Friday, December 17, 2010

Why Hello There

I am way too frazzled to be a religious blogger right now.

And this is why:

I've been very busy and am very tired. My husband has been absent, mostly, due to finals weeks being in progress. I've had some felting orders to fill (yay) and have only one more left to do (a boxed set of monogramed ornaments...I'm rather sick of ornaments at the moment, even if they are cute). My daughter had croup last week and was sick, and now my son has a different, more wet cough going on. There's like four feet of snow outside (I'm not exaggerating...last night someone pulled into our driveway to turn around and got stuck, and we had to go out there at 11 to shovel them out). I've got some stupid sinus thing and my house looks like it puked on itself. Plus I've discovered that my son can now a), open the fridge; b), climb onto the counter and help himself to the cake sprinkles and then pour them ALL into a cup and then carry around said sprinkles and munch on them happily without me noticing for a whole five minutes; and c), pull the xmas tree lights out of the socket and put them back in to make the lights flicker. All because I was trying to clean upstairs a bit. Oh, and I've got a neighbor telling me that having my kids watch movies is rotting their brains and she won't let her son watch a movie, especially a DISNEY movie; he'll watch Hitchcock if he's going to watch ANYTHING. And I've been trying to write and wrap presents and figure out what to give teachers and try to remember that it's already past dinner time and I should start thinking about going to the grocery store to expand our pantry choices beyond ramen. Oh, and last night my daughter decided to wake up at 2 a.m. because she was hungry, and she NEEDED MOMMY to sit with her and I couldn't get her asleep until 5 a.m., after I gave her a dose of homeopathic "sleep aid." After which I felt guilty for ten minutes, until she actually went to sleep. And then I was worried she'd never wake up and it'd be my fault, but then sleep overcame me and we woke up at 9, just when we were supposed to be leaving the house for an appointment.

AAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ok. Must stop so I can blow my nose.

Ciao, happy holidays, etc.

Monday, November 15, 2010

new website

I am writing, really, but not exactly at NaNo speeds. Instead, I've been gearing up for a craft fair and getting myself set up online. It's a little scary setting up my website and throwing myself to the wind, but it had to be done. (www.amberlough.com) I wouldn't have even done it if my neighbor-friend hadn't gotten my domain name within an hour of me mentioning I needed help getting my shop up and running.

So I am swamped, to say the least. The next few days, we're having the windows replaced (thanks to the City of Syracuse, I might add) so I won't be allowed to be home. The kids and I will find elsewhere to hang out during the day, and I'll have to do my craft-making and writing on the fly. At least we'll be warmer this winter, and the lead risk will be lower.

And then Saturday, I'm doing my first craft fair. I am petrified no one will buy a single thing and this will all flop, but my skin has thickened since I first began sending out agent queries long ago. If I fail at this, I will be saddened and disheartened, but not dead. If I fail at ever getting a novel published, well...let's not discuss that now.

Off to bed now. Must wake up early and pick up the house/gather what I need for the day/get Eldest to preschool.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Abbasid Caliphate

Did you know the "golden age" of Baghdad was during the 9th century? It's when the Arabian Nights mostly take place. It's when Islam had pretty strong control over the region and most of North Africa and Central Asia. You might have known this. But did you know the Arabs were prolific poets? And that in the Abbasid court, they had poets just as they did in the heyday of Venice, who called out spontaneous poems of love and loyalty to their current rulers? And that wine was often freely drank, late into the night?

Yes. They were Muslim rulers, and they drank wine. And the people knew it.

But most importantly, their court poets wrote about love. And someone, somewhere down the line, felt compelled to write the poems down, and then rewrite them when the papyrus fell apart and paper became common. And so now we're left with volumes and volumes (only parts in English, sadly) of poems like this:

You pages, pour me out a potion
Pour me to drink her soft, sweet kisses
I suffer drought; its healing draught
Is drinking from her moist fresh lips.
The smiling corners of her mouth are brilliant as chamomile;
Her speech is like embroidery, a mantle with embroidery
Lodged in the core and kernel of
My heart, she is insatiable.
She said to me: 'I'll meet with you a few nights hence.'
But day and night will wear away, and nothing new will come myw ay.
She is content without me; my
Portion is sighs to gnaw a heart of steel.
~ Bashshar ibn Burd, medieval Islamic poet


Beautiful. And the images. *shiver*


This one made me chuckle:

Of all garments
God blast the veil

it hides the young

and masks the vile
to urge us on.
God blast the veil.
~ Dhu'l-Rumma
(696?-735?) (I.E., a LONG ass time ago.)

And one that is anonymous:

It's true.
I have left my mistresses and wine behind
and love's delirium. and have abandoned myself to my Lord.

My pleasures were long-lasting
but now He firmly holds my hand
within His law.

Today, wine is a crime,
and you,
are against His law;
but when I remember
this and that ... and your smile,
I must leave my Lord behind for ever.


Makes you wonder what transpired in those dots, eh?

And after at least a thousands years, I can feel the anguish and love the author must have felt. And because of his words, he and I are connected. (In a weird "transcendence of time and space" sort of way, I guess.)



If only I could travel back and hear the music sung late at night, while the caliph sat behind a curtain with his women, drinking and laughing. None of the music survived the ages. The lyrics and instruments, yes, but the Arabs had no way of marking musical notes, so when the singers died, and their songs were forgotten, they disappeared. What would happen if we lost our sheets of music collected the past 500 years, and then today's musicians died. Our grandchildren wouldn't know a tenth of what had been sung or played. The world would be silent.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Promises

How often to you make promises? Daily? Monthly? Never?

I rarely do because it's always so difficult for me to keep them. Once the promise is made, it's imprinted on my mind and at the forefront for a while. I end up obsessing over it. My most pressing promise at the moment? One I made to my critique partner. After our last meeting, she made me promise not to do any crafty things (i.e., felt or sew) during the daytime in lieu of writing. It's fine to do those things once the kids are in bed for the night, but not when they're at school or taking naps (which is becoming a rarity, sad to say---I'll have to change my blog title!).

So although I'd like to be making something with my hands right now to get that high I get whenever I finish a project (that happens, what, once every other year or so with writing? Never?), I am sitting down with my computer on my lap. Writing. Well, blogging, but I'm also writing. Just taking a break because I already reached 1/3 of my writing goal this morning. And the water is boiling for tea.

Fortunately, the promise came with a gift: she made me feel, once again, like my book is worth it. I'm filled with optimism and energy. Now, I just know that this story is going to be amazing. And she surprised me, too. She said, "you're almost at the end of the book already." *

Me: What? But I'm only halfway through.

Her: No, this is closer to the climax.

Me: But there's not that much written.

Her: All that stuff we said needs to go in earlier? You can write that in, in-between what you've already written.

Me: *stunned silence as I am realizing she might be right*

Her: So go write it already.

Me: *stunned silence as I am realizing the end of the road is closer than I'd thought*

Her: And no felting!


* Conversation as I remember it. There were probably more "ums" involved.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Introducing...





My Etsy shop! Yay!

I spent nearly all day yesterday getting it all set up and trying my darndest to take decent pictures when it was gloomy outside. Today proved to have better weather, so I got some scarf pictures made (and ended up convincing a neighbor girl who I had only known for 30 seconds to model for me).



Yay!

And of course I'm not writing now, not while I'm so excited. Plus, I've got to go to the post office because I just made my first sale!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Fear and Longing in Syracuse

I've been having up and down days. What is going on? Some days I attack my book--no, wait, fondle-- and other days, I don't want to touch it at all.

It's all based on fear, you know. That great, terrible, blinding emotion that chases us all down. Some days, I'm faster and others, well, it crawla up my back and traces its claws along my collar bone. Too close; a little too close. This morning was one of those days. I was afraid of the next scene. Not the scene, actually, but of not being able to write it well.

Which, frankly, is ridiculous. I mean, what, I can't put some words together? Someone asked Steven King how he writes and he responded, "One word at a time," or something like that. It's all a writer's got to do. They don't even have to be good (not in the first draft, or even the second).

So this morning, when fear was digging its claws into my scalp, I turned and faced it.

(Ohh, I can write fiction! You see, the truth of the matter is that I started writing, got scared, and went to something else...like working on a project for my soon-to-open Etsy store.)

One side....


And the other side....


But now the bag is at a good pausing point and I really need to get to work.

You do too, don't you? After all, procrastination is the thief of time. (Someone else, somewhere else, said that once.)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Where the Story Begins

Some nights, I'm restless. I can't read. I can't watch a movie. I can't decide whether I should drink a glass of wine, or hot chocolate, or water. I can't sleep.

Tonight, with Jim on a business trip and the kids in bed on time (shocker there), my hands were suddenly empty and my legs wouldn't relax. Most people would go for a run, but I couldn't do that. I wasn't feeling it. (Plus I couldn't leave the house.)

I sat here for an hour before my brain got in touch with the rest of my body:



And so, I spent some time online and realized I'd forgotten about my blog and found myself wanting to create.

But I didn't write. No, that's hard. I thought about what I wanted to focus on in my book. I remembered what it felt like when the lining of my heart gave out five and half years ago after I realized who the love of my life was. And that I had just sent him away, claiming I didn't love him.

That desperate, chilling realization has got to be one of those moments that unites a reader with a person in a book. It's the moment your soul bleeds into the page and you suddenly are that person you've been reading about. And the character's future is your own. It's the last scene in Persuasion. The railway station scene in the movie version of North and South. Any scene in any story in which your heart beats faster and your mouth turns dry.

So I played some Turkish music and laid out some wool. And I made this*:


It's not dark. It's not even passionate. What it is, though, is soft and fluid. Like clouds. Like my face when he came back. Full of light.


* Nuno-felted scarf of alpaca, mohair, and merino on silk. It's still dripping wet. Maybe tomorrow I'll get some better pictures of it and other things I've been making lately.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Writer Within

How is your Friday? Mine is as well as can be. The kids are playing at the Y, I've got a few hours free in which to write (and am wasting? it with blogging, I suppose). But I have to get the juices flowing somehow, and this is as good as any other way.

Recently, I sent off the first fifty pages of my second draft to my agent (Laura Rennert, who I whole-heartedly admire). It's in her queue, which makes me half anxious, half excited. You see, I think it's pretty good. Am I over-confident? Right-on? Blind? I won't know till she reads it and lets me know what she thinks. My critique partner likes it, and she's honest, so maybe it is good--for a second-draft.


And now, a glimpse inside Amber's head...

The Writer: Ugh. I have to write the next scene. Or the rest of this last scene. Can't remember exactly where I left off.

The Reader: But didn't you just write two days ago?

W: Yes. So?

R: And you've already forgotten?

W: No, I haven't forgotten. I remember exactly what happened. I just don't remember what I was feeling, exactly. I mean, I know what I was feeling...but the feeling isn't active within me at this moment. And how can I write without filling myself up with the same feeling as before? It'll be false. It'll be inconsistent.

R: First; you're really weird. Second; just re-read what you wrote last time, try to get yourself into the "mood," which is silly anyway, and then re-imaging what was going on, and what will happen. Like you always do.

W: Yes, I've always done it before, that way, but what if this time, it doesn't work? I'd have more success with Sudoku. Unless I get a really hard one. Then I have to cheat.

R: You are so pathetic. Listen. You've paid good money to have this time to write. You will burn in hell if you do sudoku instead.

W: So then what do I write?

R: The next scene.

W: *whine* But I don't know what happens next.

R: Yes you do. It already happened. You're going to re-tell it. Simple as that.

W: But this part is all new. It wasn't in the first draft.

R: It already happened. Re-tell it. Stop this silly blogging and Get. To. Work.

W: I guess we know now which one of us wanted to be the Air Force Officer.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Tender Morsels

Yeah, I know, I didn't blog about the conference. It was great. I meant to blog, but seriously, life got busy. And now I want to get straight to the point:

Have any of you read Tender Morsels, by Margo Lanagan?



So I got a Nook, which I adore, and this was the first book I bought to read on it. And as I began reading, I was drawn in immediately (which is good) and thrown into disgust (both good and bad). If you've read it, what did you think? There's no doubt that Ms. Lanagan knows how to write. She uses such beautiful prose, all the style which I adore....lyrical, poetic, emotional, and she gets right down to the grit of what's going on using these "powers" with words. She toys with us. She makes her characters real, and we care for them, and hate them, and all of that.

But (there had to be a "but," right?) although the story gripped me, and I cared about the characters, I never fell completely in love with any of them. And I think it's because she jumps around between them so much, switching the point-of-view rapidly, going from first-person to third and back and forth all the time. It works because she knows how to vary the characters enough that you recognize right away, most of the time, who it is you're viewing the world from. But it tore me from their hearts, and I never quite got attached. There were only a few characters I wanted to stay with, and one of the biggest deals with me for a book is that the character "stays" with me long after I've put it down. Sometimes months, and in the case of some great characters, years. By the time I was finished with this book, I was ready to be done. I was disappointed in the ending, to say the least, and that might have had something to do with it.

So I am distraught. I can't tell if I liked the book or not. There's no denying it's well-written---beautifully written, no less---but it's harsh and it's difficult to follow sometimes and, well, all the things I said above. I am thankful for having read it, of course. It's a great study on POV (maybe one of the best). It's flushed out, and the world-building is complete. The characters are whole (except the ones that aren't supposed to be).

When I finished, I felt as if I'd been having a very long, drawn-out dream that was half nightmare and half beauty.*

And maybe that's what Margo Lanagan intended. It very well might be.

If you've read it, what effect did it have on you?

* FYI, if I had read this when I was in High School, I would have worshipped it. What a difference a decade (and then some) makes.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Travelin' Shmavelin'

I'm in Colorado right now, overlooking the Cherry Creek resevoir and the jagged-toothed horizon that is the Rockies. A strong, warm wind is blowing the grasses out on the preserve, bending the branches down and drying my laundry at the same time. Beautiful.

And tomorrow I will board a plane to L.A. to go to the conference. The conference. Like, SCBWI LA conference 2010. I will reconnect with my RSBs (RockSugarBeets), meet some new friends, get inspired, laugh, have some child-free fun, and maybe swim a bit. Oh, and there's a costume party. And I have a costume all planned out. (Tee hee!) I'll post pictures afterward, promise.

My second draft is moving along. I hit a little bump and am taking a few days off to process info, develop my newer characters a bit more, and refuel. I'm sure that once I get back from the conference I'll be aching, dying, thirsting to write.

And now, Amber's List of Things to Do Today:
1. Go find a carry-on suitcase that won't crush a 60-year old velvet hat.
2. Figure out which non-costume clothing to bring.
3. Remind my parents how/when the children should be put to bed.
4. Not hyperventilate
5. Go out to dinner with my sister, Hazel, who is home from Ukraine for just this week. It is likely the last time I will see her for five years, unless I can afford to fly out there sometime in the near future.
6. Try not to get drunk with my sister.*
7. Kiss my kids because I will undoubtably miss them during the five days I will be away.
8. Call my husband.
9. Relax. (Yeah, right.)
10. Get some sleep.


P.S. My critique partner's book is rockin'. Can't wait till you all read it!

* My sister does not keep secrets.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Mates

I've got a new critique partner, and she's awesome. Not only is she local (like, only a mile or so away), but our daughters are friends, she's a HS English teacher, and our books are totally compatible. They're completely different, but they have the same feel. Sort of. I mean, as much as an Arabian Nights-ish fantasy and a dystopian novel can feel similarly.

I love her book. Love it. And she seems to love mine, too. *sigh of contentment.*

I do miss my old critique mates and their stories, though. I know them so well, and they've become great friends of mine. But they live in San Diego, and they meet in person and I was the far-flung member communicating by email and skype. It was hard. I did it for two years, but I really needed someone I could sit with in person and hash out ideas on a couch.

So, dear old critique mates, I miss you. And dear new critique mate, I am so fortunate to have met you (and your well-stocked YA library in your house). So happy that we are urging each other to write often, and well!

[Oh, and I've written a LOAD of good pages this week. Yay!!!!]

Monday, July 5, 2010

Flying and Wishes

Aren't those deeply imbedded in jinni lore?

I am flying by on this draft. So far, on day two, I'm at 3,363 words*. And I wish I had a jinn around at the moment. I've got a big wish to make...but I'll settle for hope. Hope is free, it's attainable, and it's eternal--I hope this excitement and thrill I'm having while writing this draft is sustainable. I need it for the whole damn thing.

Now I'm off to bed.


*Not so speedy for you Robots, but for this mortal writer, it's fast. As fast as...*searches for cheesy metaphor*...a flying carpet. Or would a flying carpet be, indeed, slow? Would it fly more like an albatross, or a jet? I bet I know how my personal carpet would fly...

***** Cindy Pon is having a HUGE YA "people-of-color" book giveaway, by the way. Go check it out! I hope I win...those are all awesome books!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

And now we move on...

to Draft Two!*

I am thrilled to be done with the first yucky bit. It's a load of a mess, and the plot is all wrong, but a few very key elements came out of the past YEAR of writing:

I have...
1. Discovered who my main characters really are
2. Found out what the story is really about
3. Cemented the imagery, feeling, and "decor" of the novel in my mind
4. Gotten to know more about the original Arabian Nights stories
5. Grown committed, but not blind and stupid (I hope), to finishing this story
6. Set up a writing routine using a combination of babysitters, day care, Pandora music, and advanced Sudoku Avoidance Techniques

The Story Fairy came by, you see?



I think the most important element, however, is that I really know my main character and I (hope) can portray her voice well. With her voice, I can show you her story. And isn't that what we all want? A rich story told just as the character experiences it? Plot matters, of course, but not nearly as much as the character. Otherwise, it's just a blip in memory.

I want to write stories that persist, and I think if there is the truth of human experience (and large doses of romance) in it, it will.

In other news, I've been thrifting more and more lately and have gotten obsessed with 1950s full-circle day dresses. Next time I wear it, I'll take a picture of myself in my new yellow striped dress. :-)


* Ok, honestly, I didn't exactly finish the first draft. I wrote right up till the final climax. But at that point, I realized all the things listed above. And I found out what is supposed to happen. I was trying to douse the book in lots of twisted, quick-moving plot. It isn't that kind of story. I don't even like to read those kinds of books, really, so why write one? And now that I've thought through what needs to be written for draft two, I am once again in love. The soul of story has returned.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Close

I am so so so close. I will report back (in a week, I hope) when I am done with the very messy, tangled mess of a first draft.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Make History!



I had to step in whilst writing to add this video. It's awesome. Especially the Brontesaurus!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Finishing

I have not been blogging because I've been busy...

...and I intend to finish this WIP by the end of May.

Probably won't report back in until the first draft is complete. Sorry to be so uninteresting this month!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Off to Denver

I've been taking some time off of blogging and doing things online. (Still am, actually.) Just wanted to say that I'll be in Denver the next week and a half, and if anyone wants to meet up in the area, let me know!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Water Fasting is not Water Boarding


I mentioned earlier that I did a water fast this past week. Yes, it's true: I drank nothing but water and ate...nothing. For 48 hours. I had intended to do it for 24, and then changed it to 72, but by the end of the 48 I was told (not-so-vaguely) by my husband that I needed to have energy the next day because I'd be watching the kids by myself.

So here's what happened:

Thursday, the night before, I ate dinner. Vegetables and some kind of protein. I can't remember what I had. Then I drank some hot chocolate.

Friday, instead of coffee, I drank water. Then later on, when my caffeine headache came on, I drank more water. And more water. I drank as much water as I could stand. By midday, my stomach was grumbling, but I knew I wasn't "starving," which doesn't happen to a person unless they've used up their fat reserves. My headache was nearly intolerable by evening. I was flat out on the couch, with my hands over my ears, trying to ignore the presence of my family. My husband was a bit annoyed. My kids were unaware of anything. I would say, on a scale of 1-10, my headache was a 10. No joke. The pain made me throw up, twice.

Saturday, my headache was at 10%. Manageable. I wanted coffee, or tea, or anything, but I couldn't have it. I was in the throws of detox, right? Well, I didn't feel like it. I didn't have the reactions I'd read about (not yet). But the hunger was manageable. I was hungry, but I was exercising my willpower. I was in charge. And I wasn't denying myself food: I had plenty of it stored on my body. Plus, I was cleansing myself of everything. So I drank water.

One of the side-effects of a water fast is lower blood pressure, which can make you faint. I already have ultra-low blood pressure and feel faint most of the time, anyway, so I blacked out several times that day. By evening, after running upstairs to get something, I almost toppled over. That was when my husband mentioned I should eat something, and get my energy and blood pressure back up so I could take care of the kids on Sunday. "Why don't you wait to try this again until after the semester is over?" he asked. I was at my weakest point then, so I agreed. I ate some fruit, drank some juice, and then later had dinner.

By Sunday, I felt more like myself. But I no longer needed coffee in the morning. (I'd also lost several pounds, but that wasn't really a big goal of mine, and it was mostly water-weight, so it doesn't truly count.)

It wasn't until Tuesday that I was able to write again. I felt foggy, tired, and drugged. And yet...free.

The most annoying aspect of fasting is boredom. How often do we eat when we're bored, or because we're bored? How often are our social meetings arranged around food? This was one of the things I was trying to overcome. I want to be conscious of the food I put in my mouth. I want to be conscious of all that I do to my body, all that I experience.

The other reason I did this was to experiment. In my work-in-progress, I have a main character that is avoiding all food. How better to describe what she goes through than to experience it myself?

Now I am decaffeinated. It's strange. After a year of drinking coffee every day, now I have water first-thing in the morning. It's not as enjoyable, by far, but I'm ok with it. For now. As my family knows, I change my routine like the earth sheds seasons.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Manuscript Marathon

My friend Laini Taylor blogged yesterday, saying she intends to finish the first draft of her manuscript by the end of March. It's a great idea and a great goal. An important goal. One I need to take on as my own. So, now that's it's out in the open, I must really work towards it, right? I've got a lot left to write to get this WIP completed, and so far, I haven't written a thing this month. (I did a Water Fast over the weekend which left me unable to do anything...More on that some other time.)

There are other things going on this month, too: First, my husband's Spring Break, when we will be driving down to Maryland to visit friends. Then I'll be taking the kids to Denver at the end of the month to visit my parents. (Flying solo with kids. What joy!) Somehow, I must work around or through these breaks to get the thing done.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Awards



I just won a blog award (above) from Valerie Storey! For this particular award, the requirements are that I share 7 pieces of info about myself and then choose 7 blogs I feel deserve the award too*.
  1. I was born in Columbia, Missouri, which isn't interesting at all, so as a kid, I'd tell people I was born "in Columbia." (And they believed me.)
  2. My bachelor's degree is from St. Louis University, and I majored in both Russian and International Relations.
  3. I am still waiting for the day when my degree applies to my own life.
  4. I spent over two years in a Japanese elementary school as their first foreign student. I read many Nancy Drew books the first six months because my teacher promptly sat me by the window and forgot about me. My next teacher was the one who taught me Japanese.
  5. I can fold tiny, tiny origami cranes. When I was by that window, I used to test myself to see how small I could get them.
  6. I absolutely love rugby and wish I could erase American football and replace it with the better game.
  7. I do not know how to relax unless I am reading or watching a movie. I cannot sit still unless my brain is wholly engaged, and I have a horrible time turning my mind off when it's time for bed.

Okay, enough about me. Now to hand out my awards:

  1. Jacqui Robbins, for always providing deep thoughts and a laugh.
  2. Andrea Eames, for being the best-dressed writer on Earth.
  3. Christina Farley, who recently compared writing to kimchi. And I agree. (And I love kimchi.)
  4. Vijaya Bodach, who may not know she won because she has given up blogs for Lent! (And I'm sure her writing will improve because of it.)
  5. Jonathan Arntson, a new blogger friend of mine, who is in need of YET ANOTHER award, naturally.
  6. Shannon O'Donnell, who is in the same boat as me: writing with little ones running about. Oh, and she seems to know everything that's going on in the kidlit world.
  7. Christine Danek, another new blogger friend, who I just know that if we sat down for coffee together, and managed to keep the kids from running off and wreaking havoc on the world, would be kindred spirits in no time. (This is the second time she gets this award. She must be cool.)

* Doing the requirements for the awards sucks up so much time, I swear it's a design by an evil jinn trying to disrupt the productivity of blogging writers.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Quilt Block

I haven't written any prose since Friday. I wish I could get time during the weekend, but it's "family time." But I did make something yesterday! See?

It's a quilt block. :-) It's about 15'' square. My husband and I took a quilting class yesterday*, and this is what I made. I tried to be as precise as I could, but I go through projects quickly and always make mistakes. (I really should wear a seam-ripper around my neck whilst sewing.) Jim has always wanted to make quilts and I wanted to learn how to be more precise in my sewing. He was the only man there, naturally, but no one seemed to mind. In much the way it is with children's writers gatherings, when a man is about, the women are thrilled to have some diversity. He is hoping to make some sort of mathematical quilt, with fractals, I think**.

Things I learned about quilting that can be applied to writing:
1. Get an idea for the scope of the project first.
2. Don't get discouraged about how much time it might take--do one block at a time.
3. If you are precise every step of the way, the pieces will fit together much better. (This pleases my critical side.)
4. If you rush, you'll probably make a mess that won't fit together. (A bit like NaNoWriMo was for me, really.)
5. Enjoy it.

* What a date, eh?
** Did I mention I married a mathematical freak of nature? Well, I did. Math freaks are hot.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Writing By

My pages aren't exactly flying by, but time is, and I'm doing my best to make the most of it. It's been a rough week.

Now, have you ever heard that a writer writes best under pressure? Or that she must find her muse in order to write her best?

It's all hogwash. And it's all true. Here's a not-so-secret secret: you write your best when you have set aside the time to write and stick to it. But you also write your best when you've tapped into your muse and are calling upon legions of creative ideas. And guess what? You can do both at the same time. (Even if you're writing on a laptop in the dance studio, while your daughter is twirling away.) (Not that I've done that.)

I've noticed something lately. The writing outcome of the days in which I feel engrossed with my story and the days in which I am merely pounding out the words are not that different. I write like I write, no matter the mood or the excitement of doing so. Why is this? I think it's because I've been writing and writing and writing for several years and have found my "ME" in my prose. I've found the little invisible thread that leads me from staring at a blank page to putting somewhat-decent words onto it. It's a novel idea (ha ha) that I can sit down and write and expect the same outcome in quality no matter my mood.

This is not to say that when I'm feeling depressed I can write every time. Or that when I'm tired, or busy, or lost in thought about a novel I've just read, I can jot down more of my story. Not always. It only happens when I commit to writing a scene or a specific number of words. And many times, I just don't commit to it and end up finding something, anything, else to do.

(It's what happened the past few days, actually.)

So, to recap:
A writer can expect the outcome in quality to be the same whether she is in "the mood" to write or not, as long as she sets aside the time for it and commits to the doing of it.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Snowflake Pro

Earlier this week I was googling for help with novel plotting because I was stuck. I wanted some way to organize everything, keep my characters lined up, and figure out what the core of my novel really was. I knew, sort of, what I wanted, but it was all nebulous. Which is why I kept writing and re-writing the first 50 pages. I was pretty happy with what I've written this past month (about a hundred pages), but I still didn't know if it was good enough. I didn't know if it made sense, or if the plot was too cliche, or too confusing, or too....crappy. Plus, I was stuck.

Well, while I was googling, I came across a site describing the Snowflake Method. I read it, liked it, and then discovered that the man who came up with is also a physicist (awesome!) and a computer software developer, not to mention a novelist. So I took a look at his program he had for sale, and after the initial sticker shock, ordered it. (He offers a 50% discount if you buy his Novel Writing for Dummies book.) Yes, it was expensive. Yes, my husband looked at me like that when I told him. But but but! It seems to be working! I have organized my novel already! I have written a one-liner that gets right to the core of my novel. I have written a short synopsis that makes describing the novel to random strangers much easier (have you ever had the deer in the headlights look when someone asks you what your novel is about??). I have expanded that into a page-long synopsis detailing the novel. I have figured out the point of each character (what he/she wants, what is their downfall, what is their saving grace, what they are like) and then described the story from each point of view (which was amazingly helpful and I wish I'd thought of it sooner). I am just about to expand my page-long synopsis into a four-page synopsis. Next, I will outline each scene.

You could do all of this without the software, of course, but it's just so cool. Used in conjunction with Scrivener, I will be banging this thing out in no time, and when I'm done, it'll make sense.

By the way, I was able to see Tamora Pierce speak at a fundraiser in my neighborhood this weekend, and she was fabulous. There were only about twenty people there, including Bruce Coville, who is always nice each time I see him. (I run into him in public places here! It's like living in Hollywood, except that it's Syracuse and he's not an actor!) Tamora Pierce spoke about how, like a buckaneer, she pillages the great works of the ancients, the ideas that have been passed down, and all she sees around her to build her worlds and stories. She is an awesome, talented writer!

Bruce Coville made my day because at first he didn't recognize me (we've only met twice before, so I wasn't expecting him to recognize me anyway) and then he said he thought I was one of the high school students. (Gasp! Squee!) I'm sure he was just being nice, but it sure made me feel great for the rest of the day. And the next day. And today. :-)

Having these two brilliant authors for neighbors is wonderful. I hope I'll be able to tell them I've sold a book the next time I see them!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

I love my monster child, I do

Here's a video taken in my home at approximately 4:25 a.m. this morning. For your viewing pleasure:

video

It's now a quarter to eight, and she is STILL AWAKE and thrilled than she can now write her numbers. I couldn't be less thrilled at the moment. Really.

My husband left just after the video to go to school/work. I was thrilled about that, too.

Henry got back to sleep about 20 minutes later, after some crying. I slept a little bit, but she woke up me in 15-minute increments telling me various things, like: she wanted to play a computer game ("No!"), or that she wasn't tired ("Well, I am!"), or that she wanted me to go downstairs with her ("Go by yourself!") or that downstairs was scary ("Then stay in your room!"). (See a pattern?)

Now it's time to get us all dressed and take her to preschool. I have a feeling she might take a nap today. (That will shock her teacher.)

Please don't tell me your little, adorable, kind children sleep in until 8 every morning, or that you have to wake them up to go to school. It just might push me over the edge.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Busy Busy

Can I just say that this past week was full of, well, stuff? Both kids were sick, as was I, and when my 3 year old is home from school, the schedule comes to a grinding halt. So, forgive me for not finishing up the last post! I never did assign any awards to anyone...and I'm not going to. Not now, not a week later. That would just be lame. So, here's a special award: anyone who reads this post between now and 12 p.m. EST on February 2nd gets a Gold Star sticker. Let me know, and I will mail you one. ;-)

Good news for last week was that I wrote a particularly difficult scene. I actually wrote it three times until I got it "good enough" to press on. And then I had to write the next scene, which was just as difficult. It wasn't as pivotal, but deciding what was going to happen, exactly, took some time. I have come into a sort of rhythm, lately. When I'm stuck, I write out a description of the scene, including the participants, the weather, the mood, and the events. As I do this, the scene comes more-or-less to life in my head, and when I open up Scrivener to write it all down, it comes out gushing (or at least in a steady flow).

Then the weekend happened, in which I got zero time to write. Truly. Unless I sacrificed one of my 6 hours of sleep, I was not going to get free time.

Well, this post was rather long*. You get two stars for making it this far!

Now, tell me, what's the book you're currently reading? I'm reading Sara's Key, sort of. It's actually so sad, that I have to balance it out with a Nancy Drew novel. I am not sure I can finish this book.

* I just deleted three paragraphs that were too personal. Muahaha.

Monday, January 25, 2010

An Award! *gasp*

I just received a blog award!


Valerie at I Should Be Writing gave me the Over The Top Award!

Rules: Answer the following questions with Single Word answers then pass this along to 5 other bloggers. Make sure you let them know about it though.

Your Cell Phone? texy
Your Hair? medium
Your Mother? Dramatic
Your Father? Engineer
Your Favourite Food? Thai
Your Dream Last Night? terrifying
Your Favourite Drink? Tea
Your Dream/Goal? February!
What Room Are You In? living
Your Hobby? Felting
Your Fear? Failure
Where Do You See Yourself In Six Years? Home
Where Were You Last Night? Couch
Something That You Aren't? begrudging
Muffins? mmm
Wish List Item? time!
Where Did You Grow Up? internationally
Last Thing You Did? sew
What Are You Wearing? scarf
Your TV? Off
Your Pets? dead
Friends? always
Your Life? creative
Your Mood? rushed
Missing Someone? no
Vehicle? practical
Something You Aren't Wearing? tiara
Your Favourite Store? Bookstore
Your Favourite Colour? blue
When Was The Last Time You Laughed? today
Last Time You Cried? recently
Your Best Friend? somewhere
One Place You Go To Over And Over Again? dreamland
Facebook? forgotten
Favourite Place To Eat? table

5 Blogs I'm Giving The Over The Top Award To:
...I will do this later. My battery is about to die b/c hubby took my adapter to work!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Another scarf

I did a wee bit of writing today, but not much. I didn't sleep well last night, and had a hard time focusing. I did, however, make another scarf. This one is still wet, and hanging in the sunlight to dry.

I used two different types of roving for this one, just to test it out. The teal is 70/30 merino/silk, and the purplish is 100% merino. The yarn is wool-covered nylon.


I tried to make it gauzy, but it was only that way in a few places. Next time, I need to space out the roving a bit further.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Felting

Bear with me here, as Henry is up and I'm distracting him from my computer by letting him play with my camera (probably a bad move).

To celebrate writing 3,000 words this morning (and 15K so far this month!), I spent his naptime working on art projects. There is a bit of history to this...for Christmas this past year, I received a wet-felted purse from my sister, who's friend made it in Ukraine (my sister lives and works in Ukraine). I fell in LOVE with both it an the art form, and immersed myself into researching the craft. I ordered wool roving (unspun carded wool, not yarn) and some kits. Then I began.

Here is the purse I received:

My first project was a basic 2D rectangle...with which I have no idea what to do. But here it is.


Then I branched out (hah hah) into making "bamboo" and coiled rope:

And then, my first artfelted 3D object, a bowl:


Mittens, of which I learned a valuable lesson (don't let them shrink too small for a 3 y.o.):

And then, for myself, a scarf of merino wool (I'm wearing right now):
See the thinness of it? There is negative space, sort of like rough lace or lattice. I absolutely love this scarf. I had fun with the leftovers, too (the spirals).

And then, because I told her I would, I made Elizabeth a scarf. This is what I did today during Henry's nap, while listening to Little Women. I'm quite proud of it. It's incredibly soft, thin, and nearly transparent. And yet it's super strong, too. It's merino wool, as well, with a bit of yarn thrown in for decoration. I think that next time I make something like this, I'll leave out less wool and let more of the yarn peep through. It only peeped through at one end, as seen in the second picture.



I love wool. I love sheep. I love getting my hands working with fibers and having a tactile creative experience--something I do not get while writing. I truly believe a writer needs other creative outlets, such as music, painting, or dancing, to build other channels through which to reach his or her muse.

(Henry is now in his high chair, snacking on cheerios. The camera was a bad idea, after all, and I had to save it. Hmm... He's watching Teletubbies for the first time and seems to like it.)

Now, I need to order more merino wool. The stuff I have left is too stiff for scarves, and I'm a bit afraid of making a purse just yet. Artfelting is much easier than wetfelting, and requires less energy and time. It also makes just beautiful, soft items.

Maybe, if I'm lucky, I'll get good enough at this and set up an Etsy or Artfire site.

But not until my book is finished. I have a deadline: Feb 28th. That is when my child care funds run dry.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Beware of Illustrators

You must watch this video from Candy Gourlay's blog. It is the cutest! This boy is definitely going to be published some day. He's way ahead of where most of us were at age nine (well, at least me).



Friday, January 15, 2010

Character Pics



Do you find real photos of what you imagine your characters to look like? I do. It helps tremendously in making me feel like these people are real.

Most of you know I'm writing a book about a jinn. Her name is Nashwa, and in my mind, she looks like this:
Isn't she beautiful? In real life, this woman really is named Nashwa. She's an actress. The Nashwa of my novel is 17 and grew up in an underworld cavern next to the Lake of Fire.

Nashwa's life changes when she is assigned to this human:



That's Kamal, son of the Qaliph of Baghdad. (Ok, in reality, this photo is of Ahmed, "Mr. Bahrain.") Iblis, Jinn Lord of the Underworld, has decided that Kamal will help him in his war against humanity...with Nashwa's help.

Of course, Nashwa has some issues with Iblis' commands when she meets Kamal.

Hopefully, I'll be done with this soon. Gah! Finding time has been harder than usual lately. My son has been sick and I had a wisdom tooth pulled, but I am finally getting back to it.

In other news, Jim and I finished watching BBC Drama's North and South last night. Swoon. It was incredible. Now I really want to read the book. Right now, though, I'm reading Ice.

Happy Writing!


Monday, January 11, 2010

Where have I been?!

It's January 11th. So much has happened since I last blogged. It is actually overwhelming.

First, I sold a book.

No. JUST KIDDING. Sheesh, you'd think I'd wait to post something like that?

I did, however, pass into another decade. I am now out of my twenties and am...relieved. My twenties were harsh. I did a lot, made many, many mistakes. I found true love, went to Iraq, married my love in an awesome Buddhist temple in Japan, had two babies, and wrote my first novel. By the end of my twenties, I'd seen and done enough to give the other play-date moms plenty to gossip about.

And now that I'm thirty, I am ready. I am looking forward to a decade of accomplishments. I hope.

For starters, I hope to finish this awesome jinni book. But what should it be called? I think JINN is just a boring title. Any ideas? Maybe when I'm done and ready to send it to my most awesome agent, I'll have a mini contest and let one of my readers (the two of you) pick/suggest the perfect title. :-) What do you think?

Today my daughter went back to preschool, which means my days will be more productive. At least my son takes naps during which I can write. (Or blog. Today, I got totally distracted by Suzanne Young's THE NAUGHTY LIST---my first-ever ARC! It is so strawberry smoothie!)

Ok. Enough! Must get to work...