Tuesday, December 18, 2007

This Blog Is Now Closed

Not that anyone's surprised. I mean, I never bother to update it anyway, right?

But not to worry. (If you were worried, that is.) I'm not vanishing from the blogosphere altogether. Ink Johnson over at Ink and Words has graciously invited me to team up with her in the hopes that we can both learn this blogging thing together. Hopefully guilt-trip each other into updating, have actual content, that kind of thing. And maybe pool our resources for a giveaway someday. You know, eventually. ;)

So, please change your links to http://sisterstwiceremoved.blogspot.com/ if you had one to me. If you didn't, no big deal, right?


Merry Christmas, Fabulous Finals Season, and Happy Holidays to everyone.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Weird Politics (and This Day in History)

Loaded title, right? However, our day and age is not the first time when weird politics have been put into play.

In 1519, three powers were diplomatically warring it out in Europe: England, led by Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon; France, headed up by Francis I and (not nearly as much in influence as Catherine) Claude, Duchess of Brittany, noted for her religious piety and not much else; and the Holy Roman Empire, under the the young and inexperienced Charles V, which contained Burgundy, the Netherlands, and, at that time, huge swathes of Spain and Italy.

Anglo-Spanish relations had repeatedly risen and crumbled due, mostly, to betrayal by the former Spanish king, Ferdinand of Aragon, Catherine's father. However, when Ferdinand died, Henry of England realized that England was a precious commodity and her services could be quite efficiently sold to the highest bidder. Henry, aided and abetted by his Lord Chancellor and Cardinal Wolsey, went about forming conflicting alliances with Charles and Francis. A key point in the alliance between France and England was an actual face-to-face meeting between the kings. However, in a form very representative of the time, this repeatedly failed to happen.

After several postponements on both sides, the kings of England and France swore an oath, as was fashionable at the time, not to shave until they met.

Imagine Francis' surprise when he heard on November 9, 1519 (hence "this day in history"!) that Henry of England had cut off his beard.

This may well have been the beginning of what I think is nearly five hundred straight years of disagreement between France and England, and indeed Henry VIII did end up siding with Charles V (it didn't hurt that he was Catherine's niece by her sister Juana, known to history as Joanna the Mad - nice title), but the reason for the shave-off might have been entirely innocent, and is occasionally documented as such: Catherine convinced her husband to shave it off, as she simply hated beards.

Politics are, by definition, weird.

(Source 2, Source 3, Source 4. Because I, having been raised by engineers, believe in the power of documentation.)

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Gah, almost forgot.

Halloween costume!

This is an old(ish) picture (well...obviously - time stamp for the win!), because by the time I got ready to take my sister and her friend trick-or-treating, it was already a bit late, so no time for a photo op. I did walk the streets in this, though.

Got recognized once, too. Here's the primary screencap I worked from. Due to my dire inability to work with patterns, most of this was freehanded. My sewing machine - normally similar in temperament to a grouchy old man - and I developed an understanding on this costume. It was phenomenal.

Then the sewing machine died.

Sigh. That's life.

I love Halloween.

Aaaaaaaaand...we're off!

Yep. It's that time of year again. NaNoWriMo is upon is, and I'm happy to say I bagged my wordcount quota before lunch today.

(And let me just say I almost fell out of my chair when I finished tallying up the manual count and it came to 1687. Daaaaaaaaang. I have too much free time in the morning.)

I managed to balloon that out by 200 in the type-in, so I'm in decent standing for the first day (though my mom has me by 30 words. Hi, mom!).

Who else in the blogosphere is NaNoing? And how are you doing? Your story perking up at the whistle yet?

Best of luck to my fellow writing fiends, including those who are using the month for comics, manga, plays, and whatever other creative pursuits!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

When Writing What You Know Isn't A Great Idea

Ever had that chapter that just refused to be written?

For me, last week, it was chapter thirteen. (Most people would consider than an omen, but I'm a 13-baby - May 13th, oh yes - and as a result I did tend to have more luck with the number than most people.)

First I tried a time skip, then realized I needed to fill stuff in. Deletion of 1600 words. (Well, not quite deletion - I saved them separately - but still, it hurt.)

I pondered and wondered and mulled and pondered over where I could go next, and then it hit me: I could finally use that age-old technique of borrowing something almost completely from life.

At my church a couple months ago, we were sitting in the sanctuary, about three minutes before the evening sevice would begin. Almost everyone was already there. The youth group was in the choir loft, ready to sing.

Then a woman stormed in and called out her daughter's name. She counted down from five and, when said daughter did not appear, she said for the whole sanctuary to hear, "Alright, you're going to foster care."

Our ministers swooped in and tried to derail her, but by the time they made it down front she had launched into a tirade about how the youth group treated her son (who had just run through the sanctuary shouting "Go to Hell" at a different girl), how said different girl was the devil, on and on. She refused to leave until she'd finished her speech, and I think the cops were called in later. The girl she'd attacked and that girl's younger sister ran out of the choir loft in tears, and we somehow managed to have the service.

It was one of those things that left a weird taste with everyone who'd seen it. Perfect, I thought, for twisting, editing, and putting in a novel. (How's that for a cold, uncaring writer?) It would fit perfectly with my story, I thought, with its neon-sign themes of the disagreements between parents and children. So I wrote it up and left the computer for a break.

And ran into a massive block. Couldn't write another word. The character I'd introduced wasn't fitting, it had ruined the mood of the story, I just didn't like it. I think it's one of the first times as a writer that I've been able to trace a blah feeling in a story back to its source, and once I got rid of it, I was able to write again.

Have you ever had a writer's intuition be totally, utterly wrong? Bleh.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Tell the Story

As I'm sure most of you are aware, Madeleine L'Engle has left us.

She's left us a number of wonderful books.

We read A Wrinkle in Time in school in the seventh grade...maybe the sixth, but I'd already read it. That's one of the few books I can remember my mom actually reading with me; thereafter, I'd just take them and read them myself.

The middle school reread was a good chance to face things about the book that I hadn't understood as a younger child, face my "weird" feeling about it, a kind of prickly discomfort edging on scared, I think. "Weird" or not (and I think to this day that it certainly was), it was good. Better than good. It was great.

Mrs. L'Engle's thoughts on the writing process have been quoted elsewhere, but the gist of it is that the magic that happens in writing, its meaning, isn't intended.

I know that I, personally, tend to get caught up in making sure that what I'm writing has weight and depth, that it would tug at my heartstrings (or, in some cases, tear them out and stomp on the pieces) as a reader. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. But when it gets in the way of me actually sitting down to write, then yes.

The very first thing any writer must do is tell a story. Depth, weight, and meaning come later. What we read for, first and foremost, is a story.

So tell the story.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Themes, YA, and Random Con Ruminations

I don't even know if "ruminations" is a word right now; I'm fried enough to actually think I can write a decent blog post, so here goes.

I just got home from a weekend at Dragon*Con, one of the biggest sci-fi/fantasy/horror/kitchen sink conventions in at least the Western Hemisphere. It was so much fun, and I was really having some post-con depression earlier today, when, on the way home, we stopped at a Subway and I realized that I couldn't strike up a conversation with the person next to me in line nearly as easily. At the con, I once had a ten-minute discussion about dice with a nice lady while waiting for the elevator.

Oh my gosh, the elevator. There were eight of them in my hotel, and from 9:30 in the morning to 11:00 or so at night, they were jam-packed. That was the only place I ever really saw people get cranky. Most of the time, though, the elevators were just fun; there's a sense of comradery that comes from waiting twenty minutes for an elevator and then riding it up eight floors before you can go down to the lobby twenty-two floors down. You don't even worry about whether it's an "up" or "down" elevator. Rule 1 od Dragon*Con: An elevator with an open door is a good elevator.

(Rule 2: Extra space for you is always a plus.)

One particularly fun elevator ride was one in which I was the last person who could possibly fit (as one of the smaller people there, this happened fairly often), and this was on the lobby level. The elevator then proceeded to stop at every single floor. I think the lowest level any of us was going to was 18.

So, to dissuade people from trying to fit, we tried out a set of Elevator Evasionary Tactics (or EET for short. Incidentally, EETing was more common than eating, because between panels and trying to catch the elevator to your next panel, you did not have time.). These included crowding the door to make it look more full when it opened, simultaneously exhaling as the doors opened, and turning our backs to the door. Great fun, great people.

I went to a lot of the writer's track panels (mostly because I knew how to get to them - the con was spread across three hotels in downtown Atlanta, and these were not easy-to-navigate hotels as a rule) and listened in to a lot of great discussions, but I think I got the most about storytelling from the panel on the show Fullmetal Alchemist.

(I don't care if you're sick to death of me talking about it; I will keep talking about it until each and every one of you has watched it. There are a lot of mediocre shows, and quite a few good shows, but there are some shows that transcend, to quote the single panelist, Vic Mignogna, voice of the title character. You think he's just saying that because he worked on it? He's not giving panels on the other eighty shows he's done.)

A girl in a Final Fantasy costume right in front of me asked Vic if there was one question he kept hoping people would ask, and what was his answer to it. He responded that there was a question that had been asked some time before, "If you could sum up Fullmetal Alchemist in one word, what would it be?" He said that he'd asked the audience and got a lot of wonderful, relevant words - "family," "love," "power," "hope" - but then someone managed to hit it right on the head.


The whole premise of the show is that (to quote the opening) humankind cannot gain anything without first giving something in return. To obtain, something of equal value must be lost. ... In those days, we really believed that to be the world's one, and only, truth.

There's a certain element of power in any theme if it's used well (my other favorites are those of family and betrayal) but this has a different quality to it. It can send chills down anyone's spine. Everyone knows, however distantly, what sacrifice means. And as Vic said, it's sacrifice that separates the villains from the heroes. The heroes sacrifice themselves, in some way, to help others. The villains (quite literally, in this case) sacrifice others to help themselves.

That's powerful.

I'm currently suffering the misfortune of being stuck in a freshman Literature and Composition class, and we all know what Lit/Comp teachers are like: a theme is a message that the story tells you (or rams down your throat), a moral. Don't live above your means, always tell the truth, yadda yadda yadda. I'm sorry, but last time I checked, that was called a message. Or a moral. I'm interested; am I the only one that thinks that "theme" is something less cut-and-dried? You tell me.

As a last note (because I did mention it in the post title) I went to a panel this morning in the YA Lit track. The topic was Utopias and Dystopias, and the conversation was fantastic (as was the panel--Scott Westerfeld, for the win!), but one thing Scott said really stuck with me, and I think it's an important thing to think about for anyone writing YA.

"It's one of the functions of parents to make sure their kids don't end up in a YA novel."

We'd begun discussing how the removal of children from their parents is one of the hallmarks (or at least creation factors) of a utopian/dystopian society. When you think about it, though, it holds true for most YA; there has to be a mechanism for getting parents out of the way so that the kids can go on their adventures. Something to keep in mind.

I'll be back with pictures as soon as I sift through the 84 I took for the good ones - though my entire family was there, the camera case ended up being my purse for the weekend. Just enough room for camera, keys, and money. Perfect.

I really need some sleep. Or caffeine. I'm not picky.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Church Girl (or Grrrl) Reflections

Yesterday I found Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature by Robin Brande at my bookstore and snapped it up in a heartbeat. I read it in less than three hours.

At its core, it's a book about a church girl, Mena, trying to find her way around in a world of different values and beliefs without losing her faith. It's about finding a balance between science and God, and it's about the stunning hypocrisy in the church today. I can identify with Mena on a lot of levels, but that last was the big one. I've seen it: the girls who wear too-small Christian T-shirts and use them to justify acting like the Wicked Witch of the South. The cliques that form, the ostracization that can happen, the startling lack of forgiveness (which is what it should be all about).

Robin Brande writes in a voice that is fresh, real, and honest. Her characters are vivid, if not always likable, and she knows her way around a high school. And, most important to me, though there are some truly nasty Christian characters running around, the issue of faith--not overrestrictive faith, but faith--is treated with respect. That, in today's market, is brave. Thank you for your bravery, Robin.

Be on the lookout for this book. I think it's going places.

Robin, let's do lunch. Sometime. Somehow.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Calling All Seamstresses

And seamstr...ers? Tailors? Whatever.

So, as any anime fans in the audience know, the convention season is upon us. As any school types could tell you, Spirit Week (and its assorted opportunities for dressing up) is on the horizon as well. And, obviously, Halloween is right around the corner. Which means it's costuming time!

I couldn't explain why--I sure don't know--but lately I've been extremely into sewing. And I've gotten fairly good at it. Good enough to feel confident in helping out friends of mine with their costumes.

But there are some things I just don't know how to do yet. Like ruffles. Normally this wouldn't be an issue, but one of my friends has decided to dress up as Rose from the show Fullmetal Alchemist for Character Day at our school. I love this idea, because I'm going to be Dante and that's one of the creepiest character dynamics in the show, so it'll be a blast...but the only costumes of Rose's that are in dress code are this one and this one. Ruffles galore.

Does anyone here have any tips for sewing ruffles, poofy sleeves and skirts, that sort of thing? Any good sources for such? Websites, book titles? I'd really love to pull this off for my friend (not to mention, my costume has some minor ruffling as well).

Anything you have would be appreciated!

Now I just have to finish my Ty Lee costume for Dragon*Con...

(Am I procrastinating on writing? Yes. Yes I am.)

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Not Quite as Much Sludge

Thanks to several hours of reading from The New Writer's Handbook and pondering the conflicts of my story, my enthusiasm for the project has been rekindled and I'm pretty sure I know where I'm going. No word yet on whether I can actually pull a couple of the things off, but it's looking better. That's the good part.

The bad part is that I can think of four five scenes that I can keep. Mostly. But as two of those are my favorite scenes in the whole book (that should have been a sign) I don't mind too much.

And one of my favorite characters (who, really, was never all that important - I just liked him and wanted him to be - rookie mistake!) is getting the boot. Poor guy'll be lucky to get a cameo now. But that's as it should be.

I'm going in. (My outline is taking place in Excel this time around. Sticky notes are too easy to lose.)

Wish me luck.

Friday, August 3, 2007


Status on the WiP:

Wordcount: 63,000 (3k of that out of sequence)
Plot threads existing: roughly 3...ish...maybe closer to 4-ish.
Plot threads tied up: None
Plot threads existing that I know how to tie up: 1...maybe...

In short: not doing so well.

I still love the idea for this story. The themes I decided to work with. The first chapter. Unfortunately, those things have become totally unconnected with the story as it stands in my mind and, I'm beginning to suspect, as it stands on paper. On the screen. Whatever.

Is it unusual to start losing faith in myself as a writer at this stage of the game? Because I feel like I've somehow abandoned the story I wanted to tell, and I really have no clue how to go back to it; I set up several incredibly ambitious situations, and when it comes time for the great reveal, I have no idea how I'll pull it off. I'm beginning to think, maybe, that I might be able to write the story I want to tell here in a few more years, after a little more experience--but right now, it's looking rather slim.

I'm going to finish this draft and see what I can do, for a number of reasons: maybe it'll look better as a whole on paper, maybe I'll be able to see more clearly what needs to be done...that, and (I say this with total confidence) if I don't, after abandoning another project (which, in all fairness, already hadn't worked once) to write this one, my mother will kill me.

Have any of you been there? How did you deal with it?

Friday, July 27, 2007

What NOT To Do

I forget where I first saw this, but I just found it again and wanted to share. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Obligatory Deathly Hallows Post

Well, I finished it. I got it from my mom at 8 PM Monday and finished at 1:25 PM Tuesday. (Yes, I did fit eight hours of sleep in there.) I'll be following the (Yay) Spoiler Free mandate, but let me just say, it was amazing. J.K. Rowling really outdid herself. A fitting end to a phenomenon, I think.

That, and it apparently switched on my writer's brain, because I pulled a chapter more or less out of a hat yesterday on my own work-in-progress. It's almost five thousand words and it doesn't make me want to die when I read it, so I'm calling it a success.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Dear ABC: Die, please and thanks.

(Spoiler warning for the season finale of Traveler. I know most people have either seen it or don't care, but it wouldn't be fair to not stick this in.)
Okay, I don't know if anyone but me followed Traveler with an obsession that bordered on scary fangirlism, but if you've seen it, hopefully you agree that it was a fantastic show. The premise is that two guys are framed for a terrorist bombing by their housemate, Will Traveler. Through the eight--just eight--episodes, the two mains, Tyler and Jay, have run all across New England, visiting Tyler's father, evading a number of people (including FBI) who have tried to kill them, and looking for evidence that Will Traveler was really behind it--and, for that matter, exists at all.

The conspiracy behind the bombing runs incredibly deep. Higher-ups in the government are involved. Only one FBI agent, Jan Marlow, seems interested in discovering the truth, and her boss is getting angrier and angrier with her all the time.

Fast forward to the last episode. Kim, Jay's girlfriend, is in FBI custody; Will has met up with Tyler and Jay, helped them out of a tight spot, and kind of gotten them to trust him. We know the head of Homeland Security, Freed, was in on the bombing, that he actually ordered it; we know there are several dangerous members of the gang behind it are on the loose, not the least of whom is Will, but at least he's not interested in terrorism anymore.

This is the last episode. As far as we know, there won't be a season two. This is it.

It ends with Kim in immediate danger, Marlow having just found out her boss ordered her murder, and Will, Tyler, and Jay getting ready to turn in Freed so that they can get their lives back, because they're dangerous fugitives that no one's too fussed about keeping alive.

Freed makes one last plea: set me free and you find out the truth about everything, he says. Make that phone call and the truth stays with me.

They look at each other, tempted, but eventually get out of the car and cross the street for the pay phone.

At which point Freed blows up the car, with him in it. The leads' only chance at a clean record, totally obliterated.

What kind of crap ending is that?!

I hate cliffhangers. Hate them. They're not quite Devices Moste Foul when I know there's a second (or, more commonly, third) book coming, but I still resent the author for pulling them on me. I hated having to read The Lady and the Tiger, and I knew it was coming. In this case, when the series was too short anyway and I was already going to have issues with it ending, when there's no next episode, no next season in sight...I'm sorry, but that's just cheap. Seriously, what does that accomplish? Would someone care to enlighten me on this? What is it? Shock value? Artsy "open-endedness"?

GAH. I want closure!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Back from Down Under

There'll be pictures as soon as I get them--I went without a digital camera and have to wait for mine to be developed, and maybe to beg some off of my fellow travelers. However, in the interest of battling the boredom that seems to settle in around this time of the year, here's an offering of bloopers, graciously lent to me by my good friend Isi over at The Spork Room and which are her intellectual property, etc., though she's more than happy to aid in the cause of spreading hilarity throughout the Wizarding community...I mean, blogosphere. (You know exactly where my mind is at the moment, right?)

So, without further ado, some of the nicest writing mistakes I've seen in quite awhile and their accompanying comments, courtesy of Isi's 2006 NaNo (which should explain a lot). Brought to you by the Foundation for Even if There's Not Somebody Worse Than You, Sometimes It Sure Looks Like It (also known as The Spork Room, come to think of it).

Yes, let us digress to things that may not become important for a number of chapters more. It begins in a different place, and quite a different time. In the past, elsewhere.

Redundant much?

"I appologize for this intrusion, dear lady," he told her. "But I have come to tell you the unfortunate news that you are nothing more than a plot device."

At least he's honest.

Isn't it fun that I'm using really short simple sentences?! The madness!

This book is full of authorial interruptions like that.

He (or she) fought off the immortal mob. It was quite epic, but my writing is not so I can't go into details at the moment.

Yep. Authorial interruptions.

"Do you understand what I say?"
"I understand that you're probably trying to sell me something."

Why does that sound like I stole it from the Princess Bride?

But this is sounding too much like Harry Potter. It is not supposed to be like Harry Potter. Let's see... let's brainstorm ways to make it less like Harry Potter sounding... darn, can't think of anything.

And I still don't know how to fix the resemblance to Harry Potter. ;_;
(I think we've all been there. Especially me. Especially lately. -M)

She tried it again, pushing with one hand and pulling with the other in a clockwise motion, which actually means anti-clockwise to you earth audience, because clocks in this world go in the opposite direction as clocks on earth. Just a random fun fact on the world building.

How would you specify that their clocks go counterclockwise anyway?

Yeah, none of this makes sense to me either, but moving on...

Yes, that is narration.

They were still a ways off, so she continued walking towards them, and this was a complete waste of a sentence. Anything for word count.

No comment.

"Have I told you how awesomely random I thought it was that you were breaking into the calendar mechanics?" he said, sounding suspiciously American.

My characters have a problem with using modern slang when they're not supposed to.

I'd just like to share that I have little idea where I'm going with this. Thank you.

Fourth wall? Where? I don't see anything.

That's the general way of wizards and sorcerers and mancers and alchemists and witches and hedgewizards and magi and the like.

Polysyndeton rules! Can you tell I was behind on my wordcount?
(M: I feel I must interrupt here, as this isn't even quite as bad as one I slipped into my first NaNo in 2005:

...country, area, territory, region, kingdom, nation, empire, or any of assorted other obscure but soldier-ridden landmasses or seas...)

He waited, biding his time in wait, waiting for the right moment to strike.

And then he waited some more!

He swooped in, pricked him with a nifty ninja needle type thing, which is the equivalent of knocking him over the head with less brain damage.

What. The. Spork?

The random large massive object of the reader's choice had not meant to contact anyone's windows when it joyously flew in the air from Fletcher's merry trebuchet, but of course it was a mistake that couldn't be remedied.

That may be the best line ever. Proud member of the Trebuchet Club!

Finishing with what I think is my favorite out of the bunch (though "nifty ninja needle type thing" comes close):
Well, he got shot with anachronism since we don't have guns.
And in icon form, courtesy of Ink Johnson:

Well, hope y'all enjoyed some of those. Kind of puts it in perspective, yes? Isi's a really good writer, but sometimes time pressures and ungodly amounts of caffeine can have devastating effects.

So, can you remember any hilarious bloopers you've made in your rush to get words written?

And, to touch on an earlier comment of mine, what are your plans for the Harry Potter Book 7 release night?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Blog Goes Dark

Out to Australia. Back July 11th (and very jetlagged, I'm sure). With pictures. Lots of pictures.

Have a great three weeks, everybody!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Ah, the Joys of Travel

Yep, I'll be heading off-continent at the end of this week, never to be heard from again not to be heard from for the next three weeks, and I'm taking plenty of fresh paperback reading material for the flight. Newest at the top:

Tithe, by Holly Black - I've been looking for this book for months now, and all my bookstore ever had was Valiant and Ironside. Finally, success! I tracked it down on my weekly bookstore run today. I've heard really good things about this author and series, so I've wanted to read it for awhile.

A Countess Below Stairs, by Eva Ibbotson - stumbled across it at the bookstore last weekend. I love the author, though she's written for younger readers in the past; I'm interested to see how her style holds up here.

The Cry of the Icemark, by Stuart Hill - bought it at a bookfair some three months ago. Haven't gotten around to reading it yet.

That should keep me through a transpacific flight, shouldn't it?

Thursday, June 14, 2007


What can I say? I like to call attention to people. It's good practice for not calling too much attention to myself.

Ink Johnson, an astoundingly talented writer and one of the best friends anyone could hope for, has finally started a blog. And she'll probably have more interesting stuff to say than I do, all things considered. She has a bright future ahead of her, I assure you. (And as a critique partner, she's helping me with mine!)

So...go over and check her out. Please.


Happy Thursday.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Repeat Reading and Autobuys

First off, a huge Congratulations! for the winners, 20-Hour club members, and other finishers and participants of Mother Reader's 48-Hour Book Challenge is in order. I love it when people come together to do literary things.

During this weekend, when I was looking over my shelves for stuff I could read as I couldn't get to the library, I noticed a few interesting things about my bookshelf.

Oh no, you're thinking. Here she goes about that bookshelf again.

Well, yes. But I noticed there are three distinct categories of author represented there. What I tentatively call my single-title authors, repeat authors, and autobuys.

Does single-title here mean they've only published one book? Not necessarily. It just means that only one book caught my attention. This is the case with Susan Fletcher's Shadow Spinner, an interesting take on Scheherazade (though she tamed the spelling to Shahrazad for younger readers), and Meg Cabot's All American Girl, which I bought in an airport and loved, but haven't gotten around to getting the sequel yet. (And I think a friend of mine still has my copy, though she insists that she doesn't.) I haven't figured out exactly why these cases happen. Something to do with my eclectic tastes, I guess. Does anyone else see this happening to them? Any particular reasoning for it?

Repeat authors are those authors that I've bought two or more books from, or maybe all of a single series, but have stopped short of buying everything with their name attached. Examples would be Scott Westerfeld and his Uglies trilogy, which I think are the creepiest and coolest futuristic books I've ever read, and Jonathan Stroud's Bartimaeus Trilogy, which I've seen described as a "pessimistic vision of Harry Potter's magic released in the world," which doesn't do it justice in the least. I love those books so much I'll probably be giving away a set around October. Come to that, I'll probably be giving away a set of Uglies and the rest, too. Have a big trilogy-pimp giveaway.

(In all fairness, Scott Westerfeld's well on his way to being an autobuy for me, but with my sad lack of book funds at the moment, I'm just not there yet. And I'm waiting to see if Jonathan Stroud comes out with anything new, because the Bartimaeus books are an incredibly hard act to follow.)

And the last, the autobuys, are fairly obvious. If it has their name on it, I want it. Doesn't matter if it's subject matter I've never thought of as "me", sci-fi, historical, outright weird, whatever. I want it and I will buy it. Sometimes even in hardcover.

At the moment I have one true autobuy, one borderline, and two authors where buying the next in the series amounts to autobuying. The true one is Eoin Colfer (the Artemis Fowl books, Half-Moon Investigations, The Supernaturalist, The Wish List). I realized how in love with his voice and style I was when I picked up a new book by him off the shelf, read the first page, and bought it, despite its being in hardcover and the first person (which I can stand but don't exactly seek out). He's hilarious. It makes for fun reading. But he's not afraid to tug your heartstrings either.

Borderline would be Garth Nix (the Abhorsen Trilogy, the Keys to the Kingdom, the Seventh Tower) as there are several standalones (The Ragwitch and Shade's Children) that I haven't gotten my hands on yet, and I haven't bought his newest, Lady Friday, in hardcover, despite the nasty cliffhanger at the end of Sir Thursday. I've gotten used to nasty cliffhangers from this guy. I love his writing, but he's very different from Eoin Colfer. The Abhorsen Trilogy in particular is distinctly...dark. There's no other way to put it. The stuff is dark. That's why it's one of my top-three favorite trilogies of all time. (By now, I'm sure you can guess the others.) He does have quite a bit of humor in his writing, but it's pretty black.

My two one-series wonders are D.J. MacHale (Pendragon) and, of course, J.K. Rowling. I will go out and buy their newest books in hardcover on the day of release, but I'm hoping that once those series are done, they'll come back with more.

So. Big question after a big post: What makes an autobuy for you? What keeps you coming back to an author over and over? What can make you stop short of full-on fangirling (or fanboying, as the case may be) but still keep you with an author within one series or subgenre? What can keep you from buying any more of an author's books, even if you loved the first one?

On a mostly-unrelated note, Diana Peterfreund is volunteering a lot of really good basic knowledge for anyone in the publishing industry - part one and part two. Be sure to check it out!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

This Would Be Review #2

...but the second book I read was Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, so I think everyone who might read this is pretty familiar with it.

So I'll make this my final wrap-up/summary post instead.

48-hour period: 7 A.M. Friday to 7 A.M. Sunday
Hours spent reading/reviewing: Approximately 18
Books read: 2
Pages read: 1134

All in all, not groundbreaking, but not too shabby, either.

Good luck to those of you who are still going, and a tip of the hat to Mother Reader for arranging everything. This was fun.

Well, actually, it was more than fun. It was a kick in the pants for reading the likes of which I haven't seen in a long time. Most of the timed challenges I do are for writing - NaNoWriMo and the minichallenges involved in that, like 10-minute Word Wars and 10k Black Friday - but I think it's so, so important to remember to read other people's work once in awhile, keep the image of good storytelling fresh in your mind.

An afterthought, some hours later: Is it fair of me to be thoroughly embarrassed by what was apparently a lackluster performance? Oi. To all the 2k- and 3k-pagers, I salute you. Seriously.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Review #1

Well, eight hours into the day (sadly, only four of those were reading hours), and I've finished my first book of the challenge.

Title: Sir Thursday
Author: Garth Nix
Length: 344 pages

Sir Thursday is the fourth book in the sequence called The Keys to the Kingdom, in which Arthur Penhaligon, an asthmatic poster boy for "in the wrong place at the wrong time," has been anointed the Rightful Heir of, well, everything. In the past three books, he's faced down Mister Monday, Grim Tuesday, and Drowned Wednesday with assorted helpers who pop in and out at random, with the exceptions of Suzy Turqoise Blue, a.k.a. Monday's Tierce (the hour midway between Dawn and Noon. Knew that? I didn't.), and Dame Primus, who is the embodiment of the Will of the Architect of All, along with an assortment of officials known as Dawns, Noons, and Dusks. It's a shame that such beautiful, powerful Denizens of the House that is the epicenter of the universe are usually trying to kill him. Throughout these battles, poor Arthur has amassed the titles of Master of the Lower House, Lord of the Far Reaches, and Duke of the Border Sea, and the Mastery of Three of the Seven Keys to the Kingdom.

Despite using far more than its allotment of capital letters and inherent surrealism at most parts, I have enjoyed this series, and Sir Thursday was especially clever in its use of otherworldly military tactics on a very interesting battlefield. Sir Thursday's command is known as the Great Maze, a massive grid of square-mile tiles, a thousand miles to a side. Besides the handfull of fixed locations, these tiles move to new positions every night at sunset as preappointed by Sir Thursday himself. Don't get stuck on the borders at sunset. For those of you familiar with the Harry Potter universe, think severely botched Apparition. For everyone else, the phrase "death by dismemberment" should suffice. It's also very good for splitting up large companies of enemies, which is exactly the use it's been put to.

And while Arthur has been pushed, prodded, and pulled by the hair into the midst of battle (somehow the poor kid managed to get himself drafted into the Glorious Army of the Architect, commanded by Sir Thursday and based in the Great Maze), back on Earth, his friend Leaf has something else to contend with entirely - a form of House-specific monster, called Nithlings, masquerading as Arthur and spreading a mold to everyone around him that, when fully formed, transforms the host into a total puppet under the Nithling's command. Now, Leaf's popped up a few times on Monday and Tuesday and had a very large part in Drowned Wednesday, when she decided she wanted the adventures Arthur was having and followed him into a pretty nasty situation involving pirates, slaves, and extremely hungry Leviathans. She's been thoroughly cured of her need for adventure by this point, but now she's actually needed. Her job is to make sure that the puppet-master Nithling is stopped. Fun, huh?

These books are particularly interesting when you can see hints of the author's earlier work. In this case, the style with which the military scenes are executed is highly reminiscent of Garth Nix's series for slightly older readers, The Old Kingdom Trilogy or The Abhorsen Trilogy (I'm not sure if either of those names is official, but I've seen it called both), composed of Sabriel, Lirael, and Abhorsen. In these books, a huge wall of stone and magic keeps a strict divide between magical and nonmagical realms coexisting in the same world, and instead of the standard fantasy attitude, which would be to leave it wide open with only menacing rumors to ward off intruders so that some plucky schoolboy hero could climb over it and into adventure, a military zone called the Perimeter has been established and strictly enforced. (Trespassers will be shot without warning.) There are similar situations scattered throughout Sir Thursday, and they were written in a forward-motion, making-light style that held a comfortable familiarity for me as a repeat reader.

So, my overall impression of the book was a good one. (For what it's worth, I'm still partial to The Abhorsen Trilogy. What can I say? I liked apocalyptic fantasy.)

I know that I need to work on my reviewing style. Trying to balance informative with unspoilery is, um, difficult. I hope that was at least mildly interesting, though.

Now a short break, and on to my next book, an old favorite that I'm rereading in preparation for certain releases in July. Care to take a guess? ;)

Let the games begin!

Yep, that's right. I'm one of them crazy early birds, starting Mother Reader's 48-Hour Book Challenge at 7 A.M. on the dot. For the next to days, this blog will be thoroughly usurped by a number of book reviews/reader responses/whatever I can be bothered to write on each book I read. Or, put another way: actual content! GASP!

Good luck to everyone taking the challenge, and a good weekend to everyone regardless.

As of right now...I have forty minutes left. So I'm going back to bed.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Last Warning--Err, Reminder

Just in case you haven't seen it already, Mother Reader's 48-Hour Book Challenge starts tomorrow at 7:00 AM sharp! (Well, for me it does. For everyone else it can start any time between then and 7:00 AM sharp on Saturday, if they're putting in the whole 48 hours.)

Here's the official sign-up post, and here's the most recent reading of the rules.

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Yo-Ho, Haul Together

Why the distinctly pirate-like title? Because I'm reading Drowned Wednesday, of course!

Okay, you know how in the post before last I mentioned that I was going to do a full-blown NaNo before June 22, when I leave for three weeks in Australia? Now, post-surgery, that's looking mightily...stupid. I'm going to work my sore little mouth off to get another 25k at absolute minimum, though. I want to get into the last third of this thing before I have to all but abandon it for three weeks. Ever get the feeling that if you drop a project it might not be there when you get back?

However, Mother Reader has posted a challenge that I can't refuse. Read books and review them on the blog for fourty-eight hours straight? For possible nifty prizes? I'm in! And with over fifty people already signed up, it's sure to be quite the energetic weekend. You'll be able to feel the reading energy swirling around in the cosmos. Personally, I'll be rereading the Harry Potter books in preparation for July's big premiers for most of that.

If you haven't signed on to Mother Reader's 48-Hour Book Challenge, and you have nothing to do this weekend, you should take a look.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Eight Things Meme

I mentioned Thursday that I'd been tagged by Robin Brande for a meme. The rules are:

Each player lists 8 facts/habits about themselves. The rules of the game are posted at the beginning before those facts/habits are listed. At the end of the post, the player then tags 8 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know that they have been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

I'll be cheating slightly, because I seriously don't know eight bloggers who haven't already been tagged. This meme's been around the block and back again.

With that in mind, here are my eight (kind of strange and highly eclectic) things:

1. I have a serious problem with balloons, specifically popping balloons. I'm not too fond of airbags either and avoid them whenever I can, though I'll really need to get over that eventually. I didn't have any kind of traumatic childhood experience with balloons or airbags; I just can't stand to be around them. Dropping a balloon in front of me disrupts my focus as long as it's there.

2. Similarly, I can't fully function in a room with an open door. Again, no traumatic experience involving open doors; I just hate them. The smaller the room is, the worse it gets. Related to this is my discomfort in sitting with my back to a door in a restaurant. I'm starting to think I might have a paranoid personality. =)

3. Strictly speaking, I'm not allergic to anything, but I have worse allergies than probably 80% of the world anyway, thanks to where I live. In most cases a high pollen count is in the 80s. We're routinely in the 1500s.

4. The earliest book I owned that's still on my shelf is The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis, the 1994 HarperCollins printing. I also have the 1995 first Scholastic printing as part of a box set I bought, but I kept the first copy too because the cover's cooler. That's the only book that I currently own two copies of.

5. The Chronicles of Narnia caused a bit of a stir with my least favorite teacher from elementary school, the one from second-grade. Once I'd received the box set, I'd started bringing them to school and reading them really quickly, and one day at the beginning of Self-Selected Reading time, my teacher pulled me aside and said, "Miri, I know you like to look at the pictures, but you really need to go find books you can read." The next week I took all seven Accellerated Reader tests and made 100% on each one. She didn't like me too much after that.

6. To the best of my knowledge, the fastest I've ever read a book of substantial length was Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in eight hours. Suffice it to say there was nothing else to do.

7. My idea of a perfect vacation includes either a huge mall or a quiet beach. Eclectic, right? The only common denominator is books. Either I'll be reading a book on the beach or browsing a mall bookstore. Relatedly, I went to this Beta Club convention in middle school, and instead of eating at the venue, everyone was bussed over to the huge mall nearby. They let us loose in the mall, the only conditions being that we get something to eat and stay in groups of four or more. While most groups went to the trendy stores like American Eagle and Hollister, my group spent an incredibly pleasant hour and a half reading manga in the bookstore. I'd already watched all fifty-one episodes of the anime Fullmetal Alchemist, but after being stared at by the first volume of the manga for an hour as I started reading something else, I finally caved and bought it. I now own all twelve of them currently released in English.

8. I'm partial to Joe Muggs (the Books-A-Million cafe) for frozen coffee drinks, but for straight-up coffee, Burger King takes the cake. Why? No idea. But it's good coffee.

This is where I would tag people, but as I mentioned before, I really don't know anyone who hasn't been tagged yet. If you're reading this and haven't done it yet, consider yourself tagged.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

May is almost over.

Wow, that was fast.

This is a problem/interesting thing for me in more ways than you might think. I may have mentioned before that on May 1st, I officially dropped The Story That Wouldn't Work and switched to something that's been going strong ever since.

Not strong enough, apparrently. I'm just tapping 30,000 words (that's seven and a half chapters, as I write them). I need - really NEED - to have this thing finished by June 22nd.

That means doing the equivalent of a NaNo.

In 22 days.

Which just happens to be my record.

Fun stuff, huh?

The good thing is that in as of Saturday, my daytime schedule abruptly clears up. The bad thing is that my daytime schedule abruptly clears up, and I have to actually write during it, not sleep in or play endless rounds of Mah Jonng.

In short, motivation.


Like I've said, I've done it before. And tomorrow is the first of June, so I can get myself psyched up tonight. But it'll be different from NaNos past. I'm already a third of the way into the book. The second third is generally the hardest. Once I push through that...it won't be easy, but it'll look more doable to me. Helping me here is that I really love the story and I think it's the one I should be writing. Hurting me is that, well, I'm bad at keeping myself motivated. But to quote Erica, "If I want to be a professional writer, I have to act like one."

So. 2273 words a day.

For the next three weeks.

I'm game. No, better than that. I'll eat it for breakfast.

Well, no, I won't. Not until my mouth heals up. I'm getting my wisdom teeth out on Monday.

But still.

What are your plans for June? Do they include craziness like this? Would anyone like to join me in my demented mini-NaNo?

Also, I've been tagged by Robin to either list 8 odd things about myself that y'all don't know, or list four things that were new to me in the last four years and four things that I want to experience in the next four years. I think I might go for the 8 odd things. I have a lot of them. I'll try and post that tomorrow or Saturday.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

At a Total Blogging Loss

Yep. I have no clue what to say.

So time to go to an old standby: books!

Awhile ago I started a mini-meme on the anatomy of a bookcase. Well, that took off as a picture meme instead, which is awesome! So, a bit late, here's a picture of my lovely bookcase:

Now then. A serious question.

What are you interested in getting from this blog? I feel like I should update more, but I rarely have anything I feel would be worthwhile to say, and I think I'm getting to where I have enough readers for this to potentially be a problem. So, shout it out. What do you think I should blog about? Life? Writing? Specific eras of history? (I'm always up to a research project, as long as I don't have to write up a double-spaced formal report on it. -shudder-)

If you recognize any of your favorites on my bookcase, please mention it! I love talking books.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Today is a sad day.

Miss Snark, literary agent and one of the most astounding and clever industry folks on the Web, is retiring from her blog.

She'll be missed.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The First Deadly Sin of Writing

(Because I'm on a seven deadly sins roll lately. Blame Fullmetal Alchemist.)

But anyway. When you read the post title, what came to mind? Besides plagiarism, I mean.

I bet was something about stopping before you were finished.

As someone who started roughly 200 stories before my first NaNoWriMo in 2005, three of which made it past page 9, I know what it's like to not be able to finish something. Most of those weren't thought out at all; I just sat down and wrote until I ran out of words (which happened quite quickly), and I really didn't think anything of it. If I ever knew what to write next, it would still be there, because I never, ever, ever delete anything. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I'm an unrepentant packrat.

Since NaNo '05, when I first found out I really could finish something, and quickly (the first thing I ever finished was a fanfic, but we don't speak of it), I've been trying harder than ever to actually stick with stories until they're done. I haven't had a whole lot of success, but I've actually been trying.

Well, just before NaNo '06, the plot I'd had since January got, for lack of a better word, usurped by a new idea. It seemed interesting and fun to write, so I went with it.

When I was consistently dragging myself to the computer just to get the minimum of daily wordcount for the first week, I excused it as NaNo's sophomore curse. Stupid of me, I can see now. But I kept going.

I finished out the month with flying colors--71,004 words, with two days of more than 11k apiece. But I still couldn't finish the thing. I took a hard look at it and realized that my MC had no personality, and I set out writing it from a different, more involved character's perspective.

Forty-five thousand words later, I looked at the computer screen and thought, I can't do this anymore.

That night (April 28th) I couldn't sleep. I had too much bouncing around my head. Eventually (this was around 12:30, so technically April 29th), I pulled out a pad of sticky notes and wrote plot points out on them in the glow of my clock.

The next morning, I had the skeleton of a story I started a year ago and loved, all ready to go.

I took the next two days to really think about what I wanted to do, and on May 1st, I made the official switch. I'm 23,000 words into it and loving it still. I really think I can finish this one. In fact, I know I will. More than I've known that for anything before. Seriously.

So, there's my confession. I would feel guilt for committing the first deadly sin of writing...except that this story had gotten to the point where it was a writerly sin to keep writing it. I hated it that much.

Questions (because I am a nosy soul): Have you ever just flat-out refused to write another word on a certain story or project? How many stories did you start before you finished one? If this isn't your first deadly sin of writing, what is?

Also, thank you for the Mother's Day and birthday wishes.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day!

Hope y'all treated your moms right today, in your thoughts if there's nothing else available to you.

I've fallen off the face of the blogosphere for a while now, haven't I? Not much to say, I guess.

Also, today's my birthday (it was kind of neat, having a birthday on Mother's Day this year. Appropriate, yes?). If anyone would like to guess which one, I'd be interested to read...and if anyone guesses right, I'll gladly confirm it. (Robin, you don't get to say until and if it becomes apparent that no one else is even close. Sorry.)

So. What did everyone do for their moms today? I like to think I was very classic: big box of chocolate and treated to a frappe from Joe Mugg's in the Books-a-Million (they're better than Starbucks. Yes, really).

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Sunday Reflections

This morning my pastor preached his third or fourth message in the sermon series he's on right now, about living above our circumstances. This morning's message was about staying strong by focusing on the future, letting go of the past, and letting God and his grace take care of the rest.

I think it's a good message for everybody. Heaven knows there are things in my past that I think about and cringe, comments I really shouldn't have made that soured friendships until the friendships didn't exist anymore...feeling like I had to apologize for everything I said to my friends, starting every phone call with, "I'm so sorry to bother you..." Not letting myself be who I am, in a nutshell. Trying to conform to everyone else's ideals of what Miri should be, and getting anxious and disheartened when they figured out that they didn't like, that either.

I'm ready to let go of all that, I think. From here on out, I want to be me, the best me that I possibly can. Do you want to be you? Is there anything stopping you from doing that? Are you stopping yourself?

See, I like thinking about things like this, even though it's uncomfortable to go back through all the junk that you've been holding onto. It's the writer in me, I think: these are strong themes to work with for a character, too. I've had a lot of good themes for characters come in lately, though I'm so far into my WiP that I won't be able to use as many as I'd like...the desire to be remembered, for instance, or to have a true purpose. Between the song "Dante's Prayer" by Loreena McKennitt and a comic I read about one of my favorite television characters, Jet, called Fighting with Purpose, last night was very thoughtful for me. Might as well link to the comic, though you'll have to click on the big dark block to see it. If you're familiar with the show, so much the better, but I do think it'll stand on its own. (Just before the scene pictured, he said, "I'll be okay," and another character said with absolute certainty, "He's lying." Talk about powerful moments. That episode's been nominated for more awards than I can remember, so other people apparently feel the same.)

As for the song, there's a very nice video to it on Youtube set to clips of Legolas from Lord of the Rings (though I don't think I've actually watched the whole video...I just have it playing in the background as I'm reading other things). It starts off slow, but wait for the piano intro about a minute in. Guaranteed to put you in a pensive mood. It's absolutely beautiful.

Hmm...I had a point in there, somewhere, I think, but I seem to have lost it.

Happy Sunday.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Writing, Visualization, and Music Stuck in the Mind

Firstly, I would like to announce that I've finally hit 45,000 words.

I want 50,000. Now.

Well, not now, but soon. I intend to have it by Monday night at the latest. Nothing like a last hurrah for April. And then...May. And June. And July...but I really do want to have the thing done by May 31st. It's already almost a month past its due date. When I started the file on January 1st, I put a little note under the title: "I will finish this by March 31st." And I haven't changed it yet, because I feel like I need that little reminder, that little "...whoops. Dropped the ball on that one."

I think, though, that when I hit 50,000, I'll be able to change the March to May. Weird how things like this work. 50k is a bit of a magic number for me, though, with my NaNoWriMo "training." And it'll definitely be past the halfway mark, because the chances of this thing surpassing 100k are absolutely miniscule, and do you know why? Because I won't let it. And because I don't think there's enough content to carry it that far.

But on to other things. I was working on Friday morning, on something that required at least a little bit of concentration. I was going just fine until the song "Court of Miracles" popped into my head and would not leave. Now, I love "Court of Miracles." It's quite possibly the neatest, darkest song in any classic Disney movie (Hunchback of Notre Dame, for the curious) and it's definitely the darkest I can remember, but it's also got such a lively spirit to it...it's odd, but I love it.

So I had accepted the fact that it wasn't leaving and was going back to my task, but soon I realized that I was reading the same paragraph ten or twelve times without taking in a word of it, because I was too busy listening to the music in my head.

I tried replacing it with other things (a succession of Japanese songs and eventually "Savages" from Pocahontas), things that I've worked around before, but nothing would depose it. This song was completely in control of my brain.

I was pretty desperate to get it out at this point, so I visualized a CD player and mentally hit the stop button.

The really weird part? It worked.

Have you ever had a specific song running through your head? How do you get rid of it? Have you ever resorted to forced visualization in a situation like this? Are any of you quite as crazy as I am?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Raising Questions without Answers

Tomorrow, a few people in my community (as well as others all over the nation) are wearing maroon and orange, VA Tech's colors, to show support for the school and to mourn the victims.

I'll be one of them.

My school days are very fresh in my mind. Unpleasant as they occasionally were, I never experienced anything that even pretended to approach such an appalling tragedy. What is wrong with this world we live in, where a college kid can go to school and shoot upwards of thirty people...faculty, students, it didn't matter.

And yet...I have to wonder what the gunman was feeling. Obviously he was in dire need of mental health services, but past that, he must have been hurting. Crazy as he was, crazy as any school shooter is, they don't do things like that unless they're hurting. Who was hurting him? A girlfriend? A family member? A professor? What were they doing, and did they realize it at the time?

That's one of the annoyances that becomes apparent only when the tragedy fades out a little. There are so many questions that the world has, and the only people who could have answered them are dead.

But this just reaffirms something I've always believed: it is everyone's responsibility to stop things like this from happening. Someone knew that gunman was hurting, and they didn't do anything. Someone had an idea of what was coming (they had to), and they didn't stop it. Back when he was in high school, or middle school, someone probably had the opportunity to sit next to the weird Korean kid at lunch and make a friend. But you know what? They didn't.

And that's what leads to a time and place where thirty-three people are dead. Thirty-three people with so much potential will never see what they could have been. Thirty-three sets of parents have to bury their children. All because of some turning point that's already gone by.

That's why we can't afford to be absorbed in ourselves. There are people who need us, and if we're watching for it, maybe we can prevent this.

No one sits with him, he doesn’t fit in
But we feel like we do when we make fun of him
Cause you want to belong do you go along
Cause his pain is the price paid for you to belong
It’s not like we hate him or want him to die
But maybe he goes home and thinks suicide
Or he comes back to school with a gun at his side
And a kindness from you might have saved his life

No one talks to her, she feels so alone
She’s in too much pain to survive on her own
The hurt she can’t handle overflows to a knife
She writes on her arm, wants to give up her life
Each day she goes on is a day that she is brave,
Fighting the lie that giving up is the way,
Each moment of courage her own life she saves
When she throws out the pills a hero is made

No one talks to him about how he lives
He thinks that the choices he makes are just his
Doesn’t know he’s a leader with the way he behaves
And others will follow the choices he’s made
He lives on the edge, he’s old enough to decide
His brother who wants to be him is just nine
He can do what he wants because it’s his right
The choices he makes change a nine year old’s life

Heroes are made when you make a choice
You could be a hero
Heroes do what’s right
You could be a hero
You might save a life
You could be a hero, You could join the fight
For what’s right, for what’s right, for what’s right...

- Hero, by Superchick

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Yes, I've lost track. That's what happens when real life sneaks up and bites you in the neck like the little wannabe vampire it is.

All I know is that over the last...um...five days, I've averaged approximately three hundred twenty words a day. Yes, there is a zero in the average. Monday killed me. I have not uphelp the pledge to write every day. I just sat down at the computer and couldn't face it. Bad Miri. No cookie.

...okay. I can't do that. There are fresh chocolate-chocolate-chip cookies and I'm having one, dagummit. And besides, another large reason I didn't write is that I was reading and critiquing my mother's novel. That's definitiely good for brownie points, right? (For those interested: past the fact that I want to hit her over the head with a comma in the hopes that she'll learn to use them (love ya, Mom!), it was very, very good.)

BUT. Today, during in a lull in my traditional 7:40 to 8:25 A.M. activities, I bit the bullet and outlined the next bit of my own WiP (in narrative form. I'm not dealing with all those little literal bullets). I have a definite direction now and, while I can't have everything outlined from the get-go, I'm at a point where I do kind of need to know what's happening in the immediate future. I'm over my bout of "This novel sucks. I suck. Why do I bother? {repeat ad nauseum}" and I'm ready to get this thing done.

I've determined that I need to do it in big chunks if I'm going to get anywhere.

So tonight's for a warm-up round (1500 or bust!) and tomorrow I'm going for a marathon. 4k at the very least.

Oh, and I thought you all might find this interesting. It's part of my signature on a forum I frequent.

Status: Finally, movement! They're alive, I tell you! (Or: When all else fails, mess with the established group dynamic.)


(That last bit is a quote from one of my critique partners. Hey, Sarah!)

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Day Seven!

First off, thanks to everyone who comments with words of encouragement. Seriously, it helps a lot.

Now, my big news.

40k! YES!

I wrote 2,022 words yesterday, and it didn't feel like all that much. I realized that if I can do that for the next month, I'll be done. Sweet.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Days Four, Five, and Six

Because I've not been able to update every day.

Day four: 778. Yay!

Day five: 385. Still respectable.

Day six: 452. Not bad.

My total wordcount now is 38,400ish. (I'm on a different computer.) Think I can hit 40k today? I do.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Day...what day are we on again?

Three, I suppose.

Last night, I wrote a total of (Do I really have to admit to this?) 147 words.

Y'know what? I'll take it. Especially considering we had company last night.

Hope you have/had/will have a blessed Easter!

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Writers Write: The Challenge?

Well, apparently, I'm racing Erica and Annie this month. The idea is to beat each other's daily wordcounts and finish our novels first. Sounds good to me!

You see, I'm naturally drawn to competition. I respond well to a challenge. (Hence a two-year NaNoWriMo winning streak. Hey, I'm proud of it. I also snagged the highest wordcount in my very well-written NaNo region. ;) 73k for the win.) I've needed a good kick in the pants for quite awhile (my original I-want-this-finished date was March 31st...whoops!), and this is just the thing.

So wish me luck! I'm going in!

(And I WILL have more than 88 words tonight. I will!)

Day Two...

Last night's total wordcount: 88.

Yes, 88, eighty-eight, two digits, less than 100. In the words of my eighth-grade language arts teacher, PI. TI. FULLL.

But it's something, isn't it?

Siiigh. Tonight I'm going to try to do better.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Writers Write! Day One

My total for last night: 2,165 words.

And a whole box of Mentos.

At first my system was, I wrote 100 words, I got a Mento. Then I realized that it just wasn't coming, so I started eating more Mentos. Eventually...well...I added another box to that rather large pile by my mousepad.

So later on, I set up a new system. I recently unearthed my Gameboy Advance from several years ago. (Of course I still play SuperMario. Who doesn't?) Every time I died in the game, I had to turn around and write at least a hundred words.

It was actually kind of scary how well that worked.

2,500 is a nice goal. Let's go for that tonight.

Others from Diana's call-to-arms: how did you do yesterday?

Thursday, April 5, 2007

The ABC Method of Writing

This morning I read Diana's post on discipline in writing. At the end of it she made the statement that she will write something every day this month and asked who was with her.

Being the waffling writer that I am, I threw my hat in the ring. (Why do I have the nasty feeling that I mangled that particular saying? Hat in the ring? Hat on the ring? Ring in the hat?) Because if there's one thing I need, it's...well, I could say something noble like discipline or whatever, but really it's competition. I don't want to be the first one to skip a day. Do you?

So this month I'll be going back to a method I found highly effective during NaNoWriMo. I call it the ABC method.

Butt to
Chair and type.

I will be posting every day how much I wrote the day before. It's likely to be pitiful, at least at first. That's okay though. Pitiful is better than nothing.

And a post-script:

I have defeated my closet! (Insert lame crack about OVER 9000 POWER! here.) Now I just have a lot of laundry to do.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Miri vs. Closet: Round Two - Interference by Spider

That says it all, really. I was coming along great on my closet this morning when I found a rather large spider in my stuff.

Okay, ew.

I despise spiders. Really. They're...eeewww. I just don't like them. I can't even read spider books. (Hangman's Curse was a darn good book...except for all the spiders. Ew.)

I got myself together enough to put on thick socks and sneaker, kill it, and suck it into the Dustbuster before I ran screaming from the room. Except without the screaming. Didn't want to scare anyone.

The stupid thing had better be dead.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Miri vs. Closet: Round One

Inspired by Robin's cleanliness crusade and the gentle promptings of a certain close relative, I've gone up against that most formiddable of foes: my closet. Mind, it had gotten bad enough to start annoying me, and that is a goal not easily accomplished by any disorganized space.

I wish I'd thought to take a "Before" picture, but in reality it probably would have broken the lense. Yes, it was that bad. I even forgot to take a picture after yesterday's beginning of the excavation, and now I can't get pictures to work on the blog. Suffice it to say that I've pulled two trash bags out of there already. This closet is maybe seven feet by eight feet by three feet. Maybe. Not a large closet. And yet somehow, even with two garbage bags worth of age-old junk gone, the remaining closet-fillers cover the entire floor of my bedroom.

I have to admit I'm kind of proud of my closet, though. Not very many closets can defy the laws of physics.

Well, I'm off to have another round with my unnatural closet. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Monday, April 2, 2007

This movie has stuck itself to my brain...

...and it will not let go.

I saw Meet the Robinsons with my family on Saturday. You know, the animated G-rated Disney movie that just came out? Though it got B minuses all around on Yahoo, I thought it was really, really good. I was almost positive I'd like it, because I've always been an absolute sucker for orphan stories, and I was absolutely right. I choked up at the end, too. Only just stopped myself from bawling like a baby.

But despite the obvious things--orphan story, quite a bit of the adult-kid dynamic (which I love), and the kind of haunting "this is how things could have turned out" theme that I like so much--I really have no idea why that movie affected me as strongly as it did. I seriously can't see a cutesy little preview for it without going into this weird pensive mood, and I really want to see it again. And again. And again.

So now I'm trying to analyze it. Figure out exactly what got to me so much about that movie. Because I've seen combinations of all three of the above before, and while they were good, they didn't stick with me nearly as much. So I figure it must be something else, and I want to know what, because if I find that then I can use it in my writing, and I'll be able to write things that deeply affect me, at the very least.

To be honest, I'm a bit weirded out by this. I just can't figure it out.

Now I really want to see that movie again.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Writerly Update

Current wordcount: 34,100 words. Making progress, albeit at the speed of a striking snail. It's just not the same as November. I'm hoping for a productivity boost next month, though, when I'm acting as accountability for a friend who's staging an April version of NaNoWriMo. The main thing for me is to get back in the groove of writing something every day. I've let myself slip quite a bit over the last couple months.

Current feeling: I'm really liking the way this is turning out. Actually, a better way to put that is: I feel like I'm getting back to my roots. I've always been an avid reader of fantasy. From C. S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia in the second grade, at least nine out of every ten books I've read has had something markedly fantastic about it, from the not-really-magic unusualities of The Supernaturalist by Eoin Colfer (which is really more sci-fi, I suppose) to the all-out, amazingly inventive, not one but two magic systems in Garth Nix's Abhorsen trilogy, Sabriel, Lirael, and Abhorsen (complete with magic bells). The only thing I'm slightly worried about is that I'm rereading said trilogy at the moment (I finished Lirael earlier today and am about to start Abhorsen) and quite a bit of the musical aspect of Nix's magic seems to be seeping into mine.

But back to what I was actually saying. Lately I've been focusing on the political aspects of my story, the more mundane problems of plot and characterization, and leaving little time for the magic that I think will make it really shine, the truly fantastic element that I grew up loving. Somehow, I conveniently left myself little clues that I can expound on when I go back through, to make it more apparent that the magic exists before it actually comes out in the open (a problem of mine that was especially marked in the first rough draft I ever finished, from NaNo 2005, which I sadly still have not been able to pull out and revise), but it is going to require a lot of reworking to make all fit like I want it to. Ah well. A worry for another day.

Happy Monday to everyone. I hope your writing and other pursuits are going well.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Truth vs. Fiction (Truth's stranger. Who knew?)

I recently finished reading The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory. My immediate impression of the book is a good one - it's the extremely well-woven tales of three women in Tudor England, the three women involved in Henry VIII's court about whom we know the least (Anne of Cleves, Katherine Howard, and Jane Boleyn). I've always been interested in the era, but this particular book, so much richer than other's I've read, has strengthened my desire to know more about each individual character. It's funny how that happens - the first Tudor England book I bought was a YA called Nine Days a Queen by Ann Rinaldi. I loved the writing, but the story was what really took my breath away - because, save for the details, it was true. From there it went on to Carolyn Meyer's Beware, Princess Elizabeth, and later her other books in that set - Patience, Princess Catherine, Mary, Bloody Mary, and Doomed Queen Anne. When I found The Boleyn Inheritance, I knew (by the page count alone) that it would be a more complete look at what is believed to be these women's lives, but I wasn't prepared for the depth of characterization, the intricacy of the story.

But the more I think about it, the more I realize that the character of Jane Boleyn just would not have worked if she hadn't been real.

Jane Boleyn was not, in fact, a Boleyn. She was born Jane Parker, daughter of Henry Parker, Lord Morley and married George Boleyn, the brother of Anne Boleyn, who became King Henry VIII's second wife in 1533, before the anullment of his first marriage. Nice folks. Jane benefitted from Anne's ascension as queen, but only just escaped the scaffold after Anne and George's rather spectacular fall in 1536, pulled from the flames of the court by her uncle-by-marriage Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk (another nice guy). Thus she got to keep her title, the Lady Rochford, and her head (until her execution following the fall of Queen Katherine Howard in 1542. For the record, historians are fairly sure that Katherine was guilty of the adultery that sent her to the block, but Anne almost definitely wasn't) .

That's all background. Historical evidence leads us to believe that Jane was very much in love with her husband George, and found his strong relationship with his sister (thus excluding her) too much to bear. It was her evidence that sent the two Boleyns to the scaffold, for no other reasons that jealousy, malice, and spite, tempered with a desire to preserve the Boleyn inheritance rather than the Boleyns themselves.

If I read a novel in which the villain acted out of nothing but jealousy, malice, and spite, with such disastrous and personal results, I'd be a little skeptical. The inheritance is a big deal, but in that day and age, when your head wasn't securely attached to your neck if you were too close to the king, I'd think that allies would be a tad bit better. Especially allies in high places, never mind the Queen of England.

But you see, in historical fiction (and I'm not taking potshots at authors of historical fiction, either, because I absolutely adore what I've read of it, and I'm definitely not saying it's any easier to write than, say, fantasy), there's that shred of a shield you can hide behind, because this person was real, and this motivation was true to them.

This brings me back to Philippa Gregory's superb writing, because, though I can think about how unbelievable Jane Boleyn is now, while I was reading the book it seemed entirely believable. I'm impressed.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Back to the writing board...

Any observant readers will noticed a distinct lack of writing-related posts lately. (Acutally, you don't have to be observant. Literate, maybe, but not observant.) That's because there hasn't been much writing going on.

But I intend to change that. Now that the production I was stage-managing is over (and it went very well, too), I'm less wound up, more creative, and have more time. It's a very nice situation.

Now I just have to get back on the shtick. I believe I was in the middle of one of my characters turning into a sociopath...or possibly revealing that she has always, in fact, been a sociopath. We'll just have to see. Let's just say, the sooner I get past this scene, the better. Gossipy scenes are an absolute necessity in my WiP, but sometimes they just aren't too fun.

Do you have any kinds of scenes that you find yourself just pushing through, working on the happy assumption that you can go back and fix it later?

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Printer Conspiracy, Part One of Many (I'm sure)

I've had trouble with printers before, but this morning was singularly frustrating. By some weird twist of fate, I did not smash it to bits. I wanted to. Oh, did I want to. But it's a nice printer with a nice scanner and copier and I'd rather like to not have to shell out money for a new one.

That does not change the fact that this printer is evil. EVIL.

So, I've needed to print out blank sheet music for the piano for quite awhile now. I've been putting it off, mostly because other people were using the Printer of Doom or because I knew I could do it later.

Well, yesterday I finally got around to it, and...it didn't work. I click the stupid "Print" button on BlankSheetMusic.net (which has worked just fine for me in the past) many, many times before I finally realized that the printer just wasn't listening to me. So I went out looking for another good blank sheet music site. I tried with two others. No dice. I called a friend of mine who's very music-oriented. She didn't have any suggestions either. So I dropped it, hoping the site or my printer would decide to cooperate in the morning.

Nope. Again, clicked the "Print" button far too many times. Nothing. Nada. I tried from a different computer. Nope. I tried turning on the third computer (the one that, we think, is most directly hooked up to the printer) and printing from each of the others. (I don't dare print from that third computer. It doesn't like me.)

I've still got nothing.

After slapping the printer on the side a few times (not hard) and yelling at it a little bit, I turned off the other two computers and stomped downstairs. I went to the piano, probably to play something dark and militant, and what do I see on top but a sheet of blank sheet music?

At this point I could tear my hair out. I rummage over the top of the piano, but there's only the one sheet, and there's no way I can fit what I need to on sheet.

So, in a fit of total desperation, I went back upstairs, put the music on the copier glass, prayed, considered offering a sacrifice to the printer, decided that would be overkill, and hit "Start Copy."

One sheet of perfect blank sheet music came out of the printer with no trouble at all.

I set it for three more copies and hit "Start Copy" again. One after another, the printer spit them out at me, no questions asked.

And, just as I was going to wrap up this post, it made one of those random noises that printers will make after doing a job, only this one sounded kind of like a laugh.

My printer is laughing at me.

Bring on the sledgehammer.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

When writing is like pulling teeth...

...all you can do is hope for the best, stockpile chocolate, and promise yourself an episode of fluff afterward.

Last night, before Ladette to Lady (an interesting British TV show involving the scum of female society and a 50's-style finishing school), I was at 27,500 words. That's 50 single-spaced 12-point pages. Not too shabby.

The only problem here is that I'd been sitting there for two days, wanting to get to 30k (slightly over a third of the way through, I think) but unable to sit down and write my way there.

Finally, after Ladette to Lady (and then Numb3rs, my geeky crime show of choice), I found some inspiration and sat down with the view of hitting 30k. (I tend to hit my writing stride around 11:30. It was 11:15 at this point.) The writing was coming, but I was fading. At 12:01 this morning, I stopped writing at 29,400 words with the idea of getting up early before church to top it off to 30k. (I must be crazy.) After turning off the computer, going to bed, getting back up, turning the computer back on, and saving the newest version of the novel to my jump drive in a slightly compulsive sudden need to back up, I got to sleep pretty easily.

I did not get up very easily. I only just managed to get dressed and fire up the computer, and peck out a hundred words or so before it was time to leave. In my defense, I wrote myself to a point where I really needed to figure out what was going on - an acquaintance of my MC's family burst into their suites demanding an explanation for why both their sons had run off the night, and I had no idea how Lady Freaked-Out knew to connect it to my MC's family - but it was still pretty lackluster. Total wordcount at this point: 29,500.

After church, we came home and ate lunch, and I sat at the computer with my laser focus set on 30k. I was going to get those last 500 words if it killed me, and I had four Hershey's Nuggets to help me along. I also promised myself that once I saw those wonderful digits, I could go upstairs and watch an episode of my fluff of choice, Ouran High School Host Club. (It's an adorable show. Extremely silly...most of the time.)

I figured out where I was going and wrote for about 20 minutes. I rounded off a section nicely, finished off my chocolate, and pressed the 'Recount' button.


That's not a nice feeling.

Some people might say it's close enough, but I was raised on NaNoWriMo wordcount constraints. (Well, not raised, but...) 49,994 and 50,000 aren't the same thing, so neither are 29.992 and 30k.

Eventually I found where the next section started and wrote the first paragraph, and I've set myself up for a nice night of writing tonight. (First line of the section: "The best thing that could be said about that evening's private audience with the monarchs was that it was short." This'll be fun.) But that last paragraph this afternoon was like pulling teeth. Sometimes I really do resent the little wordcounter, but it's how I learned to think of progress, so I'll take it.

And as a postscript: My novel abruptly took a turn for the "coming of age" brand of story, but I don't mind that too horribly. Makes it easier to place.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Anons Get On My Nerves

Well, I was responding to a comment a few minutes ago (hi, Patrick) and I suddenly realized that, and I quote,

This blog does not allow anonymous comments.

And I kinda went, "Huh. Don't remember setting that."

But did I change it? Nope.

Know why? Because anonymous commentors tend to get on my nerves.

I mean, granted, not all anons are bad. Many on other blogs have had nice and/or useful things to say. But all too often, people use that nice bit of anonymity to bash, flame, troll, and otherwise pointlessly insult people without even wondering if they should because hey, they're anonymous.

Am I cutting down on the comments I'm likely to recieve? Yeah, probably. I'm really okay with that.

And to anyone who's reading this and has commented anonymously, that's really okay. Unless you're a nasty anon, like some of the ones I've seen at Pub Rants. Then it's not.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Anatomy of a Bookcase

I'm a packrat. I will cheerfully admit that I'm a packrat. (My mother will cheerfully admit that I'm a packrat.) This is particuarly defined when it comes to books. As of last count (and yes, I do keep count), I own 111 books. Add in the manga, that number jumps to 131.

Of those 131 books, how many authors do I own at least one book by? 56.

How many do I own two or more books by? 18.

Three or more? 12.

More than one series? 2.

One series and stand-alones? 2. (Different 2. Above was Garth Nix and Tamora Pierce; here it's Eoin Colfer and Cornelia Funke.)

Of those 131 books, how many are part of a series? 74. (This is including all of the manga (which is comprised of two series: 5 volumes of Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa, and 15 of Fruits Basket by Natsuki Takaya, all of which were worth the $10 per volume). This is not including books which I bought the first of the series and stopped, or just haven't gotten around to the next ones yet. Books fitting that description: 15.)

Average length of a series that I own? 3.375 books (This is NOT including the manga, because throwing a 5 and a 15 in there would have really messed up the averages.)

Trilogies I own the first two books of and am waiting for the third? 2 (Huh. Thought it was more than that.)

And now, for a genre/subject breakdown, leaving out the manga (I guess Fruits Basket counts as contemporary fantasy, and Fullmetal Alchemist is definitely historical science fantasy. How's that for an overly specific categorical tag?):

Nonfiction: A resounding and amazing 6.
Fiction: 105.

Fiction is further subdivided into:

Historical fiction: 9.
>>(Historical fiction, England, circa Henry VIII: 6.)
Contemporary fiction: 3.
Science fantasy: 13.
Other fantasy: 80.

I've heard it said that you can tell a lot about a woman by looking in her purse.

Well, you can tell a lot about me by looking at my bookcase.

You know what? I think this would make a neat meme. (And I'm a nosy soul.) Just for grins, give us a general breakdown of your bookshelf, by number of authors, genre, series, anything you want. (That and I've always been interested in the rate of information spread.)

I tag Carrie.

(Feel free to ignore me.)