same with hugs and touching. There's a local elementary teacher who gives each child a lipsticked kiss every Friday afternoon. I am SO jealous of her. I abide by all the "rules" of don't touch a kid. Don't hug them.

And who gets hurt? The kid. Sometimes they need a hug. Sometimes just a touch on the shoulder would do so much.

But if the cost is some wacko taking it too far, I guess I'm okay with no hugs.

I do touch their hands. That's breaking the rules, but tough. I can't figure out a way to make them use the correct form and technique, without teaching them how to use their muscles.

Still. It's sad, what society has come to, sometimes.

I think it might be worse in Ohio, but then, Ohio is number one for child abductions by wackos. Scary, that.

And you know what? Grown-ups are so damn complicated. There's a reason I spend all day just talking to kids. Their rules are so much easier, and they make a hell of a lot more sense. If I have to talk to a stranger, I'd much rather it be a child.

Read more...

Monday, February 25, 2008

GREAT news!

First, and most importantly, I want to announce that our friend, Rhonda Stapleton, has just sold her YA trilogy to Simon & Schuster!!! I am tickled to death. We can say we knew and loved her "when."

Bookends is starting their Erotic Romance contest, closing tomorrow at 9 am.There have been absolutely fabulous entries! What's weird, is I never seem to find Erotic Romance of this high quality when I go searching for it. I'm obviously not looking for it in the right places. I'm going to search harder from now on.

And, shame on me, I didn't write today. For the first time in a long time, I've discovered a new author that I love so much, I am obsessively reading every single book she's ever written.

Phillipa Gregory is amazing.

I can't believe I haven't tried her stuff until now. Her characters are amazing, and the plot is rich with love, passion, betrayal, and (best of all!) spies!

I just wanted to pass on, that Book Lady mentioned that the RIF (Reading Is Fundamental) program is endangered. It gives out 16 million free books a year to the nation's youngest and most at-risk children. Here's what you can do -- and you don't even need to donate money to help.

Finally, to any uninsured people out there (considering somewhere around 1 in 5 people, but I don't remember exact statistics), guess what? CVS and Walgreen's are opening reasonably-priced clinics with nurse practitioners who can write prescriptions. I'm psyched. I hate paying $100 for someone to spend 5 minutes with me to write a little prescription.

Read more...

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Naming

I’ve written three novellas now, where the heroine did not have a name for most of the novel. I’m not saying I didn’t name her for most of the writing, I’m saying no one had never named her. She’d grown up alone, with no name.

Or if she’d ever been given one, it was when she was too young to remember.

Every time, about halfway through, I chicken out or decide it doesn’t work, and go through and change it so she does have a name.

It’s like this weird, quirky obsession my subconscious has.

I just can’t make a no-name character work, yet. Because to bring to light the fact that she has no name, would seem to say that I need to, as a "symbolic" sort of thing, give her a name at some "important" point.

And I don’t want her to have a name. I don’t know why.

It’s been done before, sort of, in The Blood of Flowers. Anita Amirrezvani writes in first person, and the heroine is never called by name, out of respect for the ancient Persian rug artists who never signed their name to their work.

She never brings attention to it, and I didn’t even notice it until the afterword, when she pointed it out. After all, how often do we really call our own selves by our name? And the heroine has a name, Amirrezvani just never shares it.

Whereas, I’m obsessed with people who literally have no name.

Now what the hell does that say about my subconscious, LOL?

Obviously, at some point, I’m going to be writing a book about a girl who grew up with no name. My subconscious is like a dog with a bone on this quirk.

Maybe it’s because I don’t think in names when I see people. Thinking of someone’s name is not something I do often. With some people, yes. Other people are mostly unnamed.

This quirk is bleeding into my hero, and some of my secondary characters. Some of my characters have names, very clear names. Others become "the man with the limp" or the "girl with the pouting mouth."

Probably it’s because, when writing in first person, part of ME comes through. And lately, the part of me coming through is the part that doesn’t think of people in terms of their name.

Maybe I’ll become a literary writer, and that can be my trademark: the author who doesn’t give half her character’s names. LOL.

Also, to name a person means to include all the "baggage" society and each individual reader has for a name, like people they’ve known, characters they’ve read, actors and movies they’ve seen.

Have you ever had a writing quirk that you know is a tad ridiculous, and you’ve suppressed it because of common sense? But it keeps cropping up in your writing over and over, more and more insistent?

Read more...

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Roots in Story

Lately, it seems like the middle is not so much a sagging mess, but my honeymoon phase. I'm well past the halfway mark (at least according to word count ... please let the word count work out this time), and although I'm officially in the middle, I'm mired in the beginning.

See, every time a character makes a choice, every time a new little tidbit pops up and happens, I feel the need to go back to the beginning and make sure the motivation, the foreshadowing ... the root is there.

You know the adage that says if there's a gun in chapter one, it must go off in chapter five?

I think the inverse is also true. If you have a gun go off in chapter five, it's more powerful if you plant it in chapter one.

And when you plant the gun is important, too. If you plant the gun a few pages before, it's not as powerful as if you plant it chapters and chapters before.

Sure, it'll work, but ... it's too handy, sometimes.

Every little tidbit at the beginning promises something. I think of the beginning as a microcosm of the whole story, in a way. All the roots must be firmly entrenched in the beginning.  I don't like roots in the middle. They feel planted; they feel too handy.

So lately, as I write, I go over and over and over the beginning, making sure the story logic holds up.

My ending is the same way. As I write, I make little notes on little tiny threads that will give the story that "completed" feel.

I still write beginning to end, but as I go, I have to edit and tweak the beginning so much, that if feels like by the time I get the beginning polished and finished, I'm already writing the end. And as I smooth out the middle, I'm tweaking the ending to make sure each root has a parallel stake in the ending.

And as I write the ending, I'm going through the  middle, making sure the ending has well-planted roots in the middle. And as I go through the middle, I'm looking for roots in both the beginning and the end.

My process has just recently gone weird on me. I don't really know what to make of it. I feel like by the time I get done with beginning, I'm writing the end. And I miss the middle.

I love the middle.

I guess I've stopped looking at my stories so linearly, but have been seeing the form from a bird's eye view. It's so different, I'm still a little weirded out by it, I guess.

Has your perception ever shifted like that? And do you take the bird's eye view as you write, or later, in the revisions? Speaking of which, how do you manage to hold it all in your head, and see the whole thing at once?

Read more...

Friday, February 22, 2008

Encouragement

You've heard this over and over, but one of the things I love about DH, is he will read my stuff, tell me it's great, and tell me he's looking forward to the next bit.

I don't delude myself into thinking that he really thinks it's always great. I mean, he doesn't have much choice about what to say. If he doesn't say it's great, he gets a barrage of two thousand questions and we have to talk about it all the way home.

But even though I know it's a "canned" response, it keeps me writing.

When you're writing all alone, trudging through a book that takes forever and ever to write, it's hard to get through that without a little encouragement, now and then.

And just a little encouragement, a reader email, a critique partner laughing while reading a sentence, another writer telling you how much they enjoy it, can go a really long way.

When I first started writing, my friend and I exchanged our daily output every night. It was largely unhelpful from a technical standpoint, because we only told each other we loved it. Or we told each other we loved it and maybe made a suggestion about a problem. (Well, I love every word she writes, so it's not like I was making it up.)

I hear people say that this kind of encouragement isn't helpful, sometimes. I disagree. Anything that helps, is a bonus.

Maybe we should be looking for encouragement partners, LOL. Although, I think a good critique partner would be both.

By the way, this is funny. I'm judging in a few weeks for a music festival, and in the guidelines, it asks all judges to remember that "These are children, not adults! Be encouraging!"

That kind of statement comes from a teacher who doesn't teach any adults, I think. Adults are way more sensitive than kids. We've had time for more wounds, LOL.

Grown-ups need encouragement, too.

Read more...

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Time Warner or Roadrunner, Anyone?

So I wanted to cancel Earthlink and DirecTV, and switch to a Time Warner and Roadrunner package, but I'm second-thinking it.

Anyone here have any experience with them?

Every time I call, they won't let me talk unless I give them my social security number, and they said they won't even install it unless I actually SHOW the technician my social security card.

And what's worse, the first time I called, this girl named Latoya answered, and she was SO full of resentment and boredom and unfriendliness, that I hung up and almost didn't order it.

I finally called back, and got someone else. He was cool, but then, at the end of the conversation, suddenly wanted me to mail in a copy of my DirecTV bill. I was like, why? And he was like, so you can get this pricing. I told him what if I didn't have DirecTV?

Hoops, hoops, hoops.

I did that. Now I need to change the installation appointment.

I called, waited FORTY MINUTES to change the appointment, and Latoya answered again. She refused to talk to me until I gave her my social security number.

THEN she told me she did NOT have a supervisor, and REFUSED to transfer me to someone else. And she told me I had to show the technician tomorrow my social security card.

That is insanity. I don't think so.

I gave it to them once. One time. I will not show it to all their employees..

I don't have these hoops with DirecTV or Earthlink. Sure, I'll save money, but I'm not sure it's worth it.

Sheesh. DirecTV and Earthlink asked for my business. Time Warner wants me to bend over and take whacks in order to do business with them.

I don't think so.

What cable do you have? What internet service provider?

I can't wait until DH gets home. I hate talking on the phone.

PS: Just did a google search for "Time Warner Customer Service." On the first page of results, I got this story, this story, this story, and this story. I don't think I'll be doing the switch. That's just the first page of results, and I didn't even put in "Time Warner bad customer service."

Read more...

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Ranger Wardrobe.

Today was the day when I hit that point in my WIP where I hate it. Where I think it completely sucks and I should throw the whole thing away. Where I think the whole foundation is weak and I'm sure everybody's going to read it and say, "Look at them plot holes! Good God, I could get a fleet of cruise ships through them!"

I've tried a new desktop blog editor, and it won't transfer what I've written on my laptop to my desktop. Which means I've got a real writing post for you guys, written a few days ago, which tells you how much I love writing and how I'm in the honeymoon phase.

When I finally get it up, understand it was written on Monday.

The honeymoon phase is over. OVER!

So let's talk about my favorite obsession lately: Ranger.

In Ten Big Ones, Stephanie Plum goes through Ranger's closet and drawers. He's got 13 pairs of black cargo pants, 13 black Range Man t-shirts, 13 black long sleeve Range Man shirts, 6 black hooded Range Man sweatshirts, 6 black sweaters, 1 black suit jacket, and 1 pair of black silk boxers.

I have got a serious crush on this guy.

Anyway, it reminded me of Erica Orloff, who only wears black to keep things simple.

My kinda person.

I wanted to get all the same socks, so losing one wouldn't matter, but every time I need more socks, they don't have my kind. So now I have an assortment of black socks. They've been washed varying amount of times, and are various shades of faded grey and purplish black. Even the matched socks don't match anymore.

Anyhow, it got me to thinking. What would I wear if I could simplify like that? No doubt I'd have 6 pair of black jeans and 13 pair of black yoga pants. Black on my upper half washes my skin tone, so I think I'd go for white on top. 13 white turtlenecks, 13 white t-shirts.

Simple.

If I wanted to frill up, I could accessorize with scarves.

What do you think? Could you ever simplify your wardrobe like that?

Read more...

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Mark Won! And Another Contest ...

Every time I have a recital, parents thank me and say what a good job I did, which always feels a little weird to me. Their kids did the work. Sure, I steered them, but they put in the time.

At the same time, I also feel really proud of them, which is also a little weird, because I didn't birth them. I don't have any (for lack of a better word) "ownership" in their person. So what right do I have to feel proud?

The same goes with blogging. When you visit someone's blog for awhile, you have nothing to do with their success, and yet you can't help but feel proud.

LOL ... maybe what I'm feeling is pride in my taste for blogging friends. *grins*

Just kidding.

Anyway, remember that contest I talked about last week? Well, Mark Terry won! He's guest-blogged here before, and he just finished up a fantastic nine-part series on the hows, whats, and wherefores of freelance writing. And now he's won BookEnds mystery contest.

And now they're launching the "PARANORMAL ROMANCE/ROMANCE WITH FANTASY ELEMENTS/FANTASY WITH ROMANTIC ELEMENTS CONTEST."

Deadline is tomorrow morning at 9 am.

I'll have some better posts up this week. I've got the mother of all colds. Do colds make your brain turn to stupid slush, too? I feel like I've dropped forty IQ points, or something.

Read more...

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Business Bit.

First, I wanted to send you to John Scalzi's post, Advice to New Writers About Money. (Thanks, Angie, for the link.) Smart words. And damn, I shoulda married a guy with health insurance. Well, I love DH anyway. What can you do?

I wouldn't exactly call myself an expert on freelancing and money. I would say that I've learned a whole lot the hard way, LOL.

First up, the spouse with health insurance is probably the number one thing I wish I had, at the moment. No, no, no, I don't want to trade in my spouse, and I don't want him to change his lifestyle. Just sayin'. Health insurance and dental insurance would be awesome.

The second thing I've learned the hard way, this year in fact, is that there are only two directions for a business: growing or shrinking. Maintaining the optimal work/life balance is near impossible, because you must account for people not paying, for people paying you way late, for expected incomes to fall through.

So I'm learning I always need to take more work than the budget needs, in order to account for the above.

Just because you're turning away work by the droves one month, doesn't mean that six months later they'll still be calling.  Six months later, you might discover you want/need more, and no one's calling.

To a certain extant, take all the work you can, when you can get it. If there's a balance, I haven't found it.

Third, do not have a person with a business degree manage the finances. I learned this one the hard way, too. They think too theoretically. They think, "we're supposed to get X amount this month, and pay out Y amount this month."  Problem is, cash flow never works that way.

You just can't count on the money coming when it's expected to come.

And finally, as a writer, you're probably a creative person. Applying that creativity and imagination to finding ways to make money "outside the box" will help tremendously.

That's one of the things I've always loved most about working for myself. Unlike punching a clock and putting in time, working for myself means I'm making money.  I'm not limited by a salary. I can always find new ways to bring in more income.

Speaking of bringing in more income, I've got a story to write and a root canal to pay for ...

Read more...

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Kindesses and Guilt.

You know how sometimes things just aren’t going your way, and the more you organize and do what’s right, the more things randomly go wrong for stupid little reasons? And then you know how someone does something so kind, you want to cry?

Okay, if you step back a little, it’s a little funny that I now consider it a kindness when someone offers to pay me quickly after I give them the goods. But still. It is in our society today.

Them’s the breaks of self-employment, LOL.

I’m a little depressed because I have to call and cancel my auto insurance from Nationwide. I adore my insurance man and he’s a friend of the family, but it’s costing me $300 extra a year for a guy I only see once a year. So I’m switching to Geico. I feel terribly guilty.

How do you do something like that? Am I a horrible person? He always smooths the way and makes it easy when I have a claim. Ah well, it’s done, time to pay the piper.

I hope y’all have a great weekend!

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Power Weekend.

So it’s off for a whole four days to get an insane amount of writing done. I want to finish current WIP and start a new one. So either I’ll write a ton of blogs, or none at all, or be scattered, depending on how long I procrastinate each morning. :-)

This Emily Dickinson poem, delivered to my Inbox via Daily Lit, reminded me of Mark Terry’s post today:

POWER.

You cannot put a fire out;
A thing that can ignite
Can go, itself, without a fan
Upon the slowest night.

You cannot fold a flood
And put it in a drawer, --
Because the winds would find it out,
And tell your cedar floor.

Oh ... and want to listen to Neil Gaiman read his story, Harlequin Valentine from Telling Tales? Go here.

What are your plans for the weekend?

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

A really cool writing contest!

Just when I thought I’d do my laundry today instead of write, I stumbled across a new contest at Bookends. I wanted to make sure y’all knew about it, although I’m pretty sure most of you read their blog, anyway.

I love how they’re doing this contest. They’ll be judging the following categories separately:

  • Mystery (traditional and cozy)
  • Paranormal Romance/Romance With Fantasy Elements
  • Erotic Romance
  • Women’s Fiction
  • Romantic Suspense
  • Contemporary Romance
  • Thriller/Suspense
  • Historical Romance

Today they’ve opened up the "Mystery Contest," and are accepting submissions through tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. You can submit up to the first 100 words of your story. Tres cool!

My biggest complaint about online writing contests is how the most "clever" story tends to win. You know, the ones where the story reads like an inside joke among us writers? Those are fun and have their place, but I have a feeling this one will be different. I’ll learn a lot by watching this one.

And I was going to do my laundry today. (As you can see, I’m making progress on that. What? You don’t think I’m catching up on blogs at the laundromat?) I’m all about making writing a priority, but it’s 15 degrees here and I’m wearing short-sleeves. I need to go do laundry. :-)

But tonight, I might just have to dig up that one idea I had in the future file ...

Read more...

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Rex, the Hamster

You would have thought my obsession with all things Stephanie Plum would have ended after I did the essay in Perfectly Plum, but no.  You know I've been listening to the entire series again on CD, right? I'm up to To The Nines.

As I was driving home this afternoon, I caught a sight of myself in the rearview mirror. There I was, drooling, while listening to Ranger.

Oh, dear God, Ranger. I swear, I love DH like crazy, but if Ranger were real and Ranger knocked on my door ...

*sigh*

I think I miss DH.

Anyway, lately I've been feeling like Stephanie's hamster, Rex.  I'm running as fast as I can, but all I'm doing is staying in place, spinning the hamster wheel.

I've been writing all week, but between the deleting, polishing, and re-organizing, I've been in the 19,000s all week. Only today have I gone over the hump into the 20,000s. Sheesh.

Then, I've been working on a website, but when I step back, it seems I've spent hours and gotten NOTHING done. Like, NOTHING. NO progress. This, I don't understand.

DH goes off to Timbuktu to work, partly so we have enough money to get my foot fixed, and my teeth have a little temper tantrum so my foot can't go to the doctor.

Sheesh.

To top it off, I've been running around so much that I believe that I've commented on maybe TWO blogs this week, and read just as few. THIS coming from someone who normally LIVES to read over sixty, eighty, I-don't-know-how-many blogs in my reader every day.

And for what? I swear, for all the time I've been running around, or sitting and writing, or sitting and working on whatever, I can't really pinpoint to one single thing I've gotten done this ENTIRE week!!!!

This must be the hamster race I'm living!

Ever feel like you're just running in place?

Read more...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Souvenir by Therese Fowler

Is a day going to come when you can learn more from reading blogs than going to college? Therese Fowler’s blog has been around for awhile, and she spills out everything she learned while getting her MFA in writing.

And now her book, Souvenir, is debuting in the United States! I like women’s fiction that can make me cry, make me think, and leaves me with a warm-fuzzy feeling about my heart. Souvenir does all three.

Meg Powell and Carson McKay were
raised side by side on their families’
farms, bonded by a love that only
deepened as they grew. Everyone in
their small rural community in northern
Florida thought that Meg and Carson
would always be together. But at
twenty-one, Meg was presented with a
marriage proposal she could not refuse,
forever changing the course of her life.

Seventeen years later, Meg’s marriage
has become routine, and she spends her
time juggling the demands of her
medical practice, the needs of her
widowed father, and the whims of
her rebellious teenage daughter,
Savannah, who is confronting her
burgeoning sexuality in a dangerous
manner and pushing her mother away
just when she needs her most. Then,
after a long absence, Carson returns
home to prepare for his wedding to a
younger woman. As Carson struggles
to determine where his heart and future
lie, Meg makes a shocking discovery
that will upset the balance of everyone
around her.

So that’s the formal blurb, but what I love about this book is how inspiring it is. What it’s really about is a woman who is inspired by a tragic illness to stop living life for other people, but to start living life on her own terms, and the effect that has on the people who count on her.

Have you ever found yourself putting your foot down and starting to live your life, or at least part of it, on your terms?

Read more...

Sunday, February 10, 2008

When Your Writing Changes

My writing style has changed, I think, in the last two novellas. And I feel like something bigger is clicking. I’m not just crafting sentences, words, characters, and emotions. I feel like I’m crafting the whole plot, finding and seeing little threads to weave in and out.

I feel like I’m shaping the whole novel, rather than the pieces.

Yet it’s strange to see how much of my writing style is still the same from seven years ago.

But it still feels different. I guess I feel like I have more control over the big picture. And I don't know why my style is changing.

Writing is a weird thing, though. Because when you think you’re growing, when you think you’re changing for the better, the fears come out to play.

What if, in changing, I’m losing the bits that the readers liked and connected with? What if I’m editing out the good bits? What if, in stretching myself, I’ve gone too far this time?

I love Nora’s books, and I love her style. Lately, I’ve wondered if she hasn’t outgrown some of her readers, you know? Her style has gotten much more wordy and vivid and ... I don’t know. She uses bigger words now, more complex sentences. I’d definitely say she’s a better writer, definitely. But I’ve heard more than a few people complaining that they just don’t connect with her spark anymore--non-writers, so it’s not like there’s jealousy or easy-target in what they’re feeling.

Hah! Does it sound like I’m comparing myself with Nora? I certainly didn’t mean to, LOL. I’m so not there yet.

But I was just wondering if there’s a point at which growing as a writer can make your readership less ... wide. What if you grow past that which your readers connected to in the first place?

I used to think I was pretty down to earth and not at all neurotic about my writing.

But sheesh. It would be embarrassing, if I got embarrassed about such things. :-)

Read more...

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Feeling the Doors Closing

When you’re young and in high school, it’s almost like you can do anything, be anything when you grow up. I remember I wanted to--believe it or not--go into the Air Force Academy for quite awhile. But then, at some point, I realized I couldn’t major in piano performance at the Air Force Academy, LOL. The choice was a no-brainer.

But, in high school, I was pretty good at all the subjects, so ... you remember that feeling? When the world was your oyster?

There was a short period of five months when I had a "real" job. The one lawyer suggested I go to law school. (But he had ulterior motives I didn’t know about ... damned corporate politics suck! He used my naivete to screw the two lawyers I loved, loved, loved -- another reason why spy fiction fascinates me.) It wasn’t at all tempting, but through my side jobs in college, I’d tried more and more to build up a resume and stuff.

And then, today, fifteen years later, I suddenly got this weird feeling. Like ... piano and writing, it’s all I know how to do. Some people want to quit their "real job," or look at making a living from writing or music as a dream.

But I just got this feeling this morning, I’m not doing a good job of explaining this, that just was a bit depressing. Writing and music are the only skill set I’ve got, these days. I’ve forgotten most everything else. And no way am I interested in going to school to develop another skill set.

It’s just, the possibility of a real job is pretty much nil, unless I want to work as a waitress. Not that I’m thinking of getting a real job, even though I dream about health and dental insurance.

So I don’t know where I’m going with this. Except, for some odd reason, I feel like a trick pony or something. I have to make music and writing profitable, because that’s all I’ve got. There’s no dream in it for me, although I enjoy a good fantasy now and then. The bottom line, though, is this is all I know. They’re my only decent options at the moment.

Anyway. Did I make enough sense for you guys to have any thoughts about the subject?

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

What Kind of Experience?

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m addicted to listening to the Stephanie Plum adventures in my car. At the end of one of the audiobooks, an interview with Janet Evanovich is included.

In it, she says that she considers herself more an "entertainer" than a "writer."

At first, I wrote that off as one of those things one says because it sounds good and you’re being interviewed. But as it worked in my subconscious, I started looking at writers and their various styles.

Online, you often see writers, particularly in flash fiction contests, being clever. They’re writing to other writers, creating a fictional inside joke. That would be a writer writing for other writers.

In novels, some writers, like Janet Evanovich, write to entertain. God bless her. She’s given me a lot of laughs since DH has been gone. And when we’re together, we share a lot of laughs while listening to her audiobooks.

Then there’s writers who write to inspire, writers who write to provoke, to motivate, to persuade, to promote understanding, to arouse, to show love, and a multitude of other reasons.

It strikes me that if we want to entertain, we can’t write the prose that will impress other writers. Janet Evanovich would not be nearly as big as she is if she wrote with beautiful prose.

I always start my stories with the reader in mind. I want to imagine, at least, what they’re like and where they’re coming from. And then I ask myself, what kind of experience do I want them to have? How can I provide that experience?

So what about you? What experience are aiming to give your readers with your current WIP? What feelings do you want them to feel?

PS: I go to the dentist on Monday. Got it under control, though, by rinsing with salt every hour, taking mineral and calcium supplements, and a little bit of colloidal silver. (I can even eat!) I’m sorry I haven’t been too interactive lately; I have to do the last bits of that project I was working on a few weeks ago, which means I do most of my blog-reading in bathtub or my bed on my palm pilot. (Yep, I’m addicted to you guys.) But that means commenting is nearly impossible, unfortunately. :-(

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Toothache.

Ouch. Ow.

Last night, at two in the morning at Walgreens, I spent thirty dollars on products promising I'd never get a cavity again.

I think that's kinda like going to the grocery store when hungry.

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Monday, February 04, 2008

Just A Question

When you're relaxing and daydreaming a story you're the star of, do you ever discover you're daydreaming in words and sentences? And do you ever find yourself hitting the mental backspace key to re-word a sentence?

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Sunday, February 03, 2008

Change is Good; Questioning Truths Better.

Okay, I have to vent about my new neighbor. Pardon the burp. :-) It does have a point at the end, if you can make it through my sarcasm, LOL.

See, the current methodology and pedagogy practices out there for piano-learning pretty much ... well ... um ... suck. You know, there are MUCH better ways, but they are rarely, rarely taught and it’s taken years of talking to teachers, reaching across to other areas (I get half my ideas from "motivating employees" books, child development books, sports coaching books, child psychology, even sometimes a nugget or two from self-help), and workshops and continually improving my knowledge of teaching to achieve the knowledge I have now.

Ohmigosh, if I knew then what I know now ...

It used to take me two - three years to have a student sight-playing the whole staff fluently(method books will take up to five years), both bass and treble, fluently. Reading music is MUCH simpler than that: my students can read and play the whole staff within a week or two, and achieve fluence by three or five months. Even first graders or kindergarteners or dyslexic students.

What the hard part of teaching piano is, is that WHATEVER "mistakes" you make in the first year, EVERY TIME you ever said to yourself, "let’s just have fun, who cares about getting it right today, he’s just a four year old", will bite you in the ass, week after week, for a DECADE. Worse, it can cripple a student. (I made that mistake seven years ago. Still trying to fix it.) But NOWHERE in the world does a method exist, or the knowledge I hold now, exist. I couldn’t have acquired it without constantly questioning and constantly reaching outside the box. And, sadly, without making mistakes.

It is much better to be strict with high standards that first year and the first few months, so their foundation is rock solid. Then you can have YEARS to show them how much fun music is. (They usually automatically think it’s fun the first year, anyway, so it’s not like it’s a choice.)

In my old martial arts studio, the Master passes a lot of the teaching on to the other teachers, but he ALWAYS spends time with the beginners. Most people assume it’s so they’ll stay and pay. It’s not.

The foundation is everything.

So on to the point of this vent: my new neighbor approached me about her son taking piano lessons with a KEYBOARD. I said, no, I don’t accept students who don’t have a real piano because 1) it’s a DIFFERENT INSTRUMENT with a DIFFERENT TECHNIQUE and 2) it messes up their piano technique so that I have to spend YEARS little more than nagging them to correct it so they’ll be able to achieve the next level. Not fun.

(I then proceeded to tell her how she can buy a cheap piano "risk-free" and return it for a full refund after one year if her kid quits, so it’s not like I was suggesting she break the bank. She didn’t appreciate the information.)

The "weighted" keyboard that the salesman tells you is "just" like a piano? It is not. (And it’s even MORE expensive than a cheap "real" piano!) NO keyboard has an escapement, which the finger needs to learn to navigate even if it doesn’t even know what an escapement is, LOL! A real piano, even a dinky, cheap one, ugly one, is better than a fake piano.

When given the choice between playing on a keyboard six months and then upgrading to a piano, or just waiting six months to start on a real piano, there is no contest. Why waste two years of lessons correcting a problem you created in six months? And is the student going to be able to survive all that nagging? And you’ve just thrown 2 1/2 years of lessons out the window (that can be thousands of dollars!) and achieved what you could have achieved in a couple months if they had had a real piano.

So anyway the neighbor, after explaining this to her as well and as helpfully as I can, gets all huffy and acts like I’M personally denying her kid the JOY OF MUSIC, that playing on a keyboard didn’t matter and SHE KNEW THIS BETTER THAN ME, even though I’ve spent about thirty years accumulating this knowledge of mine for 3 - 14 (mostly 10 or so) HOURS a day?

Then I couldn’t say anything. Then I just stood there nodding dumbly, which is this annoying thing I do when everything I’m thinking gets caught in the That’s-Not-Polite-To-Say-Out-Loud filter.

What I wanted to say was, "Lady, of course. Go find a teacher who will tell you you’re right (because even though you don’t even know how to play piano, you would know about piano technique), just so they can take your money rather than tell you the truth or look after YOUR CHILD’S BEST INTERESTS. Or better yet, find a teacher who doesn’t know better and actually doesn’t know there’s a difference between a real piano and a fake piano.

"They’ll probably be much cheaper, too. So there you go.

"Even better, believe what the salesman told you who’s not a teacher and doesn’t even know how to play the piano, because of course a piano salesman would know more about teaching and piano technique than a person who’s been pursuing the mastery of it for longer than you’ve even been in the career force!"

Whew. That felt better.

People have this prevailing that we should "just teach them the joy of music," and that that is an excuse to give them an INCORRECT, BAD foundation. Because, let me tell you, when they hit third - fifth grade, the only thing that’s going to keep them going is have they have some level of competence and have the reward and satisfaction of some level of mastery.

It is possible to teach someone the joy of any subject without teaching them bad habits or giving them a faulty foundation. It’s ridiculous.

The neighbor hasn’t talked to me since, even though I didn’t say any of that stuff out loud and I truly tried to explain why policy was in place to PROTECT the children and provide the best possible musical education, NOT to deny them the joy of music.

*sigh*

I always find it annoying that people mostly believe what they believe because they want to believe it. And they seek out people who will tell them they’re right.

I do it, too, probably lots more than I’m aware of.

I think I should entertain the idea that I’m wrong much more than I do. I’ve been struggling to put change in my writing, to find techniques and to continually look at my writing and writing-training in new and different ways. It’s how I became known, to my astonishment, as a "progressive" teacher, even though mostly everything I do is borrowed or old-fashioned, LOL. Constantly changing has been one of major keys of success and improvement in my teaching.

Any thoughts? What long-held belief have you recently questioned and honestly tried believe the opposite to be true? What radical change have you made in your writing, just as an experiment?

Of, if you’re not in the mood, LOL, how was your weekend? Anything to vent about?

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Friday, February 01, 2008

At City's Edge by Marcus Sakey

You gotta love a crime thriller that can make you cry.

That’s the thing about Marcus Sakey’s books: somewhere in the novel, there’s always a gut-grabber, perfectly timed to make you feel the stakes in the pit of your stomach. In both At the City’s Edge and The Blade Itself, the gut-grabbing is a father (or father figure) making a heroic choice of self-sacrifice.

It always leads me to wonder: What would I do if ... ? Would I be willing to sacrifice myself if ... ?

You gotta love a crime thriller that can make you think.

The thing about Marcus Sakey’s books is everyone’s got a stake. Every character has been pushed to near his breaking point, and the reader gets to watch all the character’s life-and-death motivations collide.

In At City’s Edge, Jason Palmer isn’t just out to find answers for his brother’s murder; he’s out to protect his eight year old nephew from a similar fate, and on a deeper level, he’s out to prove to himself he’s not just a washed-up soldier who lost a man in his unit because of a questionable decision.

Elena Cruz is out to prove she should be on the streets and not desked, that she didn’t make the Gang Intelligence Unit because she slept her way there. (A tad cliche, but it works in the delivery.)

Then there’s the multitude of bad guys, who, with their own stakes and motivations, are varying shades of grey and elicit varying degrees of sympathy. And because of that, they all feel real.

Everyone’s got a stake; it’s what drives the novel forward, makes the mood relentlessly grind on with an urgency that keeps you turning the pages.

It also made me wonder: do we always need stakes? I mean, in a novel about gang violence, what happened to the dumb shit that just happens? --Oopsy, fifteen year old kid gets spooked and shoots a man needlessly?

Oh yeah, there’s that, too, except it’s a kid with a cauliflower-ear. Cool.

But what makes Marcus Sakey’s books recognizably Marcus Sakey’s books is the fact that every single character, even the secondary ones, have life and death stakes.

What about you? Do you have life and death stakes for every character? Just for the main characters? And do you have any preference for one or the other?

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