Monday, October 31, 2011

My New Star Chart

My husband is in his last year of his undergrad, and therefore has been suffering senioritis for several weeks. Alas, with midterms and the elusive GRE looming over his head, he needed to study even more than usual. But, as is the case with senioritis, he couldn't find the motivation.

In comes the star chart. Yes, he is a grown man, but earning stars for ever 30 minutes of studying gave him the battery he needed to conquer his classes. The final prize?

A Nerf gun.

Meanwhile I've been working on getting these prose edits done. I'm about 1/3 of the way through the book, but to meet my goal, I need to get hammering. I must focus, really put effort into my sentences instead of glossing over them in my hurry. So my husband decided I too needed a star chart--one star for every 1,000 words I edit. 60 of these stars will earn my a wall-hanging jewelry holder, which I've coveted from multiple sellers on Etsy for some time.

Must. Earn. Stars.

What's your motivation for writing?

(Also, Happy Halloween!)

Friday, October 28, 2011

The 1,100-year Plane Ride

This is an amazing video I picked up from Lou Anders's blog. It started to really hurt my brain about half-way through, but worth the watch!


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Halloween (And Corresponding Costumes)

Halloween is potentially the second best holiday of the year. Especially back when kids could go trick-or-treating without being kidnapped/going to the local military base to have their candy scanned for razors.

But while the candy is grand, the costumes are what make the holiday worth celebrating. I've had some RAD* costumes, namely because I have a seamstress mother and a very hands-on father (who would have made me an AT-AT costume this year, had it been more party-functional). In first grade my mom made me a yellow Power Ranger costume, and my dad vacuum-formed a mask for it. Third grade I was Medusa--only time in my life I won two costume awards. (And yes, it took a long time for mom to clip all those snake barrettes into my hair. But not as long as it took her to sew each individual strand of yarn into my sheepdog costume the following year.)

Smash Brothers, anyone?
Last year, as you may remember, Husband and I dressed up as the Yip Yip Aliens from Sesame Street. The year before my dad made me an awesome cardboard head to go with my Mr. Game and Watch costume.

This year I have two costumes. My turning-zombie-dressed-as-a-work-competitor costume will certainly not go over well at my church's trunk-or-treat, so Husband and I brainstormed for an alternative for our kid-friendly events.

Me: I know! I'll dress in all green, and you'll dress in all brown--
Husband: And we'll go as a tree!
Me: ...I was thinking poo on a lawn, but tree is good!

So that's the backup costume. Drawing a heart with our initials in chalk on Jordan's shirt (carving in a trunk, har har), and I'm stapling leaves to my shirt and bobbi-pinning them into my hair. Then I ride on his shoulders and voila, we're a Ent.**

Pictures to follow, of course.

So, are you celebrating Halloween this year? (As you should?) What are you dressing up as? What was your most killer costume as a kid?

*Braggy McBrag brag.
**But in all actuality, we're just an awkward tree.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Meredith's Barnes "AskAgent" Opportunities

Meredith Barnes, an agent with Lowenstein Associates, often holds an "AskAgent" Q&A on her blog. Post a question, get an answer. She's currently done eight of these, and even if you don't hold any confusion regarding agents and the publishing industry, just reading through the comments can prove very helpful.

Case and point: someone asked Meredith how they can get the most out of writing conferences. This was Meredith's reply:

"Ooh!! Conference question!!

"Get the most out of conferences by:
1. Researching beforehand. Know which editors and agents you want to meet and then go and *meet* them. Don't pitch. Just talk.

"2. In formal pitch sessions, BRING THE FOLLOWING for all editors/agents you'll be pitching:
-First 5 pages

"Why? Well, writing is not a spoken art form. Your query is more than likely tighter and stronger than your verbal pitch, no matter how hard you work on it. Have these materials ready in case your pitch bombs or you just want to ask the ed/agent to look at the query--can you say invaluable free advice?? Honestly, the ed/agent will probably be more comfortable reading the query than taking your pitch!! This is totally permissible in lieu of pitching verbally.

"As for the rest (synopsis, 5 pages) that's just in case they fall in love with your pitch/query and want to see more then and there. :)

"3. Stop talking. If you do choose to pitch verbally, say two sentences MAX and stop talking. The ed/agent will immediately ask you questions (OK, how old is so-and-so) that will give them the info they want, not what you think they want. The info they ask you for will give you insight into how an ed/agent reads and considers a pitch, which will improve your query.

"4. Be shrewd about the panels, etc you go to.

"5. Talk to the other writers!! I dare you to leave that conference with two new Beta Readers.

"6. Always, ALWAYS have a contact-info business-card-type thing with you."

Her next AskAgent splurge will be soon--check her blog and Twitter--she updates often.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Five Things You Should Never Do in an Epic Fantasy

Shaun Farrell recently guest posted on Adventures in Sci Fi Publishing. He talked about five things you should never do in epic fantasy. At first they seem small, until you realize you do every single one. Number one on his list especially caught my attention:

"Do not put baled hay into a world that has no had its Industrial Revolution."

I know for a fact I mentioned a bale in chapter one earlier this week. Time to revise.

He explains each concept fairly well, so I recommend reading it. (Most apply to historical fiction, too.)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Nerd Glasses

Sometimes you just need a good pair of nerd glasses.

After an interesting drive in the dark to Halloween Express for some blood spray and face crayons, I decided it was time to call my optometrist.

I'd like to mention that my optometrist is a little drop-happy. Drops for everything. The first drops numbed my eyes. SO WEIRD. So unpleasant. Then they poke you with this stick thinger. Why? I'm not sure. Then the dilating drops. Makes me look like one of those demons from Supernatural.

Anyway, turns out my eyes have mutually agreed to fail by two increments,* so I have to order new glasses. I get my glasses from of selection, great prices, and so far they haven't screwed anything up.

I am, of course, reordering my signature pink frames. But I've had this urge for a good pair of nerd glasses lately, so I'm ordering those as well (good excuse as any). Pictures to follow.**

*Fortunately for me I'm near-sighted and don't need correction for the computer, thus my writing shan't be disturbed during this traumatizing event.
**I'm a little antsy, given that I can't actually try these glasses on before I purchase them. But we shall see.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

BLACKDOG by K. V. Johansen

The long awaited review of Blackdog, by K. V. Johansen.

Overall, I loved this book. The characters were fantastic, the setting excellent, the plot fluid and the prose beautiful. The ideas behind the story are very original, and I love that in a fantasy.

The story starts when a wizard named Tamghat attacks the temple of mortal-born goddess Attalissa, who is only eight years old and hasn't come into her powers yet. She's protected by a demon called Blackdog, who has possessed the bodies of different male hosts over the millennia, always at her side. Tamghat is too strong, and Attalissa must flee. But the further Attalissa gets from the temple and her lake, the weaker she becomes, and the Blackdog suffers fatal injuries to help her escape.

Cue Holla-Sayan, a caraveener of a completely different race, culture, and god, who can't walk by a dying girl and her dog on the side of the road without lending a hand. Unfortunately for him, the Blackdog bites, making him the new host.

That's where the story starts, and it grows into a true epic. There were characters and subplots in the story that I hadn't expected--the tale is much larger than the back cover would have you believe. Gods seem to be the new thing in fantasies nowadays, but Johansen does hers very, very well. Each one is interesting, especially Narva. (Want to know why? Read the book!)

Again, there wasn't a single character I didn't like (other than the bad guy, but I'm not supposed to like him, right?). Characters drive a story, and these ones drove it home for me. 

There were a few downsides to the book. Johansen, on occasion, can get very vague with her descriptions to the point where I have to re-read everything again to try to understand what's going on. This happened in a crucial scene toward the end of the novel, and it left me confused. The ending also surprised me--not the ending I expected, not the champion I wanted. But the resolution satisfied me.

Because of that, I give this book 4.5 stars instead of five. I definitely recommend it to any lover of fantasy. It's very smart reading and tasteful where it needs to be. There's always a new piece of story to surprise you. All-in-all, this is one of the best books I've read in a while.

Editor Kristy Stewart also reviewed this book, if you want a second opinion on it. ;)

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Amazing Race?

My dad is a HUGE fan of CBS's The Amazing Race. He watches it every Sunday.

I like the Amazing Race a lot,* though I admit I don't always stay on top of it (I try to limit my TV watching). Actually, everyone in my family enjoys the show but my mother. So when my dad said, "Hey Honey, I want to apply for The Amazing Race!" she promptly turned him down.

"We don't need you embarrassing us," she said.

So I get the call. The your-my-daughter-and-I'm-living-vicariously-through-you call.

"She'll never let me," my dad says in tears (this is exaggerated, of course). "You must go in my place!"

"But I've never even been on a plane."

"Go! Go forth my child! Go with Husband!"

Before I can talk to Husband, one of my younger sisters calls me up and tells me I absolutely MUST audition with her.

"You know I can't drive a stick, right?"

She retorts, "Like our video will even get picked anyway."

"Then why audition?"

"Do it. FOR DAD."

So despite the fact that I bicker with this sister more than any other member of my family (or any other person on earth, I think), and that I don't know how airports work, and regardless of the fact that I've never lived outside of Utah and the most exotic place I've ever been to is Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Sister and I are going to put together an audition tape for The Amazing Race on our father's behalf.

Tremendous humor, right there.

*Go Cowboys!

Friday, October 14, 2011

NaNoWriMo: The Binge and Purge of Wannabe Writers

NaNoWriMo--National Novel Writing Month--is starting in just a few weeks. For those of you who don't know, NaNoWriMo (or just "NaNo") challenges would-be authors to write an entire novel in a month, with a goal of 50,000 words. (Which is only 1/3 of a novel if you're writing epic fantasy. Just saying.)

I've had friends who have committed to NaNo, sometimes triumphing, sometimes quitting half-way through. Writing 50k words in a month is quite a feat, and props to anyone who succeeds!

I, personally, have never participated in NaNo, and I never plan to. It's not my cup of tea. My philosophy is that, if you want to write a book, write one. Now. Don't wait until November. Daily word counts are what get novels finished, not 30-day Blitzkriegs.

Not to say NaNoWriMo isn't useful. It helps a lot of new writers get off on the right foot. I think the only book my friend Kossie ever finished was her NaNo novel. If you need social pressure to get the juices flowing, sign up--the site has all sorts of knickknacks to keep you writing and keep you motivated. (Just make sure you do the "binging" now, or you'll get serious writer's block. Author Cameron Chapman shares some NaNo advice in his new survival guide.)

What are your thoughts on NaNoWriMo, and are you participating this year?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

How About Them Apples, Pastor?

Just had to share. ;)

Cartoon from

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Closing in on the Prose Revision

After my big scene changes and rewrites, the rest of my revisions have gone surprisingly quick--I'll be able to start on prose by the end of the week! Prose will take a lot of time and a lot of patience, but I'm eager to do it. To see if I really can morph my mediocre words into something publishable.

I read more of The Writer's Portable Mentor last night. Priscilla Long talks about making setting work double-duty. How can you describe the setting and have it reflect on the character? She gives some great examples, which I can't type up as I don't have the book with me. But one shows a dirty kitchen, the character cooking on a hot plate--the other shows a dining room with roses on the tablecloth and candlesticks. The first belonged to a convict, the second to a well-to-do woman.

This is something I especially want to focus on in chapter one. How can I show who Kylah is through his setting? How can I use the descriptions of his village to present his culture, and to show he's an outcast? I really want to up the ante on his social rejection.

And yes, I'll be sending out those annoying beta reader emails shortly. ;)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Magic Systems

Image from
A recent writing group and David Farland's last Author Advisory conference call with Brandon Sanderson has had me thinking about magic systems. I love magic systems; I think the one in the Mistborn books is the best magic system of all time.*

For those who don't know, Brandon Sanderson has two "laws" relating to magic systems that I think every fantasy writer should take into consideration:

SANDERSON'S FIRST LAW OF MAGICS: An author's ability to solve conflict with magic is directly proportional to how well the reader understands said magic.

SANDERSON'S SECOND LAW OF MAGICS: A magic system's limitations are more important than its powers.

Click the links for more information!

There's a lot of good fantasy that doesn't use magic at all--George R. R. Martin's books, for example--but as a reader, I eat this stuff up. I've based nearly every story I've written around a magic system. Some very heavily (like CSH*), some more lightly (Like TDSF, which has three small magic systems, but they're not the focal point of the story.)

I'm really excited for the magic system in my next novel (see "Untitled" in the sidebar), which I've been told is a little . . . strange. But that can be a good thing, right? ;)

What are your thoughts on magic systems? If you're a writer, what have you used for one?

*Granted, I have not read WoT--I hear its system is pretty good, too.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Meditation (And a Blog Award)

I read something interesting on Twitter this week--an article stating the reasons why writers should meditate.

Meditation. Interesting. Never considered it.

"Willpower, discipline, and good old-fashioned hard wrk may squeeze writing out of you but to produce words effortlessly, to connect with the joy and optimism and inspiration which makes it all worthwhile, to be as good as you can be, you need to know how to nurture abstraction and cultivate creative mind states."

Something I want to try. My brain is a mess of thoughts, but even if I could meditate and focus on one story (instead of clearing my head, cheating, I know), I think I would benefit. To be honest, I writing scenes was in college because during boring classes I would just think about them, ponder what the characters could do and how they would do it, so by the time I sat down to write, I knew everything that needed to happen. I don't have that time nowdays.

In other news, I got my first blogging award. Woooo.

Cue me staring at it and thinking, "Okay, now what?" XD

Thank you, Erin, for thinking of me. These remind me a little of chain letters, ha, but I will do the full stint if only for good karma.

This blog award requires seven random facts, so here goes.

1. I have a small reputation at work as being a grammar Nazi.
2. I really want a dog.
3. All of my sisters have boy names.
4. My car's name is Gumphrey. He's metrosexual.
5. I had a crush on my husband for six years before he asked me out.
6. The first, horrendous book I ever started was called "Kaiku and the Ruby Necklace" and was a total ripoff of my favorite anime at the time. (I was 13.)
7. I played the French horn for two years in high school.

Now I pass this to five people. Consider this your notification. ;)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Chainmail Bikini: Female Armor Sucks

I noticed how just about all the art provided for the WorldCon progress reports, while fantastically drawn, presented women in little more than bikinis, including the warrior-types. My friend Adam recently posted his thoughts on such things, along with this amazing video, which sums it up rather beautifully:

Monday, October 3, 2011

Each Line a Poem

Also known as, "The Post Where I Revert Back into an English Major"*

Friday I came home to see The Writer's Portable Mentor in my mailbox--it shipped faster than I had expected! Unable to resist, I've already cracked it open. I've never had a writing book that focused so much on prose, but this is exactly what I need.

Priscilla Long takes a great deal of space explaining the music and poetry of words--their alliteration, the sound of their vowels, their syllables. In a way, each sentence in a work is a poem, where each word is carefully thought out and chosen. There's a lot of work that goes into prose revision--it's exciting and terribly frightening at the same time.

The pen is BLUE.
She also talks about concrete words. I learned about concrete descriptions in high school, but she takes it a step further. Name the roads, tell the reader what kind of tree it is. Use the senses--not just "she smelled" or "he heard," but describe things with nouns that can be perceived.

Food for thought, surely. As an example, I'm including a passage from The Things They Carried, by Tim O'Brien--in part because Long uses it as an example of excellent prose, and in part because I actually own this book, and agree that the writing is impeccable.

They carried diseases, among them malaria and dysentery. They carried lice and ringworm and leeches and paddy algae and various rots and molds. They carried the land itself--Vietnam, the place, the soil--a powdery orange-red dust that covered their boots and fatigues and faces. They carried the sky. The whole atmosphere, they carried it, the humidity, the monsoons, the stink of fungus, all of it, they carried gravity. They moved like mules. (p.14-15)

*And yes, I did major in English (though I rather preferred my minor).