Saturday, May 28, 2005

Adware Begone

I killed two adware bugs on my computer today. I know that doesn't sound like such a big deal, but you have to understand...I'm not particularly computer savvy, and I did this without the Huz's help. I can't program to save my life, but apparently I can follow directions and save my computer. Well, ok, so these bugs were pretty low risk to the computer, but they were designed to tie up the memory with stupid weather watching, so...maybe what I saved was my sanity. I was getting tired of twiddling my thumbs while the computer loaded all these dang programs at startup. Maybe now it won't take so long. I also figured out how to turn off something else that was loading at startup and didn't need to be, and how to add html code to my blog page to include the link2blogs logo and tower. Simple stuff, I guess, but I'm proud of myself anyway.

Now the family has gone off to a party and left me by myself so I can write. We'll see what else I can accomplish besides killing bugs.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Getting it Write

I've been reading John Keegan's "The Face of Battle" today. In the novel I'm working on, I have one character give advice to another character after a battle, and now I'm wondering whether the advice was correct as given. I've never been in a combat situation, and I only know two people who have, so I need to ask them whether the advice I used was good and logical or completely inane. It sounded right to me when I wrote it, but I don't want to make a careless mistake that will lose me any potential readers among the military. What sounds great to me and all my non-combatant crit partners might be just a lot of hooey to people who've actually been in a war. I'll run the scene by someone tomorrow, if at all possible, and then either breathe a sigh of relief or tear into those paragraphs again. Either way, I'll do whatever it takes to get them right.

I know what it's like to think that you know what you're talking about but be completely lacking in experience. Then once you have had the real experience, you realize just how much you didn't know before. It was like that for me with the nursing field and with parenting, and it has also been like that with various aspects of writing. There was a time when I was at that "no one appreciates my brilliance" stage, but by the time I'd completed my second novel, put it on the shelf for three months and read it again, I realized that those first million words really were garbage! Boring, boring, boring. There were some redeeming qualities, but as I recall, my plot was so-so, my cardboard-cutout villain had no believable motivation, my prince character was a real milktoast, and about the only thing that didn't scream amateur was my dialogue. Now I'm on my fifth novel, the fourth having been the one that finally turned out well enough to hook an agent, and I'm still learning.

I've been dabbling in the craft of writing since age five. I've taken classes at writers' conferences for the past seven years, including three of Don Maass' Breakout Novel Master Classes and one Breakout Novel Intensive Workshop. I've read stacks of books on novel writing and editing and just about anything writing-related, and I know I've still got lots to learn. But that's really the point. The moment we think we know it all and we've got nothing left to learn, that's when we start to stagnate. I pray I never reach that stage when I think I don't need editing, critiques, advice from a soldier, or whatever it takes to do the best job I can for any readers I'm blessed with over the years. I'm in this for life, not a quickie, and I'll do whatever it takes to get it right. So tomorrow I'm off to find a military guy and see if he's willing to tell me whether I've given my character the right advice. I'm sure that no matter what he says, I'll learn something I can use.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Catching Up and the Moxie Mug

I need to catch up on my life. I've been behind on so many things for so long that I sometimes feel as though I'll never get them all done. Today I took one kid to a Girl Scout thing and then found when I got there that I'd forgotten some forms I was supposed to fill out. I had to go home and get the forms, then go back to the meeting, and by this time there was no time left for me to go and do the activity that I had envisioned for myself for the evening. The kid was painting at a ceramics studio with her troop, and I was going to go paint at a different ceramics studio and finish a coffee mug I'd started a few days ago. But things just didn't work out for that to happen. Oh, well.

The mug is one of a set of four that I designed for my writing critique group, the Moxie Quartet, otherwise known as Moxie 4. Two Christmases ago--that's right, two--I decided to make a set of mugs for our crit group. They're blue with an open book on the front under the words "Moxie 4" in black and with each person's name in black on the inside of the cup, just where you'd see it as you lift it up to drink. They turned out pretty well, and the ladies seemed to like them, which is the most important thing. But I didn't get one. The ceramics place only had three mugs when I came in to do them, and somehow after I'd made them, time just got away from me and I never got back to make my own. So finally on Sunday after the family and I got out of the matinee of the new Star Wars movie, I decided that I'd had it with unfinished things hanging over my head. I mean, Lucas finished his project, finally. I have no excuse for being perpetually too busy for all these things I really want to finish. I went into the studio and lo and behold they had one mug like the ones I'd painted for the Moxie. One. Like fate. So I had them put my name on it, came back later without the family and painted like mad for the two hours left of studio time that day. It's almost done; all it needs are my name and the moxie logo, and I finally get my mug after a year and a half.

As for the rewrite of Shadows of Memory, I finished going over Chapter 11, and Chapter 12 is just one big battle scene, so we'll see where I can cut and tighten it. That's over halfway through the book, though I had expected to be much farther along at this point. I HATE being behind! But if the book turns out as well as I think it will, it will be worth it. It has to be worth it. I've put too much into it for it not to be worth it.

Sometimes I hear Gold Leader's voice in my head from Star Wars, A New Hope: "Stay on target...stay on target...." Don't even start with the "Use the Force" comments!

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Corridors and Painted Ponies

The last time I spoke with my agent, he told me to cut "corridor" scenes--parts of scenes where the characters are walking down corridors. OK. I know which one in particular he was referring to, and it did cut down quite nicely. I'm very happy with how it turned out. But there are other corridor scenes in the book that have characters doing dialogue while walking--dialogue that is important for various reasons. Character development, relationship development, planting of clues that will be built upon in future name it. I'm having a hard time cutting that, and in fact, some is virtually impossible to cut. And then there's last night, when I was trying to write a new but important scene where my heroine stumbles upon a treasonous plot in the making. I sent her down the stairs behind the bad guy and cut to the chase after only two paragraphs...and my first reader griped. There wasn't enough skulking, he said. Not enough skulking vs. too many corridor scenes. To skulk or not to skulk: that is the question, apparently.

Perhaps I can keep the skulking to 200 words or less? Compromise, anyone?

On another note: have you ever seen or heard of the Trail of Painted Ponies? It's a public art project where different artisans around the country are invited to paint a design on a horse figure. They come in all different types. There was "War Pony" in full Native American dress, "Five Card Stud" painted all over with playing cards, "Lightning Bolt Colt", "Renewal of Life", "Give me Wings", "Anasazi Spirit Horse", and so many other beautiful versions of painted horses, as varied as the artist's imaginations. My favorite is "Sky of Enchantment" with suns and moons in gold all over his black body. Absolutely gorgeous. I can never resist something like that--no matter what system of astrology you look at, I'm a horse. Fire Horse in Chinese astrology, Sagittarious in western astrology, and even the Black Horse in the Celtic system. Anyway, if you get a chance to check these out, I hope you'll do so. They're all so gorgeous and the artists so talented, it'll take your breath away if you love horse art. One site that has the pony figurines for sale can be found here.

There are some days when I can't imagine why anyone wouldn't want to be an artist, even when I still have that dang corridor/not-too-much-corridor/skulking scene to finish! I guess if I get too frustrated, I can always go paint a pony.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Star Wars and Plotting

I read an article today about George Lucas and the latest Star Wars installment. I found it interesting that he admitted that when he scripted the last two movies, the plots were very thin. Apparently, only about 40% of the actual story was contained in the last two movies, and the rest was filler. Which follows that 60% of the storyline is left for this latest offering. I do not argue that his story overall is great, and I've been an avid fan of the entire series since "Star Wars, A New Hope". But it sounds like he had a great basic concept for Anakin's backstory and the fall of the Republic, and then he just had trouble fleshing it out in ways that would have made the first two movies (of the current trilogy) really resonate with their audience. It's a shame. I enjoyed them anyway, but what might they have been if Mr. Lucas had indulged in a lot more plotting and brainstorming before he started production?

I'm not trying to compare myself to Lucas in terms of writing style or ability, but it occurs to me that I had a similar problem with the second and third books of the trilogy I'm working on. I wrote the first book in a completely organic manner, hooked my agent with that, and then had to come up with a detailed plot for books two and three on the fly. Yikes! I hadn't really thought much beyond some very general ideas for the next two books. But that's the great thing about Bob--he doesn't let me get away with anything. Or, perhaps more accurately...he doesn't let me get away with Nothing. When he and I spoke about Shadows of Memory recently, he told me that although the pages turned quickly, it still felt more as though things had been added to the plot than built into it. Bingo. I tried to grow the plot events from the character arcs, but I didn't do as complete or detailed a job of it as I should have. Missed a few crucial brainstorming sessions, I guess. As a result, my plot for Shadows was thin in places and some stuff was just added to fluff the book out because I was afraid I wouldn't have enough word count. Hah. In today's publishing climate, I was worried that the book would be too short? *shuffles foot and looks at ground* Well, now I know better. I'll be doing things very differently when I flesh out the arcs for the third book. Live and learn. I love the new, tighter storyline for Shadows now. I love what it's done for some of the characters, including a minor character who now has a very interesting problem. He makes a mistake, the ramifications of which are both good and bad at the same time. He can't be glad he made the mistake, but he can't be sorry either. Best of all, it seriously impacts the main character. Gotta love conflict like that!

Monday, May 09, 2005


It was a great Mother's Day here, hope it was for all of you as well.

I didn't wake up and say, "I must go forth and spend money," but that's what happened. It was for a good cause, though. Saturday at the end of a three-hour stint in front of the computer, my back, neck and shoulders hurt way more than they should, and I came to the conclusion that my office chair was at least part of the problem. I didn't fail to get up and stretch every hour or do any of those things they tell you to do for ergonomic reasons. But I have a terrible problem with my neck and back going out of place. Always have had. When I had to really push it just to get through the last section in a chapter, I realized that I'd had it with the task chair I was using. I'm not sure what I needed it to do differently, but whatever it was, it just wasn't doing it. So after the "Wake up, Mom; Happy Mother's Day" stuff, I decided that what I really wanted to do was scope out a chair that didn't make me want to see a chiropracter after every writing session.

I didn't really start out with much hope that I'd find the perfect office chair on a Sunday afternoon on Mother's Day, but that's exactly what happened. It was at Office Depot, and a sign on the box had the magic word "CLEARANCE" written on it. The husband and I both tried the demo model out and liked it, and we each ended up getting one at a ridiculously low price. Sometimes things just happen when you need them the most. Serendipity. I'm sure we could all use more of that.

The book's going really well, too. I cannot thank Bob enough for making me revise just one more time. If he sends this one back to the drawing board, I'll...well, I'll eat my hat.

I don't wear a hat.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Scene by Scene

The edits aren't going as quickly as I'd like--possibly because I've already been over this ground so many times. I'm getting through them at the rate of about one scene per day. I finally got back to the Forward Motion website to post goals there, which I hadn't done in weeks, and I've caught up with some of my email. But what I really want to be doing right now is spring cleaning. On the house, not the book. And then I want to finish a painting job I've been needing to finish. Then I want to flesh out the details for the third book in the trilogy. New stuff would be fun right now, especially during the spring season.

Now, the really amusing part of that last statement is that the third book takes place during winter, and I don't have any CD's with the sounds of a snowstorm! That's what the nature sounds collection needs--a blizzard CD! Anyone up for making such a thing? Mellow flute music with a howling blizzard in the background? Anyone?

Have a great May.