Thursday, August 26, 2010

Three Things Thursday: The Pet Edition

Amie McCracken at i AM alive hosts a weekly funfest called Three Things Thursday, in which she and everyone fabulous that she knows posts three things about themselves on a certain topic.

(I'm sneakily lumping myself into the category of Fabulous People that Amie Knows. Bahaha.)

Today's theme is three things about the pets you've had. I hope you'll go on over and participate, because this is a fun subject.

1.) My first "My Very Own" pet was a beagle named Maggie. She was my eighth birthday present, and I thought she summed up everything that was good and beautiful in the world. (I should add here that I was unreasonably obsessed with dogs as a child. As in, I had a sweatshirt featuring a picture of every well-known breed which I wore every day, as well as pink shoelaces that read, I MY BEAGLE.) Maggie was the protagonist of every story I wrote between the ages of eight and twelve--believe me, there were a lot--and she lived until I was twenty-two.

2.) I once had a hermit crab named Janie. Her story is a tragedy. She was a dear little crab, and so cooperative and resilient that she suffered a family road-trip all the way to Florida and back. But not long after said road-trip, Janie molted. And since the crab she shared a tank with was somewhat unfriendly, I assumed the worst: I thought he'd ripped her limb from limb. Carefully, tearfully, I placed her in a ziplock baggie and buried her outside. Several months later, though, I found the severed limbs of the murderous crab... and he was the only one in the tank. Upon closer inspection of these "severed limbs," I discovered that they were merely shed skins. I realized then that I was the murderer.

3.) My current pets are, I think, extraterrestrials. That isn't to say that I'm not weird myself, but Ophelia and Severus require new measuring techniques to gauge their strangeness. Let me explain.

Ophelia was a stray, which might account for her tendency to eat things that aren't meant to be gobbled down. Like zinc tablets, and quilts, and my favorite purses, and bottles of paint. However, being a stray does not explain her love of swinging a heavy combination bike-lock around in circles like some kind of deadly lasso, or her tendency to approach the water-dish at a run and plunge both feet into the water rather than her mouth. Nor, in fact, does it shed light on her penchant for affectionate (and painful) wrist-bites, or her desire to be draped over person's neck like a mink stole. I could go on, but I'll spare you.

Severus's weirdness probably goes back to the fact that I got him for Ophelia. (Like I said, I have no shortage of weirdness, myself.) But he was confused from the start because, not only was he being raised by a dog, but his name kept changing. Because for some reason, I just couldn't stop calling him Catten. (As in, not quite a cat, not really a kitten anymore...) So now he is Severus sometimes, and Catten most of the time. And his way of dealing with this identity-crisis is to sit around on his back with his legs splayed like an exhibitionist, or in the worst-case-scenario, to fall one story from my balcony and land in a holly bush. Or, as you can see, to be a total ham for the camera.

Now that you know more than you ever wanted to know about my pets, I hope you'll go visit Amie and participate yourself! Or, if you feel so inclined, I'd love to see your weird pet stories in the comments.

(Also, the Mockingjay discussion is still open, so feel free to join in if you've read the book.)

Happy Thursday!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Mockingjay Discussion Safe Spot *Updated*

Okay, let's take this one sentence at a time. (*See bottom of page for updates*)

Just in case you come late, and there are in fact spoilers below.

Scroll carefully. Slowly. Will you be reading Mockingjay tomorrow?

If so, keep reading. Carefully.

I don't want Mockingjay spoilers running like mad rabbits all over the web. BUT I also don't want to be shut up like a clam, unable to talk to anyone at all about it. Because, call me crazy, but I just have this feeling that it's going to be wild. And I have a feeling that it will leave everyone wanting to discuss it with all haste. So, I thought, maybe we could designate a spot. A blog post.

Just for the discussion of Mockingjay.

So, beginning tonight, I will stop checking the comments and only return tomorrow once I have finished the book. I invite you to do the same. Come back when you're done, and we can discuss in the safety of this post without fear of anyone who hasn't yet read the book stumbling onto something they don't want to know.

And don't worry: I will make it quite obvious that this is a DANGER ZONE for those people who have not yet read the book.

Until that time, if you know of any other such safe-spots, do post the link here! Or if you have any thoughts to add, or if you merely need a place to put on your CAPS LOCK and scream about how bloody excited you are, please do. We're all crazy here.

UPDATE: Go crazy. I want to hear your thoughts. And if you've come this far without reading the warning signs, please know that THIS POST DOES CONTAIN SPOILERS ABOUT MOCKINGJAY. And I'm hoping that you, dear Reader, will add some more.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Guess That Character Day Two: Yseult Revealed

Yesterday's Guess That Character Blogfest was wonderful fun.  I posted a snippet from BEAUTIFUL MONSTER, and let my MC Yseult convince you of her appearance through her narration.  And there were some great guesses (and so descriptive), but the closest were from Summer Ross, Steph Sinkhorn (who nailed it), Renae Mercado (who also nailed it), and Amie McCracken (who got it right secretly, because she's read it).

Here are two pictures I feel adequately represent Yseult:

She is tall and willowy, with waist-length dark-brown waves, crystalline blue eyes, and freckles.  Her beauty is her curse, however, so she usually tries to ignore these details about herself in the hope that everyone else will, too.  Because when people judge based on beauty, bad things tend to happen.  Like arranged marriages...  and men turned into monsters.

Thanks for coming to the Blogfest!  I've loved all your excerpts.  Thanks so much, Jen, for hosting!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Guess that Character Blogfest!

Today Jen Daiker (unedited) is hosting a rather clever blogfest.  The idea is this: each participant provides a short snippet from a story they've written--without including any physical description of their character--and then everyone makes guesses at what that character looks like, based solely on voice and action.  Yeah, like I said: clever.  So, I've opted to participate with a snippet from BEAUTIFUL MONSTER.  If you already know what Yseult looks like, just play dumb.  Or guess, and act like you didn't know before. 

The fresh night air rushes at me the moment I am through the doors.  I sink onto the grass beneath a tree in the gardens where I am confident I’ll not be seen and lean against its trunk.  The moon is full tonight: a brilliant, glowing orb in the endless sky.  I have read that the night of the full moon is a night of magic.
It will take something like magic to save me from the Marquis, I expect.

There is a lilac bush growing beside me, and its heady fragrance makes me lightheaded.  I plunge my face into the blossoms and inhale deeply, wheeling back with eyes closed in a sudden ecstasy of hope. 

“I wish to be free of this,” I whisper as a breeze brushes my cheek with the lightest of kisses. “I wish to be seen for who I am, as a person—not as a decoration.  I wish...”  I open my eyes and look up at the brilliant moon, shimmering with power and enchantment.  Up there, in the vast darkness, it is free.  My hands tingle strangely and I am seized by a wave of grim determination.  I clench my fingernails into my palms until a sharp pain shoots up my arm. 

My voice is low.  I have never been more serious.  “I wish for a way out.”

Okie-doke.  Come back tomorrow, and "find out who is right... and who is dead."*  Er, that is, find out who is right, and who is... not.  And please, pretty-please go check out the other entries, because they are awe-some-poss-um.

*Author's Note: Please be aware that often the writer has virtually no control over the amount of The Princess Bride in her system.  Often quotes will ooze into her life and posts without her approving--or even knowing about--it, and in such cases, it is best simply to let them have their way.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Please Look at This Poster

I'm having a sort of hyperventilating seizure.  I just wanted to pass it on.

Now click on this link, and look at the bigger version.  Try not to scream.

I mean, I've been getting all kinds of stoked up about Mockingjay (more on that later), but this poster and these stills kind of broadsided me today, and I haven't quite recovered.  I thought I'd share the breathlessness.

Anyone else experiencing alarming physical symptoms at the sight of this poster?  How about at the thought of Mockingjay?  (Six days and counting...)

Monday, August 16, 2010

{tell me your favorite word}

The thing about being a Wordsmith (aka, Writer) is that you hang out with words a lot. 

Probably, I would venture to say, more than the average person.  If you're not spitting them onto a blank page, you're swirling them around in your brain, or flipping madly through a Thesaurus (which I've always thought should be the name of a bookish dinosaur) to find one, or possibly even staring at one in someone else's writing, and wondering how That Word came to be there and why.  Maybe sometimes you even take ages and ages to formulate a verbal sentence, because you know a word exists that will flawlessly express what you're trying to say, and you'd rather flounder around in the archives of your vocabulary than choose a word that is less than perfect.

These facts lead me to a specific conclusion, my dear Reader.  And that conclusion is that YOU have a favorite word.  I don't think I'm wrong.  Because I have a favorite word, too.  Shall we swap?

Here's mine:


[ih-maj-in] -ined, -in·ing.
–verb (used with object) form a mental image of (something not actually present to the senses). think, believe, or fancy: He imagined the house was haunted. assume; suppose: I imagine they'll be here soon. conjecture; guess: I cannot imagine what you mean.
5.Archaic . to plan, scheme, or plot.
–verb (used without object) form mental images of things not present to the senses; use the imagination. suppose; think; conjecture. 

I love everything about the word imagine.  I love it in ALL CAPS and I love it in lowercase.  I love it hand-written, and type-written.  I love it bold and italicized, and even in Impact Font, which I hate.  I love the way it sounds and the way it feels on my tongue.  I love what it means.  I love that it contains the word "mage" and the word "image" and almost the word "magic."

While I was at Chautauqua, Peter Jacobi said this about my word, and I almost fell out of my chair in a violent swoon of love: Imagination is the first of our senses we should take care never to let fall into disuse.  It is what makes us human.

(I'm even swooning now.) 

But that brings us to you, Dear Reader.  Because I know there is a word you love as much.  I hope you'll share it.  Because we could all use a bit more word-love in our lives.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

WriteOnCon, Moonflowers, and Tension in Fiction!

The first thing to address this Thursday morning is that you, Dear Reader, should be at WriteOnCon. Not here. Okay, so I'm glad you're here, but as soon as you're done I want you to flit on over to WriteOnCon and join in the mad, writerly festivities. The conference has been fabulously fabulous so far, and I know there are still great things to come.

Beyond that exhortation, I have a few more things to share today. The first is utterly irrelevant to Writerdom, but an enormous triumph to balcony-garden-kind, and of course, a giant step for Me as a flower-grower. And that is: I had my very first ever grown-from-seed Moonflower two days ago. And since then, I've had two more. In case you aren't familiar with this little climber, they look like this:

They are fragrant, they bloom at night and only at night--one night per bloom--and of course, they're lovely. And best of all, they're named after the moon. Now, I have a slight infatuation with the moon, so it should come as no surprise that I like this little flower. But what makes this such a triumph is the fact that this is the second year I've grown Moonflowers, and up until two days ago, I had never had a bloom before. Huzzah!

But enough about the moon. Let's move on to the gold. Today is the first-ever installment in the Chautauqua Gold Nuggets Series, and I'm going to share my notes from Patricia Lee Gauch's workshop on Tension. Dig in, and enjoy, Dear Reader!
  • Many good pieces of writing are structured like the pulling of a rubber-band: two forces pulling against each other. In those first pages of your book, you really have to begin pulling the rubber-band, stretching the tension.
  • You can also look at the book like a war, with two forces or sides. Typically, someone wants something, and something else stands in its way. This is where the war begins. And the other side might not be all bad; they might be closer and more complicated than you think.
  • Every good book starts in a hole. The character is without something. Always start in a negative position. There needs to be something in your first chapter that makes us wonder, question, wonder what is going to happen.
  • Your environment is important. Rhythm is so important to building conflict.
  • There is always a time before an important scene. You have to set the scene… you have to build up to it. And you need the stuff in between (the maybe it will work out stuff) to build the tension inbetween. Is your character going to stand up and become what she can be?
  • You are accumulating actions like beads on a string; the story picking up speed and conflict as it goes.

Some other good thoughts from Patti:
  • You have to have the courage to feel throughout your book.
  • Freshness and originality can exist even in the most common, overused places/scenes/ideas.
  • Appreciate the power of a single sentence when it’s the right sentence.
  • Don’t pussyfoot around with your story. What do you want to do with it? What do you want from it?
(All rights, credits, glories, and attributions of genius go to Patricia Lee Gauch at the 2010 Highlights Foundation Writer's Workshop at Chautaqua.)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Don't Hunt Horcruxes and Drive

Dear Reader: If you are considering listening to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on audiobook in your car, I must warn you... you should probably not. Especially if you're driving within a city. Let me explain.

If you do, you run a higher risk of getting into accidents. For one thing, your mind tends to be on Voldemort, and what could be more distracting than that high, cold voice? For another thing, your vision is almost always obscured by a thick sheen of tears--if not a veritable waterfall of them. Third, you have to mop yourself up every time you want to get out and go talk to humans (which renders any eye-makeup pointless), and not everyone has a box of Kleenex in their passenger seat. And last of all, if you have to stop at any intersections, you end up getting a lot of curious and worried looks from other drivers, because you look like this:

So, kids? Don't hunt Horcruxes and drive. Be smart. Hunt them in the safety and cry-proof security of your own home. And don't forget to vote: Potter for President.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

1 gold flake, 3 Things Thursday, & 1 Hot Dog

Last week, I promised gold nuggets.

But since today is Three Things Thursday (hosted by Amie at i AM alive), today's gold nugget will be more like a gold flake; a teaser, if you will. I promise I'll share more about all the fabulous things I learned at Chautauqua really, really soon. But in the mean-time, let this little kernel of glittery goldness sparkle in your palm for a while:

(This came from writer/editor Patricia Lee Gauch during a general session on Tuesday, July 20.)

"Transcending [in writing] is rising through a mischief of words and hitting your mark."

Isn't that glorious? There's oodles more where that came from. Stay tuned, Dear Reader, because we'll have more golden writerly goodness coming your way before you can say California Prospector. For now, though, let's join Amie in celebrating Three Things Thursday. Today's theme is: three things about your childhood that make you who you are. (If you'd like to participate, go visit Amie's blog and jump in!)

Here are my three things:

1. My imaginary friend was a red squirrel called Chippy. He ran alongside the car everywhere my family went, and entertained me in math class when I was too frustrated with my numerical ineptitude to pay attention anymore. To this day--despite knowing that they are overpopulated, diseased vermin--I have a soft-spot for squirrels.

2. My favorite thing to do in the back-yard was to wander around through our evergreen trees and pick the small, frosty-blue berries so I could combine them with mud, leaves, and crape-myrtle buds in an old bowl to make a magical stew. This gave way to a penchant for weird Celtic mythology.

3. I once led my neighbor friends to the doorstep of an old house that I thought was abandoned, planning to introduce an exciting new place to play. As I reached for the doorknob, the door swung open to reveal a livid old woman I would later swear was a witch, who screeched after us about calling the police even as we sprinted for our lives back down the street. Now, when I walk Ophelia, I hate tiptoeing into people's lawns to pick up after her because I'm afraid they'll come running out, bellowing threats.

That's my three! And speaking of Ophelia, my roommate's friend Adri (who is a fab photographer) took this photo of my little spotty-dotty the other night. Ophie's usually not very photogenic, but I like this one.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Credit Where Credit is Due, or The New House

I don't know where I've been all these months of my blogging existence.  Under a virtual rock, evidently.  Because until last week, I had no idea what Shabby Blogs was.  Had no clue that the entire time I was pulling out my fingernails to get my Blogger template the way I liked it, a site existed just a mouse-click away that offered all the kinds of things I like as blog decoration... FOR FREE.  (Check out their blog, too.  It's as beautiful as everything they offer.)

And, what's more, Shabby Blogs lead me to another site which exists purely for the editing and decorating of photos.  FOR FREE.  This was another brilliant revelation for me.  Maybe I'll stop lurking under my rock.  It seems that the virtual world is full of wonders.

After much deliberation over my selections, I have redecorated this place so that it fits my tastes, and feels more like home.  Of course, even moving into a home decorated the way you like it feels strange at first, because nothing is familiar.  So, it will take some getting used to.  But I like the results.  My template is called "French Flea Market".  (Just like when I buy paint, I find it difficult to resist something with a good name.)

So, welcome to my open house!  Have a look around, pour yourself a glass of French wine, and stay awhile.  It's lovely to have you here.  

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Under Construction... Come Back Soon!

As you can see, I'm in the process of giving myself a blog makeover.  More on that later... please come back to see the finished product!