Thursday, July 31, 2008

How Turning a Love into a Job Changes Things

First, Scrabulous is BACK! Now called Wordscraper! I love the universe once more.

From Lifehacker: Research shows that classic career advice—"find a way to get paid to do what you love"—may be way off the mark. The Washington Post's Shankar Vedantam reports that paychecks and pink slips aren't good long-term motivators:

Beliefs about the utility of rewards and punishments in motivating human behavior are deeply ingrained, and most people don't know that more than 100 research studies have shown that motivating people in this manner can have the unintentional effect of undermining their internal drives.

How fascinating is that? I'd say that's very true. I know that in my feelings about my studio, this is a BIG truism. Part of my "mental" problem is dealing with students who don't pay. I start thinking I must suck as a teacher for them to not want to pay me on time. (Which depresses me, deflates my enthusiasm, and then DOES make me a worse teacher, LOL.)

I HATE money being involved in teaching. It's often a conflict of interests, you know? Especially in private teaching.

I've only ever written for money, although at first, I considered it icing on the cake. So writing for money doesn't bother me, although writing for a market that might not pay me HUGELY bothers me, LOL.

In fact, writing is a refuge in that way: as much as I'm determined to write for readers, I am really happy that it's the one thing I don't mind making money at. Does that sound strange?

The money thing didn't "twist" it into something different I wasn't sure I liked. The money thing was always there, so it didn't change things.

But piano and music? I can't tell you how many times I've said I wish I could teach for free. The money mucks things up. I've also wished I could play piano as a hobby again. The money thing totally changes the experience.

Once you do something to pay the bills, you're doing it to pay the bills. You're not doing it for the sheer love of it anymore. It's a responsibility rather than a joy.

I think Star Trek had something when it decided people would work for the joy of it, rather than for money. One of the many reasons I love Star Trek.

What do you think?

Read more...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Best Quote About Books EVER

"There exists somewhere a book written for each of us, and in every book, one can find something for oneself alone."  ~Dominique Aury

Oh, wow. Isn't that the coolest?

She read all of Proust every year for five years. That's something. I've never been so dedicated to re-reading someone. Irving a bit, Jane Eyre a lot, and Dickens. I can't think of anyone else at the moment. I've re-read a couple Nora Roberts books.

You? Have you ever dedicated yourself to re-reading someone so intensely?

Aury also said:

"It's not possible to disguise oneself when writing. You give yourself away, you always speak your truth."

She was a literary critic, translator, essayist, and editor reading manuscripts every day. At the time, the only female reader for twenty-five years of her career. She said whenever she read a manuscript, she knew who the person was behind the story.

She was interviewed at ninety-one and misspoke, saying she was in her seventies. She was amused at her mistake and said that at least she still had her memories. The interviewer told Aury her age, and she said, "Ninety-one? Well," she laughed. "Good for me. Good for me."

On another note, Dartmouth has A Simple Book Repair Manual. I wish I'd known this last time I dropped a book in the bathtub. Also includes how to repair torn pages, tighten hinges, and mend a spine.

A book written for each of us, with something for us alone. Isn't that kind of magical? That's how I feel when I walk in the bookstore. Every single time. Like in all those books, there's one I'm meant to read that day, one with a special message just for me and my life of the moment.

What do you think?

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Hasbro Killed Scrabulous

If you're on Facebook, if you're my friend on Facebook, then you might know I love Scrabulous.

Which is why I'm devastated they killed it.

What's more, the "Scrabble Beta" is too slow. Prettier, but... just more clunky.

I'm beyond devastated. What meanies. Couldn't they have competed with Scrabulous on their own terms and WON us over, rather than FORCING us over?

Please someone explain to me: Scrabble is over 60 years old? Isn't that beyond copyright?

Scrabble Beta is TOO SLOW! More is not always better!

Read more...

Monday, July 28, 2008

Who the Hell is Matt?

So I can't seem to get the Where the Hell is Matt video out of my mind. It's fascinating. Here's a guy who gets sick of working, quits his job, and decides to travel the world for six months. Just for the sheer hell of it, he does a crazy little dance everywhere, one he used to do while waiting for his lunchmate to quit working.

He's a self-professed deadbeat.

He doesn't know what the heck he wants to do with his life.

He just traveled the world and did a little dance everywhere. He stuck them together just for fun, and before he knows it, it's all over the internet. Talk shows call him and all of a sudden everyone knows him.

What is the big deal? Why does this video touch us so much? What are we seeing? What are we feeling?

What calls to us? Is it the freedom? The unconstrained exploring? The ability to go to a village and connect with new people, just by doing an utterly bad dance? Is it his willingness to look like an idiot for the sake of connecting with people? What is it?

What is it for you?

Read more...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

A Carmina Burana Night

I actually wrote this post a couple weeks ago. Ever feel like this? I was a little embarrassed, so I didn't post it. And now I have to do a ton of work and can't think of any other thoughts today, so you get this one, LOL.

You cannot fully understand my mood unless you close all your windows, lock your doors, and put Carmina Burana on your stereo.

And you still cannot fully understand my mood until you turn the BIG stereo you have with BIG speakers on and put the volume at MAX, and then put O Fortuna on and put it on repeat for hours and hours and turn out all the lights and lay flat on your back with the wooden floor vibrating from the music.

It's not loud enough until the music rattles your windows and shakes your bones.

I have decided I am going to go ahead with the one-sentence novel and I'm going to title it Give Me A Break: A Novel.

Or would that be a memoir?

I want to write something terribly dark and tragic. My writing keeps getting darker, but I keep holding back (or changing it) for the happy ending. I feel like letting it all go and writing something completely, indulgently, brutally tragic.

I want to write one big, long, self-indulgent, 200,000-word darling.

Sometimes I feel like I keep trying harder and harder for whatever, and the harder I try, the bigger a hole I dig myself. I'm not quite sure what to do. If the universe wants me to do something else that much, fine, no problem. Just send me an email stating exactly what you would have me do so I don't get confused. Is that too much to ask?

PS: I have no explanation for the triumphant trumpets blaring in Major at the end except perhaps the sheer achievement of making it through the most melodramatic piece ever composed.

PPS: I've always been fond of cheese, in all its form. The former postscript is not meant to be construed as an apology.

Read more...

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Speaking of Admirable People...

How can you read this article on all Anatoly I. Pristavkin and not want to pick up a copy of Inseparable Twins? He led the Presidential Pardons Commission:

The commission dealt with sad, perhaps small cases.
They included the father of three small children who had
stolen a gas tank worth $10.80 and who, for that crime,
had served three years and three months of a four-year,
two-month sentence. Another case involved a widow with
a disabled 4-year-old son doing five years for stealing a
purse containing $31.

He reduced the number of death penalty executions from 228 a year to about 10. Wonderful, no? And he had a Dickens childhood:

Anatoly Ignatyevich Pristavkin was born to a working-class
family on Oct. 17, 1931, in a Moscow suburb. When he was
9, his mother died, and a few years later, so did his father.
He was sent by train to an orphanage in the Caucasus. At
12, he went to work in a canning factory.

I'm definitely checking out his book.

Read more...

Friday, July 25, 2008

Making Ripples

Remember the Book Launch 2.0 guy?

He has a Dennis Cass Wants You To Be More Awesome site, and here is an excellent interview with Bella Stander.

Y'all have probably heard about Randy Pausch's death. Heartbreaking. Also inspiring. If you gotta go early, go making a splash on the world like he did.

And because it's Friday, and because I bought the music track and have been listening to this song non-stop, and because I just LOVE this video and can't stop watching it, I'm going to include it. How can it not make you happy?

You did know that Who the Hell is Matt? has a blog? Here's a video interview with him. You can pretty much skip to the 8:30 mark to hear the inspiring part of limitations, options, and boundaries.

Here's his famous dancing video:

Read more...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Skipping Stuff, Keeping Stuff, Running from Stuff

Funny, in reading my novella from about seven years ago, I'm noticing quite a few issues that I've seen in other beginning works.

When you look over your old stuff, your really old stuff as a beginner, did you tend to skip the action?

I did. And I remember a few years ago critiquing a whole handful of contest entries that did, too. Isn't that a strange learning process? For example, in a suspense novel, we'd see a dangerous thug coming, and then... we'd jump to the hospital where we're nursing our injuries and explaining what happened.

I mean, what strikes me as funny is that the action is the good part!

It's also the most challenging part to write, I think. I'm also seeing parts where I just skipped half a scene. I didn't know what to do, I think, so I just sorta abruptly jumped to the next scene, not in a okay-we're-in-an-ADD-age-and-that's-okay-in-thrillers-now way, but in a hmmm-I-don't-know-what-to-write way.

I've moved to the living room in clearing out stuff. The one thing I am having HUGE problems even CONSIDERING throwing out is my board game collection.

Now, if any of you are only children, you might understand why I LOVE board games. And why the memories of going to my best friend's house and the whole family playing board games rank as some of The Most Fun Experiences Of My Whole Life.

See, as an only child, you can't play board games. Well, you can. Except you play against yourself. And this is sort of a ridiculous thing because who do you root for? Because then, once you've decided which half of you you want to win, you start doing little things to make sure that half of you wins.

I mean, I have cheated against myself to make sure my favorite half won! How silly is that? And Erica wrote about a character who cheated for Cheerios. Hah! I've cheated for nothing, against myself! You can't really lose when you play yourself. On the other hand, I'm not certain you can win, can you?

So while I'm perfectly happy getting rid of half the contents of my kitchen, and am surprisingly comfortable getting rid of a ton of books, I am running into considerable trouble getting rid of my games.

Even though I'm pretty much in the same boat as I was when I was young: I have no one to play them with. (DH does not like board games.) I might have to keep them. Hey, maybe my niece will someday play with me??

And finally, have you ever had a story chase you? Even when you keep telling it that you don't have the time for such a story, that you need to pay the bills? And yet, it keeps bothering you. And you keep tripping across links, overhearing phone conversations, seeing books and movies that all sort of keep nagging at that one story?

Writing a story just for fun: I don't know if I can do it. Might be fun, though. In my spare time, HAH!

Read more...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Obsessions, Chains, and Haunts

Back from the road-trip. Driving gives me a headache!

I mentioned awhile back my one pub is repackaging my stories and putting them in ebook form (they're bought serial style). It was going pretty well until last night.

Did you hear that one where one author asked a more experienced author (Was it Sandra Brown?) what she should do about her publisher re-releasing her old stuff? And she's upset because she can't even edit it; the whole thing needs completely re-written. She doesn't know what to do.

The more experienced author says something to the effect of, "Oh honey, you can't fix it; all you can do is put an apology at the beginning."

*sigh*

This is one of those stories that haunts me, one of the reasons I'm sure glad I wrote under a pseudonym. :-)

What is strange about this one in particular, is that it's actually one of my more popular stories, if people writing me is any indicator. I can only hope that as I keep reading I'll find something redeeming.

Speaking of old stuff, I'm getting ready for a garage sale (which might end up turning into a trip to the Goodwill donation center, if I get lazy). HALF my cupboards in my kitchen are now COMPLETELY empty.

I don't want stuff.

I can't believe I ever did.

Why didn't anyone ever tell me, when I was young, that having more stuff means having less freedom?

One of my adult students told me about a man and wife who have practically nothing in their house. It's bare. Every piece of furniture must serve several purposes.

I think that's part of the mystique of Jack Reacher: no stuff, no responsibilities, just pick up and go at a moment's notice. As I'm going through my house, I've been obsessive about getting rid of stuff. It's to the point where I'm looking at each object as if it is standing between me and my personal freedom.

I aspire to just have a computer. I don't even want my stuff on my computer: I want it stored online.

I mean, really? What more do I need than books, movies, music, the internet, and everything else that's on my computer? Everything else is expendable.

Do you ever feel prisoner to your stuff? Do you ever feel like you just want the freedom to hit the road like Jack Reacher, except with a computer?

PS: Headache is descending fast. If I don't finish reading blogs and commenting, no worries, I'll be around tomorrow!

And thanks to Avery, George Carlin on Stuff:

Read more...

Monday, July 21, 2008

Ain't Got That Rhythm

I write by rhythm.

Having spent my life studying music, though, I've discovered rhythm is a weird thing.

It's a very fragile thing. Get off by a mere nanosecond, and you lose the whole flow, half or more of the audience. You lose the cohesiveness of the piece. People inwardly feel music: they don't need to know a thing about music to experience your rhythm. If you get a tad off, their toe-tapping gets uncertain and they stop feeling the music with you.

And rhythm isn't just a matter of practicing with a metronome.

My boyfriend in college was manic-depressive. My teacher and I noticed that when he was in a manic phase (or maybe it was the depressive phase, I forget), his rhythm was a mess. It was just non-existent.

There are days when I've performed and the rhythm was there. It pushed me on: it was my foundation, my support, my wings almost.

Then there are days when the rhythm is just not there, or when I feel like I'm chasing after it, or hanging on to it by my fingernails. I can play the rhythm "correctly," but the rhythm isn't there. I have no idea why; it's just not.

It's like that with writing. Some days I sit down and nail the rhythm. Some days I just don't know. Some days I write in rhythm merely out of habit and practice, but I'm not feeling it. Some days I'm not feeling it and my rhythm is completely off.

It's a strange thing, rhythm.

The best and most successful concert performers never lose their rhythm, not even for a micro-second. Yes, an audience's attention is that short.

I've noticed the same with the best-selling writers. The rhythm is always there, always on: every sentence, every word, every paragraph. The rhythm of the story unfolds perfectly; the pacing of the plot is timed just right.

Everyone has a heart: everyone's life is driven by rhythms. Everyone experiences the rising and the setting of the sun, sleeping, waking, life, death, heartbeats, breathing, etc. Everyone may not have an intellectual understanding of rhythm, but everyone can inherently sense whether something is rhythmic or not.

Thoughts? Do you think of rhythm while you write? Do you notice that some days it's on, some days it's uncertain, and some days it's just not there?

Read more...

Sunday, July 20, 2008

When Pursuits Feed Each Other

UPDATE: I wanted to mention, that Ewoh finished the Half-Marathon for Crohn's Disease!!! Talk about a reason for exercise!

Mark Terry started a new blog, Fatt-2-Fitt (please visit!), which got me thinking about working out, which got me thinking about my life since the foot, which got me thinking about how my life has changed since the foot.

Especially in small ways.

When I practice my own pieces (as opposed to my students' pieces), it makes me more creative in my teaching. Also, it makes my writing more rhythmic, more "on." When I'm writing, it's so quiet, I am totally rejuvenated to hear sound. (When you're listening really hard for eight hours a day, for even longer, sometimes you just want to shut your ears down for a break.) With music, I'm constantly perfecting and memorizing, and not every moment is a "creative" moment.

So writing becomes the world where I can create. And where I can get the stories out of my head so I can focus on other things.

But today, I realized how much the physical feeds me.

At this point, I can do most yoga (my foot does swell up, but it doesn't hurt until the next day, so who cares at this point), and some of my Taekwondo forms as long as I do some stuff incorrectly (not pivot with my foot). Walking and running and most everything else is out, except weight lifting.

So Mark Terry's blog inspired me to get back to yoga.

At first, of course, it was mostly grunting and groaning and everything was irritatingly stiff and uncomfortable. It's been awhile.

And then:

There's that place you find, sometimes, that place where your whole world becomes feeling one position and holding one stretch, where with your whole heart, all you want to do is just feel your body stretch.

Maybe it's that my work is so mental. When you push against your mental limits, they're unclear. They're muddy. You're not sure how far you can go, what's a fear, what's a message, what's a desire to go in a different direction, what's an insecurity.

With the physical, it's all so much clearer. You feel your limits instantly, obviously. You don't have to second guess them. You note them, and then you can focus on stretching beyond them.

Running, to me, was always a face-to-face confrontation with my fear of not being able to do it. Yoga is, too, but in a smaller way.

Facing that fear in a small way and experiencing the exhilaration of working through it makes it so much easier to face that fear in other areas of one's life.

And then there's how good it feels to just move sometimes, to stretch and bend and arc.

Here's a little video on ashtanga yoga. Don't let the fact that it was the "it" yoga awhile back scare you away. It got me stronger and more flexible than any other yoga. Let's hope it can do it again!

Do your various discipline feed each other? How? And does exercise feed your more mental pursuits? And despite how good something feels, do you ever catch yourself avoiding that which makes you feel so much better?

Read more...

On Freelance, Fiction, and Self-Editing

My pubs don't do much editing. One will go through and copy-edit, maybe make a few notes, and that's it. The other doesn't copy-edit at all, I suspect, and she only mentions things when they're important, and I listen up.

So you understand why I LOVE a good editor when I have an opportunity to work with one. I definitely agree that a good editor will make your story a TON better.

But since I'm a Libra, I want to bring up the other hand.

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but my impression of freelance writing is that you must be able to turn in polished work. In some cases there's an editor, but my impression is that for most areas of freelance writing, the company hires you to do the job. They don't hire you and then hire someone else to edit you.

They hire someone who can do the whole kit and kaboodle.

(I say this with no experience in the industry. Please feel free to correct me. Obviously, if you're writing for magazines or such, it's different. But I'm thinking technical writing, medical writing, and writing marketing copy, website content, etc.)

There is an assumption out there that a fiction writer can NOT self-edit "good enough." There's an assumption that if you're self-editing, you're pretty much self-delusional.

What's strange to me is that in freelance writing, I don't see any of that prejudice at all.

Why is fiction so different? I believe editing is a skill. I will agree that it takes a while to develop, and that when I'm self-editing my stuff, I have to battle the self-delusions. I've had to learn that if I get the teensiest little nudge that I barely notice, then I NEED to fix it, BIG TIME. If I'm making excuses for something to myself, then I NEED to fix it, BIG TIME.

I've learned that teensy-tiny, barely audible inner nudges are HUGE things from a reader's perspective.

I've struggled to learn how to see things from a reader's perspective and not my own. I've learned I have to put out of my mind what I know about a story, and make sure, when I'm editing, I go to a place where I only "know" what I've read in the story so far.

I will be the first to admit my failings in this area. I mean, I'm pretty sure you've all seen me beat myself up for days over a comma or a misspelled word to know that I take this area seriously.

Not even books in the stores are without mistakes and plot holes. There is no "perfect" product.

I consider an editor a HUGE luxury. I do think that anything more you can do for your story, anything you can do to get more perspectives and different feedback will help you.

I'm sure there are good writers out there who haven't developed great editing skills. I'm sure that there are simply some awesome writers who are mediocre editors.

But then again, I think editing is a skill some authors can do perfectly fine themselves, of professional quality at least. Two heads are better than one and all that, but one head can still be of professional quality.

I just know that no fiction editor has ever told me something I didn't know deep down. (Non-fiction is a COMPLETELY different story, in my case.) They've mentioned things I ignored but shouldn't have. They've asked me to expand endings that I cut short because I thought 40,000 words was a strict limit instead of a guideline.

It's taken me many years and a lot of time to be able to see the "big picture" of my stories. I feel I've gotten to the point where I can. I would be thrilled at the chance to work with an editor, it's true.

I just don't understand why, in fiction, there's the assumption you can't do it yourself. It's hard work: I probably spend 70%-90% of my time self-editing. Probably someone who's just editing it could do it in tons less time, probably in a single pass, even, because they don't have to work at all to see it through fresh eyes.

I just find the dichotomy between freelance and fiction interesting.

And, it's true: I could be self-delusional. I could be a terrible editor. I have no idea. I did have a friend that I worked with when I first started, but we could give feedback the next day. I never seem to finish things in time to ask others for help. I need to learn to write without a deadline.

It's funny: I wrote a post about a year ago, where I was going to ask you guys a favor, and ask you if I could edit something you wrote purely so you could give me feedback on my editing skills.

In music, the best organizations train the judges by having them write their critique, and then having a third-party who's heard the performance critique the critiquer. That's wise, I think. I wonder if the big publishers train their editors that way?

So I don't know. How do you get feedback on your editing skills? How do you improve your editing skills? How has your self-editing changed over the years? And do you think fiction writers could be better self-editors, as professional quality as freelance writers, if it was expected of them? Or do you think it's an impossibility in fiction?

Read more...

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Just Getting Started with Liquid Story Binder XE

How's everyone's writing going? Thought I'd ask first, since the rest of the post probably only applies to those who are trying to figure out Liquid Story Binder.

My writing is going great. This story seems to be a "gift," one of those stories that's practically writing itself. I even feel like I can't put it down, which is something I've never felt when writing. I keep wanting to write so I can read more of the story, LOL.

On to Liquid Binder: y'all are having as much trouble as I was yesterday. It's a steep learning curve to figure out Liquid Binder. It has its own logic, though.

It seems everything is thought of with Liquid Binder. If you want it to do something, you just have to go looking for it, LOL. If something annoys you, you have to go find a fix. It's tricky to figure out, but they seemed to have thought of every possible thing a writer could want.

The number of features, however, is overwhelming, even if they are everything a writer could want, LOL.

So since a few of you are asking me questions, this is what I've figured out so far:

The tutorials are much better than the help file in figuring things out.

I'm figuring out only a little a day, using one more feature each day, so it doesn't cut into my writing time.

I'm no expert, but hopefully this will answer some of the questions:

I found the example book to be worthless in helping me figure things out, but everyone learns in a different way. I just opened my own book and imported my document, then split it into scenes. When I'm done writing, Liquid Story Binder XE will "Build Manuscript" and put it back together.

In the meantime, I save each scene with a number and descriptive title, like: 1 Hero and Heroine Meet. 2 Evil Monster Comes and Kidnaps Him. 3 Heroine rescues Hero.

This way, I can go to "Files -> View Files," and the file list will look like my outline. (Super Notecard does this sort of thing better.) I pants, but I like to have an outline "behind" me. And I don't want to be bothered with manually making an outline, either. :-)

The "Files -> View Files" thing lists all your files--you just have to click on the little squares on the right and you can find every one of your files. When you click on "Library" and open your book, nothing will appear unless you manually open it from the "View Files" section.

The first thing I did was import my document and set up the full-screen writing mode.  Once I adjusted the margins (before you right-click and select full-screen, drag the window wider and move the ruler things up top of your document) and fixed the colors and fonts, I got to writing.

I did start to play with using its outline feature, but I like my "View Files" system better: less work for me.

Today I'm learning how to set session goals. I do have a daily word count goal that I like to keep track of, so I love this feature.

Other than that, you have to create a new everything under "Create." You can have the program memorize the "Workspace" you prefer: I like to have my current chapter, a single picture, and the File Listing open at the same time.

I haven't explored the many other features it offers. If I tried to figure it all out in a day, I wouldn't get any writing done. :-)

The other great feature is the "Repetition Visualizer" under "Tools" of your document. (Not under the main "Tools.") It highlights the words you tend to repeat. Love that feature!

So for the few of you trying to figure it out, what have you discovered? What have you played with? I'm not sure what to explore next. I almost threw it away yesterday afternoon, that's how tricky it was for me to figure out!

Read more...

Friday, July 18, 2008

Change, Optimism, and Hope

It's funny: Wednesday I had the last-straw-on-the-back stress upset, and totally just dissolved into worry and freaking out.

You didn't notice, did you? :-)

It's funny how the whole oh-sh*t-what-am-I-going-to-do thing leads to interesting changes in our lives. It's funny how the universe feels compelled to see to it that we're constantly changing, and how the universe feels compelled to push us out of same old same old.

Or maybe it's not everyone. I don't know. I've known people who've lived routine existences. It strikes me as such a comfortable life. I mean, I like that I create my life, that things rattle around and even bang me up as they shake some interesting things loose.

I suppose some people might say I've had a rough life (a whole lot of people have had worse, I don't mean to suggest anything); I know many people who would definitely not enjoy my life. I've always looked back on things and thought: At least I've lived, I've experienced things. At least I know what it's like.

Is that a writer thing?

But sometimes I look at the routine, comfortable life with longing.

If someone had offered me a 9-5 job with health insurance, a steady paycheck, and a solid salary on Wednesday, I would've snatched it up in a second.

Today? I'm pretty sure not.

Not much has changed since Wednesday: certain things in my life that I don't want to happen are going to happen, certain things are going to continue to be the same for awhile, and I have to do a couple things I'd prefer not to.

I've moved forward with more momentum in certain areas of my life. I survived freaking out, LOL. Still, the circumstances didn't change.

But there's hope now, enthusiasm for change, and anticipation for a new year, a year that's going to be exciting because it's going to be different. It's going to be fun because it's going to be different.

I couldn't find that enthusiasm before. Now that I've found it, I know things will be okay. That kind of energy always brings in more business. Putting that energy out there always means lots of good things are coming. I don't mean to be woo-woo, but if you're self-employed, you can't help but think it's a scientific fact.

In the end, you start to feel grateful for those freak-outs. Well, I'm not sure I'd go that far. But they have a way of kicking us out of ruts, of shaking things up and making life more interesting.

So what about you? Have you head any big, stressful moments that compelled you to try something new or change things? Any moments of stress that you never want to repeat, but in retrospect, ended up giving you more hope and enthusiasm when you recovered? And that hope and energy brought good things?

Read more...

OH! Only 17 hours left on Free Giveaway!

There's a great site called "Giveaway of the Day." Every day, they give out a software product for free, one that normally costs between 19-79 dollars, sometimes even more.

Today's offering is Liquid Story Binder XE, a writing software product that is "a uniquely designed word processor for professional and aspiring authors, poets, and novelists, for those who require the editing ability of a commercial text editor with the freedom to create, outline and revise, all in one place."

It's normally $45.95, and it is the Windows answer for Scrivener. (I almost bought a Mac just so I could use Scrivener; it rocks.)

I'm a pantser, so I like any program that can sort of follow me and design an outline after I write, so I can see the big picture. This program can also do the outline before you write, too, if you write that way.

You can also play with pictures, and work in a completely blank screen with no distractions, if you prefer. Here's a list of features, and you can download it for free (today only!) at Giveaway of the Day.

It's definitely worth a tinker. I've played with the trial version before, but liked Super Notecard's pricetag better. To get Liquid Story Binder free is COOL!

Enjoy. It has almost every feature imaginable. I couldn't possibly use all of them, but I like that I have a wide range of tools to select from. Here are a few screenshots:

Full Screen Editor:

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A Story Board:

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Work with Sequences and Timelines:

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Outlines, Notes, & Checklists:

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Play with Pictures to Inspire You:

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More You Can Do:

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And even Customize the Background, Font, and Displays:

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Talk About Awkward...

You know, I do not condone raping and killing teenagers. However, there are rights. There is the golden rule. How we treat foreigners, whether we deny them access to a consulate or imprison, torture, and interrogate them without trial, we can expect our citizens to be similarly treated in other countries.

The U.S. embarrasses me sometimes.

As Mark Goldberg wrote in the article above, "I know if I were arrested in a foreign land, I'd want access to my consulate."

***

I keep writing, even though I should be going to sleep. I love when the story takes off like that.

But one thing: when writing in first person and the main character meets someone new, how do you handle the introductions?

"Hi, what's your name?"

Sometimes, they're practically all the way up to you know, and I'll have to stop and say, "what's your name?"

Ridiculous.

It's a problem. How do you do it? With, say, heroine and hero meeting alone, no third-party introductions?

I think I've mentioned before: I'd really just rather leave my characters nameless.

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Cutting Off the End of the Ham. AKA: Stupidity.

So I've been thinking about my business, lately, what with the economy and everything. And I realized: I'm an idiot.

You know that story about the end of the ham or turkey or something, and the daughter asks the mother why they always cut off the end before they put it in the oven? And then the mother says because that's the way grandma did it, and then they ask grandma, and grandma says she cut off the end because the pan was too short?

Well, about ten or so years ago, I had to convince the local piano students that a typical piano lesson is not, in fact, thirty minutes long. I was met with a lot of skepticism, so I discounted the forty-five minute lessons, and discounted the sixty minute lessons even more, to "prove" that it wasn't that I wanted more money, it was that it was better for the student.

I've raised my rates a couple times since then, but only once since 9/11. (I know, shame on me, stupid, and now it's biting me in the ass. Did I not tell MANY teachers over the years not to do that? Did I not see, time and time again, teachers regret doing that? Yes. But I evidently have to learn the hard way.)

Anyway, when I did raise my rates, I just raised the monthly tuition, rather than breaking down the math and the per-lesson fee.

Well, the other day, I broke it down.

Long story short, now that ALL my students take forty-five minute lessons and a majority take sixty minute lessons, I JUST REALIZED (AFTER EIGHT YEARS!!!!) I'M MAKING TEN PERCENT LESS THAN I WAS WHEN THE ECONOMY WAS GOOD!!!!!!!!!!

(I'm yelling at myself, not you.)

I am SUCH an idiot. I can't believe it. I remember, when I first set the sixty minute price years ago, I heavily discounted it because I had only two students at sixty minutes.

Oh. My. Gawd.

And I used to be good at math. I am completely flummoxed at my stupidity. It would be one thing if I had missed it for ONE year. No: I haven't done the per-lesson calculation for SEVEN YEARS! I just raised the monthly rate.

To make matters worse, I also realized that I have not even MENTIONED that those rates are discounted for ages! So my students are completely unaware that they're getting a huge discount!

Stupid, stupid, stupid. I'm just really astonished at myself.

I really haven't a clue what to do. When I say I discounted the sixty minute lesson heavily, I mean it's by ten percent.

I have, effectively, given myself a TEN PERCENT income decrease over the past five-ten years. So as my students have gotten better and more committed, MY INCOME HAS LOWERED BY TEN PERCENT!!!! No wonder I'm knocking my head against the wall.

I was going to try to connect this to writing. Well, the best I can do is this: if you ever work for yourself, remember to re-think the things you do. If you have a new pan and you're still cutting the end of the ham off, then...

But I'm certain I'm the only one who could be this stupid.

The common practice is to raise rates, no excuses, no need to explain. But I fear blood will be spilt as I raise my rates to what they should be. I don't know. What do you think? Explain? Don't explain?

Have you ever kept cutting off the end of the ham, long after the reason for doing so has passed?

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Touch & Some Dumb Questions

It cracks me up: all the Seattle's Best cafes have the exact same recipes. They all use the same ingredients.

Have you ever noticed that some baristas can make a drink better than others? That some just have the touch? There's one drink I will only order if one specific barista is going to make it, because only he makes it just right.

I almost caved on the no dairy thing today. I ordered a pizza online at Pizza Hut. The order didn't go through, and then it wouldn't let me place another order for 15 minutes. I then ordered a pizza online at Donatos, and even though I got the confirmation screen and everything, it disappeared when I arrived at the pickup window.

Is that a sign or what? It's okay, because Erin just gave me an awesome recipe for dairy-free ice cream. (THANK you!)

Now I'm sure this is a stupid question: What is rock salt? Where does one get it? I've always wondered.

Also, I need to clear out the house. There's too much stuff. I hate stuff. (One reason I want a Kindle.) I'm having a garage sale.

DH is the opposite of me. He likes stuff.

My dream home has some furniture, lots of empty surfaces, the bare essentials in the cupboards, and that's it. And all music, movies, and ebooks backed up online somewhere. A computer, a Kindle (well, a girl can dream, right?), a cell phone.

And, like, five pairs of pants, five pairs of shorts, fourteen shirts, two dresses. A pair of running shoes (hoping I can run again, that is), TKD uniform, black flats, sandals, and a pair of Crocks.

Maybe a little water fountain, a couple bamboo plants that my cats magically avoid chewing to pieces.

I can't think of anything else. I don't even want my TVs anymore; I watch everything on my computer.

So that's it; that's my dream house. I've already gone paperless by scanning my receipts and storing them on Shoeboxed.com. I store everything online now. I'm even scanning all my student's records.

So what about you? Are you "paperless" yet? What's your dream house like? How does one have a garage sale? Any tips? How do you price stuff?

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Compassion: Too Much and Not Enough

You guys have all been having a lively discussion while I've been away! I'm never sure of the proper order of things. Do I visit y'all, then respond to your comments here? Skip a post, or post as usual, then visit y'all, then respond to your comments? But then I worry: you commented on my blog, shouldn't I do that first? But then I want to see what's up in your life. I like reading your posts.

So that was a bad apology for getting behind and I'm not sure whether to go to your blogs or respond to your comments next. If I do the wrong thing, I didn't mean to be impolite, LOL.

I'll do it all, of course, but I sometimes wonder if there's an etiquette to the order of it. In what order do you do it?

TOO MUCH COMPASSION: You know, I worry about other people. Like, when someone doesn't pay their bill, I start worrying. I start feeling sorry for them. I hate to send them late notices, because I know how it feels to be struggling with the economy.

But I realized today: I forgot to feel compassion for myself. Why do I always put myself last, until I wake up and realize that there is a LINE, and destroying myself in the process of feeling compassion for others is not good for the world at all.

I'm an only child, and I consider self-centeredness to be one of my greatest faults. It's kinda funny that my other greatest fault is worrying about other people.

So... I'm so not playing that game anymore.

NOT ENOUGH COMPASSION: I was downtown Cleveland today. YOU WOULD NOT BELIEVE WHAT I SAW!!!!

A sign.

A sign saying: do not give beggars money. Several of them, actually.

Because it could be a panhandler instead of a homeless person. (Often no difference, btw.) Yes, I realize that giving food and shelter and clothes and blankets is better than giving money. But it's MY money.

And how can one charity put up signs telling me not to give to another???

Are you really telling me panhandlers have SUCH A GREAT LIFE that I shouldn't give them some compassion???

I used to give a panhandler money all the time. He was hilarious. He earned his money. He often spent it on alcohol. His choice. He got his calories, he got his life, and you know, you gave him food, too.

And, sorry, I will give beggars money if I want. The first time I gave a man money, I was a freshman in college. There was this man with a sorry story and his children, yada, yada, yada.

But any intelligent person would know that, in this case, the story was true. It was his first night begging, his first night homeless on the streets. (And I'm pretty certain his only night.) He had tears in his eyes when he asked for money, he could barely do it.  I said I didn't have it. (I think I had 23.85 in my bank account. ***Update: Remember, this was COLLEGE. I was living in a dorm on a cafeteria plan. I was giving BEER money, that's it, LOL. No giving away of "last penny," didn't mean to suggest that.***)

There was something about him, though. I just knew.

So I went back to the ATM machine and got twenty dollars out and gave it to him. I was slightly afraid to get too close because I was a new girl to a big city, but today I would've hugged him. I wish I could go back and hug him. It hurt him WAY MORE to take my twenty dollars than it did for me to give my weekend play money.

He cried, right there on the street, the first time I'd ever seen a grown man cry. And he never came back, never saw him ever again.

I can't tell you how many times I've thought of him over the years. I've written a success story for him in my mind, of course. I believe it, too.

So how would you feel, looking at a sign telling you not to give to homeless people because some of them might be panhandlers, and that you should mail your donation to XYZ Charity instead?

Incidentally, the signs are sponsored by the businesses on the street. So really, they just don't want homeless people on their sidewalk. I'm surprised they didn't put the sign: DO NOT GIVE BEGGARS MONEY; BUY A PIZZA AT LUIGI'S PIZZA INSTEAD.

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Monday, July 14, 2008

On Soundtracks and Coffee.

Brett Battles totally got me into writing to soundtracks. I have a long relationship with soundtracks: from the time I first started tracking my expenses to when composed movie music gave way to using popular songs a few years back, I would go to movies and write the composer on my movie ticket.

It was true: this helped me in gigs and teaching students, because they often want to hear (or play) a certain movie's music.

Many of the composers I knew by sound: movie composers tend to have a trademark, easily identifiable sound. And they have a bit of a habit of recycling bits. (Lately, I've heard old soundtracks applied to new movies; I HATE this.)

Nowadays, I can't even figure out who composed the music for a movie from the credits, especially if it's just pop songs with only a few minutes of original composition. Have you noticed? They often don't list the composers; they list "music producers," I think they're called.

Are they composers, too? I don't know: the names are unfamiliar to me.

I'm starting to organizing certain "writing" music by mood. This is handy when I need to slip into a certain mood "instantly" when I sit down to write. I can write to movie music because it's a bit repetitive; it's not composed for foreground consumption. And it's composed to evoke mood. So I don't go into analytical mode, and I don't "overly" listen to it as I do any other music.

I've decided to drink coffee. One, it helps me focus and write. Two, I read this article and several like it.  I suspect I have a high likelihood of developing Parkinson's. My mother has it, and I've inherited Every. Single. One. of her health issues (biologically, she's my grandmother). Hers developed late, so late that by the time it would become a problem, she'd be 120 or so. I wonder if it's due to the smoking and coffee like the article suggests, LOL.

Couldn't hurt. I fear Parkinson's. Sometimes I... drop things and my hands go sorta weird. I'm sure this happens to everyone, but still I fear Parkinson's.

I'll probably change my mind, but hey, maybe I'll get lots of writing done beforehand.

Do you drink coffee? Tea? Listen to soundtracks? Have a favorite soundtrack?

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Do You Ever?

Do you ever get sick of your voice? I mean, your writing voice. I looked at a comment I made the other day, and the ridiculous thought popped in my head: "Ohmigosh, that's sounds like me. Ick."

Sometimes I hate my writing voice. I'm going to say this wrong, but my writing voice strikes me a bit stronger than I really am. (If you're all shaking your head and saying, no, your voice isn't at all strong, that's okay. Just keep it to yourself, LOL.)  :-P

And it's not so much that, as sometimes I just get sick of my voice, day in, day out. Maybe that's why Nora Roberts' voice changed SO much over the course of her career. She's a completely different writer now.

It's great writing. Except sometimes I sit down and I want the old Nora, and I expect it from the new Nora, and it doesn't live up to my expectations. I think I need to pull out some of the old Noras and read them, and view the new Nora as a different writer entirely.

Do you ever make fun of yourself? Like this week, I've been writing in 20 point font so I can see what I'm writing and see my typos. Then when I converted it back 12 point font to send it in, I noticed all my paragraphs were really short.

Really short.

I was like, WTF? I write my paragraphs by SHAPE, thus if I enlarge font paragraphs must get shorter? How idiotic is that?

Do you ever feel your sentences are the same? Like, sure, I vary my sentences. I don't just do noun-verb, although lately I have way more noun-verbs than I'm comfortable. (I saw four in a row yesterday! I never do that!) I start with prepositional whatevers and vary structure.

But I feel limited. It starts to feel like I'm taking three or four basic sentence rhythms and just cycling them.

Do you ever get sick of your themes? I was thinking the other day that all my stories are the same. Okay, they're completely different. But they're also the same.

In Schenkerian Analysis of western music, Schenker proposed, simplistically put, that all music could be boiled down, no matter how long, to Tonic-Dominant-Tonic. (So imagine a twenty-minute piece of thousands of chords boiled down, in essence, to three chords.)

I know my stuff is different. I'm pretty sure. But the essence feels the same. I'm starting to feel like I've written it all before.

Do you ever cycle out of coming up with story ideas?  I remember I had two files just BULGING, between both of them, with over two hundred ideas. Sometimes they were just titles, sometimes a sentence, but they were two hundred different novellas and/or short stories. I came up with them all the first year of writing, and then they trickled down to now and then.

At some point, I just stopped coming up with ideas. I got out of the habit. I would just choose one.

Well, see above: sometimes the interesting part isn't so much what you write about, but how you develop it.

Sometimes, I enjoy taking the most boring idea on earth and trying to make it an interesting story. Same with cliches, or overdone ideas. I don't know if I succeed, but I enjoy it.

So I stopped coming up with ideas.

I've been coming up with ideas again, though. I like it.

Do you ever fear you're getting worse, rather than better? We push ourselves to change, but do you ever worry you've gone over the edge? Do you ever worry you've suddenly lost it? Do you ever worry that this is going to be the one where people will go: what was she thinking? What happened to her? She can't write anymore!

So what about you? Do you ever... ? And how's the writing going?

(It's not obvious I'm in the middle, is it? I mean, you wouldn't know that just from the above post, would you?)

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Friday, July 11, 2008

Perceptions

image I was first exposed to Les Miserables from the musical. (Another lost tape I need to download at some point! I have decided to not go anywhere and not drive so I have money for iTunes. I wish. :-)

The musical led to the book, although I don't think I picked up the book until college. I remember enjoying it, but that's about it.

I'm pretty sure I still loved the musical more.

Then last night, I joined the free trial of Netflix, since I'm canceling my cable service. And I'd missed the 1998 movie version of Les Miserables (Oh. My. God. Awesome movie!), so I watched it instantly for free.

(Netflix rocks. I was addicted after five minutes.)

What stunned me most about watching it was how much it spoke to me. It's as if it's a completely different experience, even though the story is variably the same (I watched the movie last night, didn't read the book--although it's next on my list.)

I can't wait to read it again!

Ever have a story seem to drastically change when you read it again, even though it's the same story? Les Miserables the movie should've come out this year or next. Talk about a story for our times.

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Lovin' Punctuation; Hating Radio Shack

I hate Radio Shack. I HATE Radio Shack. They made me so angry, I came home and kicked my kicking bag.

With the wrong foot.

So now it's screaming in pain at me. I don't know what I was thinking. (There was a moment where I was trying to figure out whether it would be worse to stand on the bad foot while kicking with the good foot, or kick with the bad foot while standing on the good foot. I can figure out electronics, but I couldn't figure out that I needed to stand on the BAD foot and bang the GOOD foot with all my might against the kicking bag filled with a hundred pounds of sand until it crashed over and broke the speaker on the right of the TV. (I am so proud I did not forget all my TKD training.)) Cripes. It's like God gave me a little intelligence in one place and made me supremely stupid in others to make up for it.

I very pleasantly told the Radio Shack people I didn't want any help. What is so hard about that? It's not like I was bothering anyone. I just wanted to figure out what I needed by myself thank you very much.

And when they wouldn't leave me alone, when the THIRD freaking person came up to me, I gave up and tried to be nice and answered, "I want a black box with a blue dot." (I actually held up a plug and said I just wanted the plug and I'd connect the wires myself, but it's easier to write 'black box with a blue dot' while telling the story.)

He proceeded to ask me why, wanting to tell me a different way. I KNEW I didn't know the terminology and I would explain it wrong.

So I repeated myself: I just want a black box with a blue dot.

He asked questions. He held up orange boxes, green boxes, purple circles and yellow stars, telling me I might need those.

I said again: I want a black box with a blue dot.

He asked questions, I gave in and answered. I got to the car, looked in my hand, and I did NOT have a freaking black box with a blue freaking dot.

I go back in. I wave the people away and get the freaking black box with a freaking blue dot ALL BY MYSELF, which was what I wanted to do in the first place.

I go to return the purple polka-dotted wires and they asked for my phone number. I very nicely told them I don't give that out. They asked for my address; I told them I did not give that out, either.

"We just need it 'for the system.'"

They said they CAN NOT DO RETURNS UNLESS YOU GIVE THEM YOUR PRIVATE INFORMATION! Let's just say, after angry words were exchanged, I finally told them I lived at 1234 Dick Avenue. (Okay, I said Wood Avenue, but I wish now I had said Dick Avenue, or even better, Asshole Avenue. Why can't I think of these things in the moment???)

I get home and kick the kicking bag with the wrong foot to get it out of my system. My foot is throbbing and already swollen. At least I feel better. Does that make me a masochist? And if so, why can't I enjoy the dentist more?

IS IT SO HARD TO LET ME LOOK AT THE FREAKING PLUGS AND FIGURE IT OUT MYSELF? I WILL GET IT RIGHT! AND IF I GET IT WRONG, TOUGH! IT'S MY FREAKING MONEY!

I do not play well with stubborn idiots. *sigh*

I can handle getting in a car wreck without losing my head, I can handle power outages and flooding ruining my things and gas prices costing an arm and a leg and Obama voting to violate our privacy and Bush for eight years and the Iraq war and the person I love most being away for six months and having to eat spaghetti endlessly and having a hurt foot for two years and spending five thousand to not get it fixed and not having health insurance to waste more money on it and two thousand dollars worth of dental treatment but I CAN NOT HANDLE SOMEONE ASKING FOR MY PHONE NUMBER.

That makes perfect sense, doesn't it?

AND GUESS WHAT, RADIO SHACK? I actually needed a BLACK BOX WITH A BLUE DOT and it FREAKING worked and I was RIGHT so THERE!

Big breath in, big breath out.

Big breath in, big breath out.

Big breath in, plaster fake smile, big breath out.

Bury my face in cat's fur and give him a noogie.

Okay.

I'm better now.

On to the post I wrote earlier, when I was in a much happier mood. So off goes angry mood, on goes the yellow twinkling sunflower lights strung around the porch.

I love punctuation. Lately, since I've been reading Son of the Circus by John Irving, I've been indulging in a few more colons and semi-colons.

I feel so naughty.

I know you're supposed to just split the sentence into two nowadays: semi-colons are out of date and considered old-fashioned. (Was that proper archaic use of the colon?)

But gosh, are they fun.

My one editor wrote before she made a site to sell stories. She used punctuation. With her, punctuation was an art form, a sculpting of phrases.

Oh, and colons! Don't get me started: I love the colon.  I'm quite hesitant because I don't actually know the rules. I mean to look them up. I've never really used the colon before, so I think I'm due a period of exploration, no?

While reading Irving, I thought, "What are you afraid of? That a sentence will end???"

While looking at my writing the next day, I asked myself, "What am I afraid of? That a sentence might end?"

If I'm not playing with semi-colons or colons, I'm starting sentences with ands and buts. Not only do I fear a sentence ending, but I'm not all that crazy about it starting, either.

What next?

Will I be so afraid the reader might stop reading at the end of a sentence that I write a whole novel in one long sentence?

Come to think of it, I bet that would be a literary coup. It'd be the ultimate in style and fashion: everyone would buy it and no one would read it.

Colons? Semi-colons? What do you think? I'm waiting for my editor to write and ask me what the hell I'm doing.

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Obama Writes to the Market

I wasn't going to blog about this, because... political blogging is just not my thing. But I can connect this to writing, watch:

I had hoped the end of Mad King George's reign would mean an end to the erosion of human rights, freedoms, and honor in our country's politics. Well, hell, it's not like I have high standards when it comes to politics. I didn't even mind so much about the blowjob of Clinton. After Mad King George's reign, it doesn't even seem that embarrassing. But this takes the cake. No, the waterboarding took the cake, although I will admit it took me at least a year to come to a firm decision on the issue.

And Obama.

I did not start out an Obama supporter. The health care issue is important to me, and I preferred Hilary's plan to Obama's.

I mean, all civilized countries have health care except us.

Maybe I'm being too optimistic to call us civilized.

But I'm a good sport. Obama won, cool, and I agreed with him well enough to vote for him.

The past few days, I've felt just sick to my stomach. Right now, I feel like crying.

I don't at all like the direction this country has gone in the past eight years. I had hoped the end of Mad King George's reign would mean an end to that direction. But Obama has made me sick to my stomach, just sick to my stomach.

Honor and integrity. What I wouldn't give for a smart man of honor whose politics I generally agree with. Not voting for Obama is a vote for McCain. Still. I may just be writing someone else's name in. Even if Hilary becomes VP.

I know my fault is idealism. But it's clear this country is craving some ideals. I hope we find some.

You know how the popular writing advice says to write the book you can write, don't write to the market? Well. Obama writing to the market is not going to sway McCain supporters; McCain IS that market. Obama writing to the market is just going alienate Obama supporters.

I'm pretty sure the terrorists have just won. I am disgusted.

I know voting is often voting for the least worst. But I had really hoped it wouldn't come to that, just this once.

Oh, to go back in time.

I wonder what's going to happen in the last few months of Bush's reign. Can't wait to see. Joy, joy. History in the making: a study in a tyrant's endgame.

I really don't know where to go from here, so I now return to playing with my computer.

Thanks to Barry Eisler:

Become a StrangeBedfellow!

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Two Easy Tricks to Save You Time

So, do you ever get tired of having to stop typing, take your hand away from the keyboard, move the mouse to the programs menu, and select your program? Do you ever get tired of having to open the calculator in the middle of something? Of having to run over to IE, Firefox, or Explorer to pull up dictionary.com?

I have THE coolest thing for you: Enso. (Download both programs.)

It's free. All you do is press "Caps Lock" and then type "Open Word," and then hit the Enter key. Bam, up comes word.

Hit the Caps Lock again, type "define ratchet" and bam, up comes a definition of ratchet.

You can teach it open specific documents. 1.) Highlight the document you want to "teach" Enso. 2) Hit the Caps Lock key and type "Learn Novel."

That's it! Next time you want to open your novel, you type, "Open Novel," and Bam! Up comes your novel in word (or whatever program you set it to come up with.

It'll open ANY program. Once in awhile you have to "teach" it, but the website offers extremely easy directions. And really, there's nothing much to it except hitting Caps Lock and typing what you want.

It is SO handy. Enso rocks.

(You have to hold down the Caps Lock key while you type, unless you go to preferences and set it so you don't. I set it so I don't; I prefer it that way.)

Okay, one more:

I don't check my statistics often, maybe once a month or so. But I checked last week, and noticed that instead of one person a day clicking from Google Reader, ALL OF YOU are using Google Reader! Okay, not all. But a ton of you have made the switch, LOL.

Here's blogging timesaver number two:

You know how you leave a comment, and then you have to keep checking back to see if they've answered? Well, you don't have to anymore.

(This is easier than Dropbox, Edie, I PROMISE this time!)

  1. Go to co.mments.com.
  2. Register.
  3. Go to this page. Drag the appropriate button to your bookmarks toolbar.

That's IT!

Now, whenever you comment on a page or want to follow a discussion, click that little button. When you feel like checking to see if any other comments have been added to the discussion, you can go to co.mments.com and it'll display all your conversations!

All of them!

Sometimes I have to hit "refresh" to see if new comments have been added. And I have to remember to hit "remove" once I'm done following a conversation. But it's a HUGE timesaver.

I've noticed that all my friends now hang out on my other friends' blogs. I think that's the coolest. You guys probably found each other through each other, but still. It's the coolest.

The internet may be a huge place, but somehow we still find little communities for ourselves, don't we?

I was thinking of starting a little blog sometime, maybe like an AuthorHack blog, about ways to trick out your computer to save time and make the authoring business a little easier and less time-consuming. Is that a silly idea? What do you think? If you haven't noticed, geeking has become a bit of a hobby for me. :-)

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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Chocolate and Mosquitoes.

image I found a really awesome new blog called Will Write for Chocolate. Every week it offers a new comic strip about the writing life.

I'm pretty sure it's one of those things where I'm the last one to the party.

I totally teared up in a lesson today, to the point of having to wipe my eyes. One of my students who used to use all the wrong muscles to play the piano. (Yes, wrong. If you use your muscles wrong, you just won't be able to play advanced music later, and you'll injure yourself if you try.) Suddenly, after a couple weeks off, she played with AWESOME technique. It all clicked.

A few years ago, when she had had it up to here with me endlessly nagging her and holding her arm and forcing her to use the right muscles, when she was frustrated to tears and I had to not look at her arms while she played to prevent myself from incessantly correcting her, I promised her she would have the best technique in the whole studio.

Well, she certainly has the best technique for her age. She's got the best chords. She's going to have an amazing year. She won student of the year last year and cried. Which made me feel better about crying today. :-)

Sometimes when we set a goal, we go forward with a suspension of disbelief. We go forward forcing ourselves to believe we can do it. We tell ourselves we believe we can do it.

But when we finally do it, the feeling is I can't believe I did that!

It's like that with teaching, except it's a I can't believe we did that!

And with writing.

Have you ever achieved something that you thought you believed you could do, but after you did it, were shocked that you did?

It's pretty much like that with every story I finish. I can't wait to finish my current WIP. Not that I'm sick of it. I just hate it when it's stuck up in my head. I want it out. I want it to stop nagging me. I want that finished feeling.

On the other hand, I haven't finished a book in ages. It seems to be taking me forever to read. I don't get it. I used to read a book a day, before I started writing. I used to read a book every couple days, after I started writing.

The unfinished stuff nags me, like a mosquito trapped under my skin, biting me from the inside out.

I also ran out of contacts. My vision is getting worse. I have to fix my teeth first, but I'm making all sorts of typos in my WIP because I can't see the freaking things. It's taking me twice as long to peer closely and edit and edit. I need to do double duty to make up for for my eyesight. I really prefer no mistakes at all. They irritate me like mosquitoes, too.

I need chocolate.

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Monday, July 07, 2008

The Girl I Mean To Be

I have zero thoughts today. None, nada, zip. It's like my brain is recovering from dairy shock or something. I'm all calm and focused. I don't understand that state, LOL.

And I've been reading. I miss reading. For awhile, I was in the mood for NOTHING, and I mean nothing.

Ever go through that?

Brett Battles' book, The Deceived, seems to have gotten me out of that rut real quick.

So off I go to read.

I'll leave you with these lyrics. Sometimes with all the noise in my head about shoulds and coulds, all the noise on the internet, all the noise everywhere, I start to lose my center.

Do you ever feel like that? Like you just need some time alone, really alone, without a single voice around you for days?  Just so you can hear yourself?

This song has the PERFECT lyrics:

I need a place where I can go,
Where I can whisper what I know,
Where I can whisper who I like
And where I go to see them.

I need a place where I can hide,
Where no one sees my life inside,
Where I can make my plans, and write them down
So I can read them.

A place where I can bid my heart be still
And it will mind me.
A place where I can go when I am lost,
And there I'll find me.

I need a place to spend the day,
Where no one says to go or stay,
Where I can take my pen and draw
The girl I mean to be.

Here's the song, if you'd like a listen:

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Putzing Summer Days

So I suddenly clicked over to "Ooooooh, gross, dairy? Yuck!" Which is nice. I love when my brain does that. :-) Yesterday I kept thinking about how awful dairy made me feel, and by this morning I'd lost all desire to even look at the stuff.

I had a glorious day off yesterday. I did nothing! I putzed, mowed the lawn, putzed, poured boiling salt water on all the weeds climbing up through the cracks in the pavement, putzed some more, copied more of my CDs into iTunes, and--ohmigosh!--I played a computer game.

Oh! And I read another huge part of Brett Battles latest book, The Deceived. 

I forgot, I also added a few more books to the Spy Books Drop Site. Not many. It was taking me about 30 minutes to add a book, but I'm getting the rhythm of it down, and I can do it in about 10 minutes now.

So it was a lazy day. I told myself not to feel guilty, and I didn't, but I feel a little guilty today.

It was fun, though

By the end of the day, I wished I hadn't putzed around so much. I didn't mind having that feeling at the end of the day, because that means I'm excited to get back to work today.

The human mind is a strange thing. Or at least, mine is.

So what was your weekend like? How're the tomatoes doing? What do you do on a Putzing Day?

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Sunday, July 06, 2008

No More Milk

It started with JUST one ice cream cone, because it's summer, and I'd just indulge in ONE ice cream cone.

And then I figured, since I'd already done the damage, I may as well have some cheese.  And then I'd go back to normal tomorrow.

Tomorrow never really comes, and just one more day has become one of my favorite sayings.

But milk gives me migraines, it makes me tired as heck, it makes me ADD as heck, and it even makes me depressed. It probably strange that milk can do all that damage if milk is cool with you, but it does.

You'd think with all that damage, it'd be easy to give up milk.

Nope. When I get tired and depressed, I want to eat. And of course I want to eat comfort foods. And every goshdarned comfort food in the history of mankind has milk in it. It's crazy.

Which leaves me to today. Do I throw away perfectly good cheese, perfectly good ice cream?

I have to. I hate wasting stuff, but I have to. I'm getting nothing done and I feel like I'm swimming in TV fuzz and going in slow motion.

Why do cheese and ice cream have to be so yummy? I think they're my favorite foods in the whole world.

You know, if I ate all the milk in the house today, I'd make myself so sick that I won't want to touch it for long enough to get unaddicted to it.

But then I wouldn't get anything done today, because I'd be sick.

*sigh*

This probably sounds ridiculous to you. Well, I had an ice cream cone last night. I can't come up with any other thoughts!

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Friday, July 04, 2008

The Guilt Syndrome

Happy Fourth of July! What are you up to this weekend?

I have to write a ton. I'm looking forward to it.

But last night I sat down and made up a schedule for today. The reason is that I tend to get stuck working. I end up with no time for reading, no time to sit on the porch or to go to a movie or watch a TV show.

And when I do one of those things, I feel SO very guilty. Which is silly, because you need to read to be a writer! It's not like reading is slacking off!

So I scheduled in two hours to read. I'm really looking forward to it; it kind of feels like I scheduled in two hours at the toy store and I'm forcing myself to buy toys for two hours.

Hardship.

So I'm really looking forward to that.

When you work for yourself, the work is never done. Never, ever, ever. When I worked at a 9 to 5 job (for a whole 5 months, so I'm an expert), I always got everything done by about noon. (I was really fast. The person for me did half what I did and never got done.) Now if the internet had been available, if flash drives and stuff had been available, then it would have been the perfect job: I could have written from 12 - 5 and gotten paid for it!

Hmmm... maybe I should see if they're looking. I didn't think of that. :-)

My favorite part was going home every night with my desk clear and everything done.

I have not figured out how to replicate that feeling of "leaving work" and "finishing for the day" at home.

The problem is, when I'm NOT done, I feel guilty for kicking back and watching a TV show or reading a book.

So how do you do it? How do you shut off the writing work and feel like you're done? How do you finish for the day? How do you get that satisfied "finished" feeling when you're never, ever, finished, not for thirteen years???

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Thursday, July 03, 2008

The Best and Easiest App, My Gift to You

So I have beta invites to Dropbox. Do you want to try it? I'll give one to you. 2 GB of free storage. I've been using it for two weeks, and Oh. My. Gawd. is it awesome.

Lifehacker offered 500 this afternoon and they were gone within the hour. I sent Bill Henderson an invite, and he responded with a great post about Writing the Next Dropbox, meaning can you write the next breakout novel that has everyone begging for it?

Just a quick glance on what it does seamlessly, behind the scenes, without me doing anything:

  1. It automatically backs up my document online as soon I close Word.
  2. It automatically saves revisions. Right now, it's got 78 "revisions" archived of my WIP. A simple click, and I can retrieve that big chunk I deleted a couple days ago. Or not. :-)
  3. If you have more than one computer, it will sync between computers, even if one is a Mac and one is a PC. If you make a change on Mac, close it, and open it up on the PC, the change will be there.
  4. It backs up to Dropbox FAST. We're talking instantly. It did take awhile for my first 900 MB to upload, understandably, but a change in a document is backed up in under a second.
  5. If you put a file in your "Public" folder, you just right click to "copy link" (on your computer; you don't have to go online) to get a link for others to download your file. So if you click here, you get to see my cutie kitty looking very relaxed. (Tell me she isn't ADORABLE, I dare you!) Can be used on websites to share excerpts or whatever you want.
  6. You can share folders with anyone. So if you have a critique group, everyone can upload their stuff there, critique each other, and then go back to see the edits.
  7. And it does other things I just don't know about yet. :-)

DH and I use it for the studio. When he edits something, it's automatically changed on my computer. When I change it, the file is changed on my computer, AND backed up online. Since he prints stuff after I make stuff, this is a HUGE TIMESAVER for us.

It does tons of other things. Watch the video below, then if you want an invite to the beta to play with it, just email me at gmail. Or you can contact me on my handy little contact form that I installed all by myself after hours of trying to make it work.

It's so easy, even Lainey figured it out. ;-P

PS: I'm told Syncplicity works the same way, EXCEPT it's not going to work on Macs until later this year. It does, however, automatically sync with Google Docs, and the photos in your Facebook account. The free version will only work on two computers and up to 2GB, while it will be $9.99 for 40GB, plus $9.99 for each additional 50GB.

I expect, once they're out of beta, Dropbox will be about the same price.

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Fiction, Reality, and Thrillers

image This was totally inspired by Mark Terry's post today of picking up Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA by Time Weiner.

There's a great quote out there about using fiction to tell the truth. And there's a whole lot of research that goes into a thriller. I mean, try writing a thriller once, and I think you will have a whole new respect for thriller writers. It is truly, at the very least, at least an hour of research per page.

Frankly, I'm pretty sure I could write a nonfiction book on several subjects and do tons less research.

Just walking down the freaking street requires hours of research. God, make them run, and you've got to find the proper alleys, shops, etc. It's insanity.

And there is a pressure I perceive to be ultra-realistic when writing a thriller. It's a bit of a fashion to be able to boast that such and such is real, that every cafe, store, restaurant is real, that every detail and every locale is real. Even the politics must be real.

This is where I always get stuck. Like, right away, instantly. And then I bang my head against the wall for weeks.

I actually find the extreme realism a bit off-putting, even when reading spy thrillers. I need character, character, character first. I need an emotional journey to connect with. Of all the thrillers, spy thrillers are the most character-oriented. (Strictly spy thrillers; if you segue into more action-type spy thrillers it's different.)

My biggest problem in finding my inner thriller writer is finding that balance between fiction and reality. If you look at the spy thrillers being released today, they are mostly either historical (where facts and situations and countries are easily researched) or they are written by an ex-Intelligence Officer of some sort, or the former head of MI5 (Britain's CIA).

I wonder if this is also a fashion because there's an easily-promoted media hook, or if readers are craving this sort of novel.

Because it's my impression that the spy thriller experience is about believing that one person can make a big difference.

So when you sit down and research, well... you run across a lot, and I mean a TON of ex-spies/intelligence officers who are BITTER. Very bitter and frustrated. Even in their fiction. And I think all the writing of reports makes them grow up and become writers.

The others who write spy thrillers are journalists. They do the best job of blending the fiction into the reality, even though they are a bit dry about it sometimes.

A big part of writing is finding your own song. I'm not sure where I meant to go with this. I've just been watching my pseudonym write, trying to figure out how to play her song on a different instrument. I suspect that once I find that "note" that feels just right in a spy thriller, I'll be off and running.

I also suspect it will be one of those outside-the-norm books that will either fail immediately because it's completely different, or it will get a lucky break because it's completely different.

I like my fiction to be fiction, and the emotional story and core of the characters to be true. I like to create worlds. I like fiction that has to suspend disbelief.

As a joke, I sometimes refer to it as fictional fiction, or Fiction with a Capital F.

This puts me at odds with the norm of a spy thriller. I don't ache to be more realistic; I love to suspend disbelief. There's nothing I love more than an idea or story where I think, "Oh shit, can I pull this off? Can I make a reader believe this?"

I'm not really thinking about the spy thriller at the moment. I have two 40 - 50K novellas to write fast and an essay which requires me to re-read eighteen books.

But here I am. This story haunts me, but it won't let me write it yet. It just won't freaking let go. And yet I can't find it, either. Have you ever had a story like that?

And what about you: what sort of balance between fiction and realism do you prefer in the books you read? The books you write?

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Dead Series, Dead Tomatoes, Dead Spider. And TinyBuddha ...

First, Laurell K. Hamilton said it better than I did awhile back, about how TV shows and fictional characters can become your friends. This weekend I was stupid, and since I've discovered the free online episodes at the networks, I decided to check out Bionic Woman.

I got hooked on Bionic Woman. Not at ALL what I expected. LOVED it. Looked it up. CANCELLED!

*sigh*

Life is pretty strange at the moment.  Lots of stuff stressing me that I can't really talk about, but you know how when you can't talk about something you want to talk about it more?

Such is life.

I went out to tend my tomato plants, and my one plant with loads of green baby plum tomatoes on it has been picked. Not in a way an animal would do it, nor in a position where an animal could do it.

Long ago, I've resigned myself to the fact that everything in my house can and will be broken by a student, who will hide it from me. And sometimes even the parents break stuff and don't say anything.

And I'm usually pretty cool with that. Usually I don't care one slightest bit; I just consider it one of the costs.

But gosh, it would've been really nice if my tomatoes hadn't been broken. I sort of loved them.

I went out to see if they'd grown any like twice a day. Five times a day at first. I know that's silly.

And I killed a spider today. I totally didn't mean to but I felt really bad.

Gosh, I sound down. I'm not really. Today's a laundry and errand day. Not exactly fun, but it feels good to get those little things done.

Here's something chipper: If you Twitter, try following Tiny Buddha. Little Zen quotes to perk up your day, all day long!

How's your day/week going?

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