Friday, June 29, 2012

Link Blitz

Tomorrow is the Lehi Days Parade, where Lehi City celebrates the something-anniversary of their being a city. (I'm pretty sure that's the case, I'm not actually a Lehi-ian.) There have been celebrations all week, including a cattle drive down Main Street that didn't go quite as planned. My mom has video of cows venturing off the street and into the crowds, ha!

My parents were asked to create one of the floats on behalf of their church. I haven't seen the finished product yet, but at half-finished it looked pretty good! It's a carousel with an Old West theme, and there will be young kids dressed as sheep and cows walking behind it, and bigger kids on stick horses rounding them up and passing out root beer barrels. I'm excited to see it! Hopefully I'll get some good pictures to share. ;)

Onto the Blitz!

Writer's Potpourri:

Making Heroes Heroic--Why Flaws Are Important

It's Really NOT about Who You Know...

How to Write Daily (or Meet Whatever Writing Goal Your Set) More Easily

Writing Excuses 7.26: Q&A at UVU Part 2 (I was present for this one! A lot of smart questions answered.)

The 13 Trickiest Grammar Hang Ups

Other Babble:

If you have so much as HEARD of Star Wars, you are required to watch this:

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The TV Show That Started My Writing Journey

Last night I got together with my old high school friends to watch a TV series that is near and dear to my heart. I first saw it when it came on Fox Kids* in the early 2000s, and when Fox cancelled it, my sister bought the boxed set from Japan so we could see what happened.

But the real reason I love this show is because it's what started me writing.

Yes, I know what you're thinking. "Oh my gosh, it's anime." But don't snub it yet! I'll have you know I got my roommate who absolutely snubbed anime hooked onto this show, because it is that good.

The storyline of The Vision of Escaflowne (てんくうのエスカフローネ) is incredible. It's your standard girl-goes-to-another-world-type plot line, but it leaves you guessing and craving more. The characters are so diverse and interesting, and the music is great to boot. Even now, 11 years later (and anime-ed out), I still love this show. It made me want to write a story like it. It made me want to create my own unique worlds and characters, and pull in the reader the way The Vision of Escaflowne pulled in me.

So, if you're ever looking for inspiration, or have 13 hours to kill, I recommend watching this. :)

This is the opening for the Fox Kids version:

*This really isn't a kid's show, but hey, Fox tried.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Someday Stars: Meet Lisa Ann Chickos

What’s your name, and where are you from?

My name is Lisa Ann Chickos. I am originally from Florida, but I've also lived in California, Australia, and Alaska. I'm currently Rocky Mountain High on the outskirts of Denver, Colorado.

How long have you been writing?

My mother would tell you I’ve been “writing” since before I could write: scrawling complicated picture books and reciting them verbatim to anyone and everyone who would listen. I wrote stories through elementary and middle school, but I put writing on the back burner until I completed college.

What genre(s) do you write?

I'm addicted to high-concept YA. I love the intensity and passion of that period in our lives—the drama, the relationships, and the ever-present quest to "find yourself." I also love the way high-concept situations force you to dig deep and realize you're capable of more than you've ever imagined.

I tend to write novels with a fairly strong grounding in nature. I'm incredibly drawn to the complexity and power of the natural world, so it only makes sense my characters would be as well.

What’s your current WIP? Can you tell us about it?

I just completed my second novel—a YA adventure called ESSENCE about a girl who was raised by a very controlling cult in near-future San Francisco. She stumbles upon a group of free-spirited wanderers living in the abandoned remains of Yosemite National Park, and she must struggle to stay true to herself while realigning her values and pushing herself to become one of them.

What’s your current day job? How does it help or hinder your writing?

I have pursued a variety of random careers through the years, including animator, apprentice chef, wanna-be surfer, camp counselor, rock climbing instructor, kayak guide, environmental educator, animal trainer, and zookeeper. Right now, I am the Director of Education at a nature center in Denver, so I get to enjoy a little bit of (almost) everything.

I rely on my experiences a lot while writing. Right now, I'm particularly drawing off the summer I spent living in a tent and working in Yosemite National Park. Without this background knowledge, I don't think my novels would feel nearly as grounded.

That being said, it's incredibly difficult to balance a full-time job, an 80-mile daily commute, and a productive writing life, so my creativity is definitely a bit of a balancing act right now. I also get a lot of brainstorming done in my car.

Who is your favorite author? Favorite book?

I have so many favorites that it would truly be impossible to pick. During the writing of ESSENCE, however, I felt particularly inspired by Alex Garland's THE BEACH and Maurice Sendak's WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE. (Both books have cameo appearances!)

What other hobbies or activities do you do outside of writing?

My latest adventure has been learning how to snowboard (starting to rip a little bit!). My husband and I are also big hikers and backpackers, and we disappear into the mountains as often as we can. Whenever I'm home in Florida, I try my best to strap on a scuba tank or explore the Gulf of Mexico with my family. When I'm not being active, I can often be found relaxing in my hammock with a good book. I will also never turn down a micro-brewed beer.

What is something unique about yourself?

While I attended college in Orlando, one of my dreams was to become a Disney princess at Walt Disney World. Utilizing the behind-the-scenes knowledge of some acquaintances, I actually managed to maneuver my way into a casting session. Upon my arrival, I was floored to learn how specific Disney’s princess requirements are. Princesses, apparently, should be between 5’4” and 5’7”, and their feet should be no larger than a size 9. (Sad news for my 5’8” and size 9.5 self!) Although I tried unsuccessfully to slouch and scrunch in my toes, I was quickly dismissed, and that was the end of my Disney princess dream. As a parting gift, however, I was cast as a dancer in Epcot’s Tapestry of Dreams parade, and I spent the next year and a half dancing, sweating, and smiling my gold-painted face off!

Do you have a blog, Twitter, and/or Web site we can link to?

Absolutely! My blog "KICKED, CORNERED, BITTEN AND CHASED" can be found here: I'm also on Twitter @LisaAnnChickos.

Thanks so much for taking the time to interview me! I can't wait to meet more "Someday Stars!"

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Why My Four-Year-Old Niece Thinks She's Not Skinny Enough

You know there is something wrong with the world when a four-year-old girl tells you she needs a smaller waist.

This is my niece. She's a normal-sized four (almost five)-year-old girl, and in my opinion, a rather pretty one at that. On Father's Day, all of us got together at my parents' house for dinner. Beforehand I was watching So You Think You Can Dance with my mom and younger sister. Niece came in and climbed onto the bed with us.

After laying on me for a little while, she looked up and said, "You have a short tummy."

I laughed. "Short? This way," I gesture from breast to hips, "or this way?" I gesture to my width.

"That way." My width. A compliment, I suppose.

However, my niece then said her tummy isn't short enough.

We chuckled at this, and my sister compared stomachs with her and says Niece's tummy is, indeed, very "short." But my niece stood up and bent over, sucking in her stomach, and said, "No, it has to be like this!"

At first we though she was joking, but she was quite serious and wouldn't hear of it any other way.

This was alarming to me, especially considering my niece comes from a family un-obsessed with body image. There is no way she could be getting this idea from her parents. And for heaven's sake, she's only four!

Later, said sister had a talk with Niece and found the route of the problem:

Like most little girls, Niece adores Disney, and has watched every Disney princess movie more times than anyone can count. She sings all the songs and, when she brushes her teeth, hums the tune the Little Mermaid sings when her voice is stolen away.

Yet it's because of these movies that this precious little girl thinks she needs to be skinnier. A part of my can hardly blame her. Look at how these women are drawn!

Disney paints these ridiculous (and might I mention unachievable?) proportions on every human female protagonist they have--illustrations that take society's extreme need to be skinny to an all new level. In order to be as skinny as Hercules's Meg, for example (pictured above), one would have to remove her rib cage.

Organizations such as Beauty Redefined have tried to put a stop to this unhealthy standard towards women, even taking lengths such as posting billboards and holding fiery Facebook debates with Sports Illustrated's "Hot or Not."

"Industry-standard" airbrushing is one thing, but actually designing a character with such proportions for a movie intended to have a young audience is another. It's absurd, it's demeaning, and it's making little girls think there's something wrong about them before the rest of society even gets the chance to tell them so.

So what's your excuse, Disney? Would it be so hard to draw a chubby princess, or at least one with normal proportions? Who exactly are your tailoring these images to?

I hate that so many women today have body issues because of society's version of the "female ideal," and I hate that, despite being a size 6, I too struggle with not being thin enough. But it breaks my heart to hear that this perfect little girl--and likely others in her age group--already thinks she's not good enough because she doesn't look like her animated heroes on T.V.

Because, unfortunately, every little girl wants to grow up to be a Disney princess.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Happy Father's Day!

Happy belated Father's Day to all those dashing, spawning men out there!

I celebrate for two father now, and sometime in the future it will be for three (you know, for when I have kids. Hopefully planned kids. Please, God, let me have planned children).

For my dad, Husband and I drove to his house early to make him breakfast and go to church with him. All us sisters (we have four girls in the family, not counting my mom) contributed to a homemade J Dawgs dinner. We also wrote my dad loving letters and chipped in to buy him a nice drill.

For my father-in-law, I scoured the valley for cinnamon barrels, a candy he really likes. I didn't find them, but I did find cinnamon "buttons," suckers, and old-fashioned cinnamon drops at a specialty candy store called Sweet Aftons. We piled those up in a glass and stuck a card with it.

All in all, a busy (but good!) Father's Day. How was yours?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Spam Filter

Due to an increase in spam comments, I'm going to have the annoying verification codes temporarily up until I can weed the spam out. I hate verification codes myself, but please bear with me. After all, you can get some nifty name ideas from those word jumbles. :)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Progress Update

I'm at Bear Lake this week, but I have time for a quick, personal update. (SO EXCITING I KNOW.)

So, as you can see by my progress bars, I'm done with my THE SONG OF SAGRIN (tSoS) outline, and will probably start drafting the manuscript after my vacation, no later than Monday. It's always strange for me to shift from editing mode back into drafting mode, and I'm clueless as to my first line (though I already wrote down the first line of the query. I'm getting a little ahead of myself). The outline is 20 pages; I'm hoping the book won't go overboard on word count.

I finished my revisions for CITY OF TEETH on Monday and sent it out to beta readers, and I've already gotten one response back. :) The book is 99% complete on the progress bars since I need to integrate my beta feedback before I query, but beta feedback usually involves quick edits. Maybe I'll draft some queries before I get back to Salt Lake.

In other news, I went to the Minnetonka Cave today. It was really neat! If any of y'all ever go to Bear Lake, check it out. Also went swimming and ate too much food.

Random thing I learned today: a cave has only one entrance, whereas a cavern has two.

Photo Credit

Monday, June 11, 2012

Networking with Pinterest

Special thanks to my sister Andy, the PR major, for these tips!

  1. Link your Pinterest feed on your Web site. Make sure you announce this in a post when you first do it, so that people are aware. (Note my new Pinterest icon on the right, though I admit I don't have much in the way of writing-related boards)
  2. Pin vertical images from your site. Vertical images aren't shrunk down by Pinterest like horizontal ones are, so they're more likely to catch the attention of browsers.
  3. Make sure you use keywords and tags when you pin content. Pins are tagged the same way Twitter is with a #. Not many people do this, and it's how Pinterest can find images when a keyword search is performed by a user. If your tags are more than one word, use underscores. For example, "elbow patches" would be #elbow_patches. 
  4. Do a "favorite pins" post on your blog from time to time.
  5. Make sure your board names are concise and descriptive. And professional.
  6. Pin videos.
  7. Pin every day. Set aside 10 or 15 minutes while you watch TV. Half of your pins should be original content, especially from your own blog. The other half should be repins.
  8. Use the "About" section on Pinterest. Put in your blog, Twitter, and Facebook.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Link Blitz

I am going to Bear Lake next week, so there may not be a Wednesday post unless I get inspired by all the water. (Please, please let it be warm!)

Still on the hunt for a job. I'm looking for telecommuting/work-from-home positions as much (if not more than) Moscow positions, so if any of you know positions available for writing, editing, or even transcribing, please let me know!

Writer's Potpourri:

How to Develop a Story Idea into a Book

10 Videos You Could Use to Inspire Writing

How to Respond to Negative Reviews

How I Went from Writing 2,000 Words a Day to 10,000 Words a Day by Rachel Aaron

The Ups and Downs of Being Published

Other Babble:

The Writer's Zodiac: Who's Your Patron Writer? (Clever)

The Return of Oprah's Book Club

Celebrity Stunt Doubles

The Moth Presents Steve Burns: Fameishness (The Steve from Blues Clues)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Someday Stars: Meet Lori Parker

What’s your name, and where are you from?

Lori Parker, and I've lived in Seattle for 15 years, minus a two-year stint in Arizona, which I miss!

How long have you been writing?

Since my early 20s. I've been reading since the alphabet first made sense. But I equated authors with movie stars and astronauts, not something a small town Oregon girl could achieve. A random copy of Writer's Digest Magazine changed my thinking. I signed up for a correspondence course (which I didn't finish), but then I was hooked.
What genre(s) do you write?

Adult mainstream fiction.

What’s your current WIP? Can you tell us about it?

After a decade of trying, a family finally has a baby. But 17 years later, he's dropping out of school, sneaking out to paint graffiti, and fathering a baby. His parents, however, refuse to let their grandchild and the 16-year-old mother fade out of their lives. It's tough love, a Dutch apple tart, and family before and after.

What’s your current day job? How does it help or hinder your writing?

I'm a medical transcriptionist. So I type all day, making sitting at the computer not my favorite place to be when I'm done. But I work at home, so my schedule is flexible. That's a benefit for sure! Also, my main character has multiple sclerosis, about which my job has made me an armchair expert.

Who is your favorite author?

Ann Patchett, Kathryn Stockett, Michelle Richmond, Barbara Kingsolver, Sarah McCoy, and Alexander McCall Smith, to name a few. You didn't really mean just one, did you?

Favorite book?

"Bel Canto," by Ann Patchett. Hands down!

But you could make a strong case for "The Help" and "The Baker's Daughter" as well.

What other hobbies or activities do you do outside of writing?

I read a lot. And I go to the gym, but that's only to offset sampling every bakery in town. Ahem, the bakeries are winning.

What is something unique about yourself?

I bet I can roller skate backwards faster than anyone who reads this. 

Do you have a blog, Twitter, and/or Web site we can link to?

Blog is Twitter is @girlparker1.  Thanks for having me, Charlie!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Five Most Misused Punctuation Marks

Whenever I discuss writing on this blog, I always prefer to cite something—a book, a blog post, a magazine article—to give the information validity. After all, I’m not a published author, and until I am, anything I say is easily dismissible.

However, one thing I do know is grammar. I’m the kind of person who, when friends wrote me notes in junior high, would correct the writing with a red pen and hand the note back (needless to say I got a lot fewer notes this way). I’m the kind of person who knew how to Reed-Kellogg diagram a sentence by the age of seven (big thank you to my parents for wringing me through private school, where morning drills included reciting all prepositions and auxiliary verbs in alphabetical order). I’m the kind of person who studied editing in college and enjoyed it.

That being said, today I want to call out what I consider to be the five most misused punctuation marks in American English—the marks I tend to fix the most when a new document arrives at my desk.

The Apostrophe

 Lynne Truss has a lot to say about apostrophes.

Apostrophes are used to show one of two things: ownership or omission.

Mary Sue’s dog can’t ride a bike.

I frequently catch apostrophes trying to hide amidst words that are merely plural. These sorts of things make Lynne Truss cry.

Being pro-Chicago, I always add the “s” to a word that already ends in it.

Joe Nicholes’s house
The waitress’s apron

However, AP doesn’t use the extra “s”. Sad, I know.

The Hyphen

The hyphen is not an em dash. If I could drill one thing into the minds of mankind, it would be this. The hyphen is not an em dash. (More on that later.)

Hyphens connect two words acting as a compound, unless one of those words is an adverb.

Chocolate-covered raisins
Thirty-five soldiers
Deliciously sweet cookie

Note that, unless it’s really aesthetically appealing, the second word in a hyphenated phrase is not capitalized unless it’s a proper noun.

A New Study in Enterprise-class Reliability
Branching Out: Enrich Your Life with Reed-Kellogg Diagrams

These are the two hyphen rules I see broken the most. To learn more about hyphens, buy a copy of the Chicago Manual of Style check out this site.

The Em Dash

Otherwise known as the most beautiful punctuation ever invented.

Two wrongs may not make a right, but two hyphens can make an em dash. When writing in Microsoft Word, just type “--” for an em dash and Word will convert it for you.* The Mac shortcut for an em dash is shift+option+minus key; for PC it's alt+0151.

Em dashes are the magical things that can replace just about any intermediary punctuation mark. Commas, semicolons, colons, parentheses . . . it’s a beautiful thing.

Mike couldn’t believe so many animals—parakeets, lions, bears, fish—could fit into one backpack.
Sam ate bananas every night for dinner—she had grown paranoid after learning of her potassium deficiency.
“What I mean to say—if you would only—oh, forget about it.”

I repeat, a hyphen is not an em dash, and em dashes don’t have spaces around them. They’re friendly marks and like to cuddle close with their word-friends.

The En Dash

The en dash is the most forgotten punctuation mark. En dashes are used to show a range in numbers.

12–45 donuts

En dashes can be made on a Mac by hitting command+subtraction symbol (on the 10-key), or on a PC by hitting alt+0150.

(But let’s be honest, if you use a hyphen in place of an en dash, only the most anal of grammarians will notice.)

Single Quotation Marks

When I was younger, I thought single quotation marks (‘) indicated thought, as you can tell if you read any of my early fanfiction (which I hope you never find!). Single quotation marks are actually used to show dialogue within dialogue.

“But then he said, ‘Your mom’s a goat!’ and ran away laughing.”

Bonus Mark: The Colon

The one thing I want to say about the colon is not to use it after verbs or prepositions (UNLESS the verb or preposition ends an independent clause. Though you shouldn't be ending those with prepositions anyway). Dumb rule, I agree, but it’s there.

Photo Credit

*You may notice a plethora of “--" throughout my blog posts. Those are the posts I draft directly in Blogger, which unfortunately does not have em-dash–conversion abilities.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Recipe Test: Chocolate-Covered Katie, Cookie-Dough Version

I can be a little bit of a health nut. I wish I were health-nuttier, to be honest, but at present I'm health-nutty enough that most of my friends roll their eyes at me when I won't eat a donut. That counts for something.

I also really, really like food. Call me American, but eating really is one of my FAVORITE past times.

I'm also a woman. Therefore, I like chocolate. A lot.

I frequently peruse the Interwebs in search of "healthy" dessert recipes (vegan recipes, in many cases. though I am hardly vegan.) The best healthy dessert I've ever found is Lauren's Healthy Chocolate Cake with a Secret, which I frost with her peanut butter cups recipe.

More recently I discovered Chocolate-Covered Katie. Katie has a smorgasbord of dessert recipes, though since she had far less of a sweet tooth than myself, her recipes tend to be hit-or-miss. (For instance, I didn't like chocolate peanut butter fudge, but her sugar-cookie milkshake was pretty good.)

This past weekend my also-health-conscious friend Wendy and I decided to try out two of Katie's more delicious-looking recipes: chocolate-chip cookie dough truffles, and sugar-free chocolate-chip cookie dough pie, a recipe that had its own press coverage.

(I was in a cookie-dough mood, what can I say?)

First we made the truffles. The recipe says to form the dough into balls, but that dough was no where near solid enough for that! We put it in the freezer for a while, but in our impatience we just ended up plopping slightly runny, slightly chilled dough onto some foil and spread chocolate over it. (We used the peanut butter cups recipe mentioned above for the chocolate.)

So yes, they were ugly. And I took this picture on my dumb phone (as opposed to smart phone), so they look even uglier.

However, these were pretty darn good. I dare say very good. I can almost believe there was cookie dough in that cookie/truffle/thing.

While the truffles chilled in the fridge, we made the pie, which took a lot more effort and a run to the grocery store for dates. I believe there is a version of this pie with sugar, but we chose to go sugar-free, and the recipe is completely vegan. (Though we used real chocolate chips!)

The verdict? I wasn't crazy about it--tasted too much like beans to me (it has two cans of white beans in it), though Wendy and her brother thought it was pretty good. I was surprised--since this dessert had REAL chocolate in it, I thought I would like it more. Overall, Wendy and I both preferred the truffles.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Link Blitz

Good thing: Found out I had more PTO (Paid Time Off) than I thought, which means I'll be able to go to Bear Lake mid-June with Husband's family. Time to break out those Transformers swim trunks* of mine.

Bad thing: My father lost his job on Wednesday. We're devastated. The worst of it is that the company wouldn't even tell him why. They said they had no legal obligation to disclose it. How terrible is that?

If anyone in the UT area knows of any facilities/materials management positions opening up, please let me know. You can comment on a blog post or email me at CNHolmberg (at) gmail (dot) com. Thanks!

Good thing: The blitz!

Writer's Potpourri:

9 Steps for Plotting Fiction

Start Your Summer Right: 5 Creative Writing Tips

6 Reasons Editors Will Reject You

Is It Really Harder Writing a Sequel?

Writing Excuses 7.22: Microcasting (lots of good questions answered here!)

May Conferences: FAQ

Literary Rambles (If you don't read this blog, especially if you write YA, shame on you! The agent spotlights are especially great!)

What Are the BEST Writer's Conferences to Attend?

Other Babble:

An ADORABLE proposal: