Monday, November 30, 2009

Words to Print...

I got a lesson from my son yesterday that was pretty much no fun. My son is young for his cohort, having just turned eleven, though he's a sixth grader. It isn't the first time an issue of this nature has come up, but it has taken on a new flavor...

Some History..

As a fourth grader Sam had a couple accusations of bullying. There was some legitimate stuff and then a boy AND HIS MOTHER flat out making crap up about my kid (which we proved—the principal never said it out loud, but I think he agreed with my assessment, which I insisted they file, that the woman needed years of therapy)... but the legitimate stuff...

You see... groups of kids whisper and talk in not very nice ways sometimes. They say things like “I wish so and so wouldn't play with us, he always tattles.” My son, being young and... overly honest? (It isn't normally a fault, but can be) didn't really understand that he shouldn't then SHARE the group assessment... He was perceived as this 'leader' in excluding. There was quite a long process of sorting the real issues like that from the fictional B.S. brought out by said tattle tale and his mother, but when we finally got to the heart of what had actually happened, we tried our best to teach him 'get along, or walk away'—nobody says you have to be friends with anyone, but keep the thoughts to yourself. Doesn't matter if everyone else is saying it—you saying it TO THEM makes you the one responsible.


Yesterday...

A mom I get along with called... there were some bullying issues... now the last were two years ago and we thought we'd taught the lesson... the difference... Sam got a phone for his birthday and has just taken up texting. Sam and this boy used to be good friends, but have drifted apart in the last few years, which I knew, but they've been texting a lot... (not sure why, but there it is). [I should be clear here, that I don't think there is any 'group think' involved this time—none that I've heard, anyway]

Some of the things Sam said were pretty darned rude—age inappropriate, pestering... He insists he was only teasing, and however rude an inappropriate, I believe he believes that...  it brought up memories of MY early online conversations... Now I was 38 when I first joined an online community, so I was never a badgering teaser, but I watched what could happen—I was on a forum for Harry Potter theorizing, so some of the people present were only teens and lacked some of the self-filtering mechanisms most adults have... (though we had a few sensitive adults, too)


Lessons...


Humor doesn't translate to written words as easily as we think it might. Tone is lacking, as is facial expression—oh, sure, you can add an emoticon or a j/k, but it doesn't necessarily soften the blow... and if you're NEW at it, you may not think to use THOSE. Sarcasm in particular... NEVER comes across as such unless you've adopted our wizard war strategy (which came about after MANY hard feelings) of  '/sarcasm'. My son is OFTEN sarcastic... a set up for trouble


Additionally... it's probably best to only pick on your friends... This is a really difficult concept for kids... people tease, why shouldn't you? Well, from the wrong person, the same thing will be taken wrong... I don't LIKE a lot of the things kids say to each other, and am horrified by some of what Sam said, but I recognize that to his closest friends, they would laugh and send something similar back—no harm/no foul. But you only ever want to tease people who KNOW YOU LIKE THEM and whose REACTION YOU CAN PREDICT. Teasing is a trust issue, like S&M—it is showing faith that it will only go so far because there is a closeness there.


The Written Record is there... forever... for anyone to see, should someone decided to share it. With Sam this was a failing on our part. My daughter's foray into the cyberworld was first MySpace, then Facebook, and THERE we knew to warn about pictures, we made her show us early profiles, for years she was only allowed friends she knew personally, until her savvy grew—teens friend each other's friends like mad, so I know she doesn't know all 600 of her friends, but we started her at a reasonable pace. And I am her FB friend, so I have some idea what she gets up to. Now SHE has been texting for over a year and there haven't been major issues except a few pesky boys that keep bugging her. (I suppose a few mean girlfights, but those are the kind of thing that would have happened by phone in my day, and while horrible, I think are part of being a teenage girl) My husband and I DON'T text... so we didn't think to give Sam the talk about appropriate and inappropriate. We fell down on this one...


I think all of this applies to those of us networking too... somebody is obnoxious and they are a pseudo public figure, so they are fair game? Wrong. Your potential agent may just be a big fan and will consider that your black ball. Somebody published a really bad book and you feel disgruntled? Careful how you word that... might bite you in the butt.

I guess maybe our mothers were right when they said, “If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.”

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Time's Finite Nature

November has been a (self imposed) manic month for writing. I normally have a particular routine I keep—I do some typing in the morning before work and in the evening right after dinner, then I write long-hand in the bath before bed. The typing is a transference of the long-hand to typed (and typically round one of editing). The writing is typically MOSTLY my current WiP along with the little fan fiction I still write. Sometimes I will write a short story or drabble. And sometimes I will *gasp* read a little bit. This whole deadline thing though, has thrown a big spider monkey in the works.



Typing to Hell

My NaNoWriMo work (loosely finished, but definitely not DONE) was typed directly. As I got to the late middle it occurred to me there was a reason I wrote long-hand—I have trouble getting the HEART in there on a computer screen, but I digress... This means stealing a little time to type almost didn't happen. I think I only got 3 new chapters typed when normally I can do about 2-3 a week (depending on what other stuff I have to type).



Editing to Hell

I am also supposed to be giving an editing round to CONFLUENCE – more a polish than an edit, actually (decided when I got the nibble, which I STILL haven't heard back about)--I've only managed to edit 2 chapters this month—that ALSO is a two per week venture normally.

Other Deadlines to Hell

My writer's group does an Advent Calendar (new drabble to an image each day leading up to Christmas) and I have been flying by the seat of my pants to hit my deadlines, scatter-brained and inattentive—my apologies to Chary, the current project manager... hopefully I won't have to also apologize to Jason (our web guru)--think I squeaked in on what I needed to have to Natasha (she is getting the images set)... you notice what is conspicuously missing? I've not taken a SPECK of responsibility on the thing except to write a few drabbles and I STILL am having trouble.

Additionally, there are some short story deadlines coming, a new eMag with a deadline—all things I believe I am perfectly capable of participating in, but getting my brain in the right place has been heinous (for eMag info, check the Authors Promoting Authors link to the left—looks like a good opportunity)


Reading to Hell

Okay, so when I'm in writing mode-I don't read as much as I'd like ANYWAY. They say to be a good writer you have to read, and I have normally been a reader in my life, but it seems like anymore what I read is stuff other writer friends want feedback on. This is a part of being in a writer community and I don't have any regrets EXCEPT that it leaves little other reading time. My only real reading time seems to now be on my commute (reading while I'm walking) which precludes anything that is too complicated. The trouble here is my WRITING is a little complicated... I need to keep tabs on how to write a rather complicated story well.


Other Obligations to Hell

My husband is fairly convinced that I've given up on the chores that are supposed to be mine. Laundry, bathrooms, bed-changing... happened at a far lower rate in November. My children seemed okay with me being busy—my daughter would prefer I'd just buy her stuff instead of spending time ANYWAY (not that we can afford that option even if I was willing) and my son looks a little at our parallel computing time as together time, since he thinks he's outgrown reading with me (that makes me sad).

I also haven't kept up like I'd like to on reading others' blogs or the agent seeking thing (though the agent seeking thing REALLY messes with my writing mojo, so I think I will just wait on that until I switch to editing mode (a less mojo intensive activity)


Doing Okay on the WiP

About the only obligation that HASN'T gone to hell (aside from the NaNo which is my reason for everything else going to hell) is my work in progress. I've written almost 13 chapters in November—three more than I scheduled and I still have three days left. I'm hoping at the end of the month I will only have 4 chapters left in book 2 of the Trilogy.


What's the Solution?

I really wish time turners didn't string you out like they do (or the various drugs used to the same effect)... if I could either have extra hours or give up sleeping, that would work well... better yet... getting paid without having to go to WORK!

Pretty sure what I need is a Sugar Daddy. Wealthy man willing to send large checks just because he thinks it's cute that I write... I don't cook or clean, but rich people don't need their playthings to do such things anyway. I'm not terribly socially skilled but I have... erm... some compensating skills. I'm currently a 'more of me to love' model... (and really all I want is the money because the other parts are so hard on family dynamics)...

But since that has never brought swarms of applicants... I am taking Monday off to catch up a little and hopefully December will start to feel a little more normal... other than the fact that the temperature is steadily dropping and so I won't feel much of ANYTHING I mean...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Dream On...


I dreamed about Blogging last night, so figured it was only fair if I Blogged about Dreaming this morning. All things said I am sort of a nut for Order... so far as writing is concerned anyway. I should probably explain that...

I had a New Foundations in Psychology Class during my Master's program that was the coolest class I EVER had, largely because it was a mind-bender. The GOAL of the class was to bring Psychology into the modern age of science and it went through original psychological theory, grounded in Biological sciences and came through brain chemistry advances and then pushed us to think about it in terms of Quantum Physics—like I said... mind bender. But it really got me thinking about PERSPECTIVE (the whole point/wave conundrum (what is it? Depends on how you're measuring—sound like something a WRITER might use?))... but I digress...

My POINT is that part of what we discussed was 'what defines life?' and the answer was 'Order and Symmetry'. Mammals are symmetrical—an eye on each side, opposing arms, legs, fingers... but something like a snail is also alive—the curving shell... that is also order...

So I suppose what I am saying, is I prefer books that are 'alive'--either symmetrical or looping in on themselves--orderly in some recognizable way... So there... foundation laid...


Dreams in Books

A group of my friends, all participating in NaNoWriMo, recently had a discussion. One wanted to include a dream, but she didn't want it clear from the beginning it was a dream, so how to write it...

The group of us, in our wisdom, felt italics are a dead giveaway so NOT to use them unless the reader was supposed to be able to tell. But even if readers aren't supposed to be able to tell—if they will find out (and if they won't, then that's a little odd, yes?), they will feel cheated or betrayed if it wasn't separated by a section marker, so they can think back and see where the trick began.

It seemed too, that a favorite technique was to have it start normal and then get stranger and stranger, as this seemed like what real dreams do... normal slice of life, then adding in things that just really don't go together. (in fact a 'dream world' like that would be a pretty good fantasy set up now that I see it). This was the kind of thing my friend was wanting... a reality getting weirder and weirder, and having THAT be what clued the reader in that it was a dream.

A couple of the discussants were adamant about not liking to be tricked (realistic scene of something that shouldn't happen, then starting awake)--It's a technique I don't mind, but have only ever used in a Round Robin where I felt the person before me had painted me into a corner I didn't want to be in. I found it interesting though, how strongly the people who felt cheated by this felt.

I've read books where dreams do both things and I've also read books where dreams are some (possibly unknown) desire or fear (in fact even if they are strange like that, they can still show these things).


But Why Dreams?

I think in a book dreams can serve a variety of purposes. The vast majority of the dreams I've WRITTEN have been in my Harry Potter fan fiction and I've most often used it as a tool for someone with some 'seeing ability'. I think though, even in mainstream, fantasy-free fiction, foreshadowing is a really nice use of them. In CONFLUENCE Hannah (my five-year-old) hears a story that causes some scary nightmares—they are directly caused by the story she's been told, but are foreshadowing too (the story teller knows more than he has let on).

I think that revealing of inner hopes or fears though, is an equally provocative use.


What about you? Are there times you like them? Times you hate them? Uses you condone or don't? Does anybody who KNOWS know of a limit? (how many dreams in a book is too many? I feel certain I've heard a rule, but don't know what it is.) Are there genres they can be used in and genres they can't (wouldn't seem to fit mystery too well, romance though—definitely)



And then there are real life Dreams...


PUBLISHED AUTHOR HART JOHNSON... *sighs *

I can't wait...


And Finally: Happy Thanksgiving to all of you in the States. To the rest of you... it is still Naked Thursday and you have a reputation to live up to!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Allies of Ill-Repute

Oh, I know theoretically how I want to achieve fame and fortune. Write the best book I possibly can, send it to my ninety favorite agents, wait for one to choose me out of a slushpile of thousands, wait for THEM to send it to their thirty favorite publishers, wait for one of THEM to say "oooh, brilliant!" and offer to publish it, then I edit it in a way that they don't get pissed off and fire me, pray for ten months they don't merge, restructure or go under in the meantime, then voila! Published book!

See though... I'm not very good at patiently leaving my fate in others' hands... Oh, I know... the writing was me... the ninety query letters will be me (23 down), the editing will be me, but there are an awful lot of things completely out of my control in that scerario.

I am of course writing MORE books to increase my odds that ONE of them will get through the slough, but in the meantime... fame where it can be had... Is ours for the taking!


It's Mari's Fault.


I've got this friend with a brilliance for making up words (Mari, can you PLEASE work on a one-word word for that skill? Because word-making-upper is getting tedious.). When she started blogging (a dalliance she followed ME into, mind you, so I will take a LITTLE credit), she cleverly titled her blog the Giraffability of Digressions . Now Digression isn't unusual, especially for those of us who consider it religion (Mari, BrioNi, and Me), but Giraffibility... now there's a word you don't see every day. So after a few days of blogging, she proudly announced that if you Googled Giraffability, the only hit was her blog... Giraffy (clearly the adjective that goes with the noun Giraffability) you got a single hit that wasn't her (about a really tall football player--she called it football anyway, and who am I to insist it's soccer?). So in just a few days, she had attained a little slice of fame!


Well Tara, not to be outdone, ALSO followed me into blogging (I'm not without influence--make sure you note that), and managed a similar coup with her Wobbly Sausage post. She is now the number one Google hit for Wobbly Sausage (which struck me as baffling, really--I thought wobbly sausages would be a widespread topic. Then yesterday she says, "I'm also the number one hit for Kairdiff Slag!" That Kairdiff Slag is outdoing us all!   [and you absolutely HAVE to read the post that goes with it, but swallow your coffee first--it's a monitor sprayer]

So I started wondering if I had achieved such fame... (there was a hint maybe I had with the number one nudist group hit for blogs if you searched in Portuguese [see 2 days ago])

But alas... I'm not so much a big fancy word writer, as a writer who reconfigures FAMILIAR words in new and exciting ways!

I tried it with Naked World Domination Tour, and though I managed a Google page one, I was the last on it. Google blasphemously put things ahead of me that didn't even grasp the CONCEPT of a Naked World Domination Tour... oh, there was a naked bike tour (ouch--one of the few things I will NOT be doing naked--one bump and... well, you get my point), and there were several dour world domination hits--pffft! Those people are entirely missing the point! BUT....

If I put it in quotes, all the hits were me (three blog posts and two HPANA hits that weren't so much ME and my minions talking ABOUT me)... then I went to Google blog search and tried, and at least I was the top hit.


I am thinking about trying it with such staples as "Delusional Thursday" and "Death Eaters in Drag".

But Your Lesson of the DAY!!!!!!

You too, by adopting a word (a la Mari), a marginally literate culture that has wonky spelling (a laTara) or a phrase (a la moi--say, I like that), can achieve Google fame, too! (And isn't it more fun that waiting around for somebody ELSE to make you famous?)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Road to Publication a la Tart

(or how I see it at the moment, anyway)

Write some fan fiction. Check.
Friend Natasha says, “You should write a real book.” Check. (you all need a friend Natasha)
Scratch out a few chapters. Check.
Join a writer’s group. Check. (see below)

Plug away for over two years to write a REAL book. Check.
Proofread and edit. Check.
Share with fabulous writer’s group members. Check.
Start a new book to distract self. Check.
Get back feedback. Check.
Edit and proofread. Check.
Start different book, first wasn’t flowing. Check.
Seek out social networking blogs. Check.
Start Facebook writer’s profile. Check.
Friend anyone who looks like they might be an author, agent or publisher. Check.
Join groups, fan and friend like mad. Check.
Learn to behave appropriately when interacting. Conspicuous lack of check.
Read gazillion blogs about querying. Check.
Send six queries. Check
Buy reams of paper, envelopes, special stationary, binder clips (for requests for partials and fulls). Check.
Learn language (WiP=work in progress, ms=manuscript, SASE=self addressed stamped envelope). Check.

Invest in U.S. Postal service. Check.
Ponder rejections. Check.
Write synoposis. Check.
Meet real author through neighbor and share query. Check.
Get giant reality check that 200K is too long and book needs major editing. Check.
Begin edit with shortening in mind. Check.
Start blog. Check.
Learn blogging etiquette. Check.
Follow blogging etiquette. Half check.
Finish editing, polish. Check.
Query 14 more people. Check.
Spend three weeks writing short stories because I heard that is how it is done. Check.
Attain critical mass of blog followers (read: 25) Check.
Go back to book started in February and madly write it in 6 weeks. Check.
Plan trilogy around it. Check.
Ponder rejections. Check.
Get first request for partial. Check.
In cleaning for partial determine it needs another round of editing. Check.
Decide to participate in NaNoWriMo madness. Check.
Convince cadre of minions to follow my madness. Check.
Join local writer’s associations and search conferences. Check.
Take new writers under wing, never mind I’m not published yet. Check.
Begin diet preparing for book tour. Half check.
Resort to nudity to get attention. Check. Check. Check.
Add innuendo and wobbly sausages to mix because if I can’t be published, at least I can entertain. Check.

Lather, rinse, repeat. Check…

Erm… what book?

*heavy sigh*

Back to polishing book. Check.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Star Gazing


I have a little side-hobby (in addition to corrupting young minds and spreading nudity world wide)—I LOVE Astrology. I don’t use it like the mad match-makers around the world, but rather for some explanatory entertainment… I like to see how the stars give insight to the character of people I know—and you know what? If you have their whole chart, they are usually spot-on.

East and West

I’ve dappled in both ‘standard’ western astrology, but also Chinese Astrology, wherein the year you were born gives you both an animal and an element. The western variety is more familiar to most people reading English language books, and the personality traits more varied, but the eastern gives society its sort of generational flare. I’ve also found that the couple people who really don’t fit their western signs fit their eastern sign with SCARY accuracy. My mother is one of these—my step dad actually laughed as he read the description of the water pig (1947) it was so accurate.

In Life

[funny... even my astrological sign is innuendo...]  I am a Cancer on the cusp of Gemini with a Virgo Moon, a Fire Horse… and those things all feed into my personality. Among the original members of my writer’s group, four of 6 of us were Cancers, three with birthdays right in a row on the cusp of Gemini—I think there is a pull for this week of the year, the emotionally in-tuned Cancer, and the Communication oriented Gemini to get those words on paper.

The fire horse in me is the part that won’t take no for an answer, refuses to change to suit the status quo, and yet can play harder that most of the other kids on the block. It’s said we leave home early and grow up late… For centuries Fire Horse were euthanized because we are such an independent lot that we inevitably dishonor our families (by not toeing the line).

One of the things I DO DO in real life related to Astrology is give a little romantic advice… it is always tongue in cheek and I know people would never make decisions based on it, but I’ve been known to say things like “A Libra and a Virgo! That’s a TERRIBLE idea!”

So here is YOUR practical love lesson for the day: EASIEST compatibility is 4 signs away (the signs that share elements) because there is an innate understanding; however, those matches often share flaws, so the couple can have some long term obstacles. Best complimentarity is two signs away—that way the strengths are different but in a way that goes together… in my own life I have only EVER gotten serious about Tauruses or Virgos (not intentionally, oddly enough—I didn’t even KNOW any of this until I was married)—had a handful of emotional attachments from other signs, but not nearly in the same kinds of numbers… and strangely, though the Tauruses tend to be more fun, I only ever thought of the word marriage with the Virgos… (all three of them… go figure), but then I have a Virgo moon, so that explains it…

Fire signs similarly… BEST matches are 4 away (or 8) as a horse, I should be with a tiger or a dog (I married a tiger and my son I get along with so famously is also a tiger). So if you’re wanting romantic advice… I’m your tart.

In Reading

Most books don’t explicitly give birthdays to characters, but my FAVORITE series does, and I find Jo did a pretty good job on most fronts—Harry the impulsive, generous Leo, Hermione, the diligent methodical Virgo, Snape the hard-working, no-nonsense Capricorn. Her only real error is probably casting Luna as a Leo (Luna is an Aquarius if ever there was one—possibly Gemini, DEFINITELY air.) She even though, goes so far as to use Voldemort’s birthday (mid-winter) as a herring for Trelawney to misread Harry, which then of course turns out to have a REAL reason behind it.

And per the pairing advice above… Harry and Hermione… was NEVER going to happen… one sign away is the WORST pairing possible.

In Writing

As with everything else I do, I tend to find this useful, but from a backward approach compared to what the average bear might do.

I envision a character with a few really important character details, write them a scene or two to get to know them, and THEN I choose a birthday that fits the personality I’ve laid down. What it allows is for an easy path to round out what some of the strengths, weaknesses and preferences that HAD NOT otherwise been relevant yet for that character are. I also like to use it to give some flavor for who gets along and who doesn’t and what kinds of people someone is drawn to. I have a theory for instance, that earth signs don’t tolerate fire signs all that well… find them rather exhausting. (Taurus is a little more tolerant)

In Confluence I used this… Jessie is a quintessential Aquarius—marching to her own drummer and quite comfortable not conforming, yet absolutely likable for it.


Do I believe in an infallibility of horoscopes? Not at all, there is all sorts of wacky stuff that changes the mix in reality, but I find it a fun, handy short cut with my writing. It helps make for believable people and conflicts, because the stereotypes wouldn’t exist if they didn’t hold true an awful lot of the time.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Sweet Infamy

Bonus Points for the Naked World Domination Tour

I think everyone likes being amused, and I'm no exception, but I probably take the most delight from the completely unexpected amusements in life. I had one of those moments yesterday.


The Build Up

I've added a few stat counter tools to my blog [see to the left] because it's fun to see which things people check out, where my readers live, all that good stuff. It is interesting to note things like... when I am buck naked people don't necessarily comment, but they sure read *snort * (repression is alive and well)

I can tell what portion of readers are Tart Virgins, and who are repeat customers (I run about 38% new and 62% repeat, which seems relatively reasonable to me... you want people to come back, but you also need new blood or you don't grow.

I've had readers from places that have made me completely scratch my head... places I've had to look up on maps... I've had readers from Brazil, Chile, Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan, Paraguay, Sweden... and those are just the places I don't KNOW anyone. There is Austria, Australia, (Adelaide, Melbourne AND Sydney) Canada, Greece, The Netherlands, Norway, and all the countries in the UK (yes, Ireland, Scotland and Wales in addition to plain old England). It is a little wacky. I think the most amusing though, is a repeat reader that LOOKS like he is in the middle of the ocean until you zoom in... (Sao Tome and Principe is my guess... hard to be specific on the map I get)--a Portugese name, but the island is off of Africa—Gabon to the east, Nigeria to the north.



The Clincher...

There is one more tool though, which I only recently discovered. You can see where your last ten viewers were referred from. Now I've had viewers referred from the obvious places. Direct, I am guessing are people who have me bookmarked. I get Facebook and Networked blog referrals. I've had referrals from blogs, Mystery Writing is Murder, Quiddity of Delusion, I'm Not Hannah... and then things I don't get at all (google image search—why does that lead to ME? I don't have any named images.)

But yesterday at work one of these links took me to Google Blogsearch.... in Portuguese... I was the Number One hit (in Portuguese, mind you) for 'Nudist Group'. I think it's been a VERY long time since I've been so amused. Being the place people go when they want to be NAKED has been my goal all along, so I think I can declare a GRAND success.

Sadly, I seem to have dropped to #2

The search page for 'nudist group'

If you want to see the page in Portuguese:

in Portuguese

So to all of you who are already, or considering getting naked... thank you... my reputation thanks you. Because if I can gain enough infamy, I can certainly get a darned book published...

Friday, November 20, 2009

Facebook and What If….

[This would be a rambling blog, rather than a writing blog, but it may lead to thoughts on story ideas… so I will go with that.]

I’m mostly happily married, approaching my 18th anniversary with my husband. One of the things that so bound me to my husband was that he was not a jealous sort… didn’t mind that I had friends who used to be significant in one form or *cough* another, because… well I collect people. At our wedding I had three friends who were ‘former loves’ of varying significance, all clearly only friends by that point, but it still takes a rather significant level of acceptance and confidence to not have been bothered.

One of those, I’ve kept in touch with. Our lives have other overlap, so we’ve always at least exchanged a note a couple times a year (much like many of my girlfriends), but for the most part, my move across the country extinguished any residual… well… anything. I’d just lost touch… with everyone. Not so much anymore, and I’ve been pondering…

Facebook Tiers

My first Facebook friends were friends I had from other online communities… early adopters of online friendships… fellow Harry Potter geeks mostly…

Among the first of my classmates though, was a serious crush from Jr. High… It was ALWAYS only one-sided—any girl who DIDN’T have a crush on him clearly had questionable taste (he was THAT cute). We never even had a class together until senior year. We had communicated around our 20-year reunion though (I did a survey of classmates because that is the geeky thing statisticians do before class reunions), and in reality had talked more via email than we EVER had in person, so that was comfortable, old crush or not.

And then ANOTHER rather obsessive crush (high school now… emotions ramped up a little)… this one lasting longer, and actually containing a handful of dates… still more serious on my end than his… But our families are friends, so there is common ground for a plain old friendship… (he’s one of the three who was at the wedding, actually)... so all was good.

But since that time, the trickle, then onslaught… I found a few, so was prepared, but a few found me… I had completely forgotten how regularly I used to fall for people… the flirtations involved, even with 'just' friends… It is this mad rush of memories I had plum forgotten.

Friendship Faces


It is strange now to reconfigure relationships. The online friendships are more about common interests… with one it is microbeer, with another it is Harry Potter, with another it is common aged daughters or politics or fitness plans… A huge part of me thinks this is a fabulous way to get to know people… you know… were I single… were they single… but nobody is single. Yet there is this layer, this nuance, this connection…

Maybe normal people always had these pieces of friendship. I grew up the only child of a widowed woman, so was sorely lacking in the lessons about boys being people. In fact I was pretty sure they WEREN’T until college when I had my first serious, monogamous boyfriend which freed me to actually see I could be FRIENDS with other guys (they were NOT all oddball possibilities from the dating pool, but rather…people—no need any longer to flirt or impress. I could finally be me)

And now… married… I am still me and am baffled by the common ground (men really ARE people!), but also can spot how easily a person… dissatisfied… might slide into how COMFORTABLE this level of relationship is… might have the all-positive banter of the online (because people don’t tend to come chat when they are crabby—they CERTAINLY aren’t saying ‘is that where that goes?’ to me AGAIN (did you see my eyes roll?). They can’t see the extra thirty pounds or the new wrinkles (I don’t POST those pictures). And so there is this fantasy self, talking to fantasy people (or is this our honest self, once past the physical us?)—you see, there lies the conundrum… it is both a better and a worse place for honesty…


Chat box opens [note: I don’t know those people, I just googled FB chat for an image] and suddenly it is LIVE. On my writer’s profile when someone I don’t KNOW opens a chat (I always find that odd, unless there’s been an interaction first) I try to quickly mention hubby or kids in convo… that profile is about networking and anyone looking for a date is wasting both of our time. In real time though--and on MY profile, it is really fun to visit (depending on how busy I am—prefer it from home)… but another layer is laid in this strangeness of all possibilities at once… a candy box of ‘it might have beens’.

Are writers seeing the potential for stories here? Are the rest of you seeing the temptation and danger? Probably a good thing I generally avoid frunk* posting or I might do something stupid, eh? I have a friend (maybe more) who had marriage problems exacerbated by the online thing. I think the best advice I can give is that in real life you are going to have to deal with the crap. That is how relationships go. Take that online person and pull him into real life and there would be JUST AS MUCH crap you’d have to deal with. Yes, the online is all pleasant… but it isn’t real. You can’t compare and shouldn’t try, even if it is fun to try the samplers…

Back to the writing potential... So I’m envisioning devious people, coming online to seduce lonely old classmates, leading them off naked somewhere… wait… that last part is me… maybe devious is only in the eye of the beholder.


[*note: FRUNK is a word derived from coming online DRUNK and trying to share that information with the people you’re talking to… inevitably a key is hit wrong…]

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Plotting Their Demise…

Do you hear the evil laughter? That is the echo from ME last night.

You see, I had reached a place in my WiP where I felt a little like I was spinning my wheels… running in place like the Python Arthurians storming the castle and never making any progress whatsoever.

So I did what I do…

Plotting

I got naked and got in the bath…

[oops… wrong bathtub activity]

...then I thought… okay, where do I need this all to be for the NEXT book to start? I proceeded to outline one of the perspectives through about ¾ of book 3… then thought a little more… decided who my second perspective is going to be and plotted a little of HIS story—I may actually include Athena’s perspective again too—she was one of two in the first book, but she is central to how all the characters intersect and she will be central in the final action of the trilogy. Three PoVs probably makes it longer, but I REALLY like her, and I think she will add to the power of the story.

Looking at most of what I want to happen in Book 3 really opened me up to what still needed to happen in book 2. It helped me re-outline the primary action for the rest of the book (I actually worked backword from the end to where I am in the writing in order to plot it) and I think it will flow more easily for longer…



The Evil in Me

It is a wacky thing though… plotting two deaths and the loss of identity of a 3rd character. Why am I enjoying this so much? Is that natural? Are writers a sadistic lot compared to normal people, or does this actually allow us a release that doesn’t harm anyone and so in the long run we’re nicer? Can I run with that line, even if it's not true?

I DO have a hard time not redeeming my bad guys… I learned this writing a fan fiction about the Malfoy Family… I just couldn’t leave anyone completely rotten if I got in their head for any length of time (though on principle I have avoided writing from the perspective of Umbridge or Bellatrix… no redeeming THEM). It may have something to do with my underlying beliefs that in the absence of true psychosis, most people who do bad things, do them because they’ve been damaged by circumstances, whether teachings, experiences, or deep neglect. People aren’t naturally evil—they are MADE that way… which always makes me want to UNMAKE them that way.
So like I tell people…

I’m not evil. I’m just naughty.



And a Status Check-In

On NaNoWriMo I have completed 38K+ words and I’ve made an observation… I am part of the ‘Ann Arbor’ region and my miserable Regioneers (865 of them—doesn’t that seem high for a city of only 200,000?) have amassed and average of 14,841 words… that puts us in 414th place of 484 (and me at 2 1/2 times the average). Now I don’t think anyone at or above that average is doing that badly… this is still a winnable project with 11 days left (granted, that is more than 3000 words a day, but it could be done)… yet I digress… my REAL observation is the Fan Fiction Veterans I have signed up with are ROCKING. Nearly all of us are at or approaching 30,000 or better, and a couple are ahead of me (which honestly, I’m not sure I expected by this point… I am better at the marathon thing than a lot of people I know… a little at a time, keep plugging away—in fact my graph of progress doesn’t have ANY days with no words-- just under 900 was my lowest day—that is not the norm)

So I am recommending for any tentative writers, or writers who write sporadically, to find a community in which to share that will DEMAND regular updates, as the fan fiction world has for this group. I think there are places for other kinds of stories, though I don’t know any to recommend, but I feel like that discipline, learned in that setting, has been VERY good for us as a group.  I'm very proud...

That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sama-Lama-Ding-Dong

[Note: Not a writing blog, and probably an over-share, but that is me… naked as always]


My son Sam turns eleven today. I’ve frequently looked at Sam as my reward for not murdering my husband, who at one time was sorely asking for it. After our daughter was born, a series of demons visited our lives and we spent a few very difficult years. In fact we were separated for almost eighteen months of my daughter’s first 2½ years. I wouldn’t revisit that time in my life for ANYTHING, no matter how I adored her toddler stage.

That is the era in which I learned that no matter how badly you’d like to fall apart, SOMEBODY has to stay sane… so there I was, stuck… the sane one by default. I had some tangible help and lots of helpful advice, all of it saying to walk away. You may have learned enough about me by now to know that played no small part in my determining it had to work. Don’t get me wrong. I was insistent on boundaries, therapy, taking time, working through—I even worked an AlAnon program to help sort what was my stuff and what wasn’t... but NOBODY tells me what to do. I also think my refusal to accept failure played in, as did my husband accepting that being tossed out in the first place was a reasonable reaction on my part--probably the best thing I could have done for him—once he’d gotten far enough past it, anyway. Even one hot head in such a situation dooms it. I couldn’t have ‘worked it out’ by myself.

Natalie was planned… after a couple years of taking turns being ready for a baby, by chance we were ready at the same time, tried and succeeded—first time... Sam on the other hand… in spite of coming 3 ½ years later, was an accident. We wanted another EVENTUALLY, but I was only 5 months into a new job, we’d only been back together 9 months, he wasn’t working… it just wasn’t time yet… yet I am completely confident he was the child I was meant to have. I’m not a person of traditional faith, but I believe in SOMETHING, and there it is…

Sam was almost 4 weeks early (never mind he was 7 pounds 9 oz. and 22 inches long). He was jaundiced, and fussy, didn't eat well. He refused to sleep on his back—the adamant recommendation of the day. As he got a little older he hated being away from home, throwing screaming tantrums if we were gone too long (strangers actually used to offer me help and sympathy—he was THAT miserable).

In Preschool he finally got his bearings away from home. At four I realized how good he was with numbers—his grandparents were visiting and he asked the date. Then he asked that day’s date and calculated that meant four days… math with no prompting or training. After preschool we decided on Young 5s because he was so young for his cohort… by the end he was reading, so he went to first grade instead of kindergarten. The kid is smart.


Not only is he smart, he has common sense… pacing himself with work that needs doing, getting things out of the way before going to the fun stuff. I never have to remind him to do homework, and to date can only remember once that he forgot until sort of late.

The real winner though, is his humor… it is mine EXACTLY. From very young he was into word play. He is periodically sarcastic beyond his years. I just enjoy his company. The rest of my family grumbles that I play favorites, and I really try not to, but periodically I just have to remind them that it is easiest to like someone who likes YOU—to be nice to someone who has been being nice. (my other two family members grumble and complain far more often). He gets mad and complains far less, seeks out my company even when he doesn’t want something from me MORE, and is just easy to hang out with. I know that will get to be less as he ages, that his mom will no longer be the cool company, but I have savored it, and hope after his ‘cool years’ that he comes back to it.

So what does he like? Here are some of his favorites:



Books: Cirque de Freak series by Darren Shan
TV: Family Guy
Candy: currently, Almond Joy
Friend: John [the boy on the right up above]

He plays trombone, does basketball, baseball and tried cross country this year. He requested I buy him ‘scent’ when school was starting because he has definitely noticed girls (and heard girls like boys who smell good). He spends a lot of time playing computer or video games, but also climbing trees, riding bikes and generally running around.

And did I mention his feet? His age has finally reached his shoe size… Seriously… he wears a men’s 11. It’s clear how much taller he is than his friends [above], but he is nowhere near done if his feet are an indication… He is already a head taller than most of his peers, some of whom are more than a year older.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Familiar Territory

For a long time I thought I couldn’t write, that I lacked the imagination. I really could never write a whole separate world like the fantasy works I love so much. Creating something from scratch is just SO BIG. I have incredible admiration for those uber-creative types who can do it.

Eventually though, I learned to pull pieces of reality from different places and combine them in different ways… create something fresh from a reconfiguration of things we already know.

Location

My thoughts on this topic began with my NaNo project (now at 35K *YAY!*). My characters have just realized someone was trying to kill one of them and have gone on the run once again. I had them in Colorado because it just seemed like the kind of place that would have a psychiatric hospital not beholden to government forces (since part of what they’re running from is a government agency determined to keep her quiet)… guess Colorado wasn’t as secure as they thought though… so they’ve hitchhiked, and where do I send them? Idaho. You know WHY? Because I know nooks and crannies in Idaho that can give it a realistic feel without a ton of research, and NaNo doesn’t give me TIME for a ton of research. Going into familiar territory is a nice way to have at least ONE layer of the story be easy. [note the itsy bitsy teeny tiny red line that is the only highway from southern to northern Idaho… yeah, it’s mostly only two lanes, and that matters]

CONFLUENCE takes part in a fictional town (Clear Springs) which is a combination of Ann Arbor and Moscow, Idaho, though the surrounding geography is all Idaho panhandle, even though it is never called such. But because it was a fictional town, I had to make maps and decisions, and work hard to keep thing things I was saying consistent with some plan. LEGACY on the other hand, takes place in Portland, so that was EASY. I lived there for twelve years. I could use memory and real maps (plus a little google—for instance I had to change my timeframe by a few years because I use Pioneer Square which wasn’t completed until spring of 1984)

So here I am… using a location crutch to speed things along, since writing speed is fairly critical…


Plot

Some people borrow from real life for plot, whether it is news events they see, things that happened to people they know, or real life. My own real life, plotted as fiction, would yield a sort of angsty, oddly inspirational ‘Chick Lit,’ I think. My romances have been non-conventional and sometimes questionable (probably I couldn't pass as a heroine in most of them, anyway). My worldly experiences have been mostly frantically gleaned in an attempt to have a more interesting life. And my career has been scattered. I think the ONLY thing I have that is all that interesting is a scrappy perseverance… a stubbornness that survives, regardless of obstacles. But to write that story, I have to dish dirt on people I still care about, so it’s not happening, at least not until I can do it honestly, as a memoir, which means acquiring fame first.

I have another plot that is ALMOST mine I intend to write, but not while my aunts are still living. My grandfather had a very tragic life, considering he lived to 91, and the skeleton of the story is absolutely gripping--triple hanky stuff. The family dynamic though is difficult, and I will not be the person to make it more so. Another one for my golden years.

All those 'real life as plot' things though, have a limitation that is HUGE for somebody who wants a career as a writer... you only get to do it once.  Poof, bye bye, plot used...

What I LOVE to use real life for is details. I like small exchanges that give a sense that things really happened that way. They give an authenticity to scenes that would feel forced if a person used something similar but that was fictional. I’m not saying they can’t be altered to be more plot appropriate, but life offers some wonderful scenes.

Character


I think it is a rare writer who doesn’t put herself and people she knows into characters in bits and pieces… this trait or that one, even if it is subconcious. I think our own personalities feed into what we see as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ too. For instance I have a very difficult time writing a sympathetic drama queen. (Ironic, as my teenage heroine in CONFLUENCE is nicknamed Drama Queen, but that is about literal drama). But I just don’t have patience for that personality, sucking all the air out of the room. They make me tired and I could never finish a plot if I let one in. I just can’t yet be sympathetic enough… maybe one day… or maybe as a second…

But I see young writers, or writers early in their development, drawing whole characters that are themselves, or maybe themselves as they would like to be. I’ve never gone that far. I think I am too odd a bird and everyone would identify me for the nudist that I am. I also think it is only good for a book or two, and then the personalities need to shift up a little or people will read it as more of the same (maybe not in a series genre, like mysteries, though I prefer someone quirkier to be the M.C. in those than nearly anybody I’ve met).  Mostly though, it seems like life should be a cabinet of raw materials, mixed and matched in new and unexpected ways, rather than counting too heavily on the pre-made chocolate frog that really only has one good jump in it.

Note:  to the left is a link to Coffee Rings Everywhere.  I haven't read today's because I had a plan and didn't want to be influenced, but it looks to me as if my Thursday Twin and I are on the same brainwave... I hear that happens frequently with twins.  *winks at Natasha*

Monday, November 16, 2009

Middling Mayhem

I’ve decided that book middles maybe should just be called Muddles… I had DAYS that I would write a scrap here, write a scrap there and just feel like I was making no progress whatsoever… then I made a Facebook comment about it and discovered, lo and behold… some people LIKE them! So I thought I’d explore the topic farther…

Reading Middles


Let me be clear… I NEVER EVER skip ahead. I read every word and love it, but no matter HOW good the book, there is a part of me that is saying come on come on come on… get to the part I know is coming! (I am similarly greedy faced with abs like these… I can REALLY love them, but frankly… mostly just because of the indicator they give of the good stuff… knowwhatImean?) EVEN if after the fact I look back and LOVE the middle, I STILL am eager to get to the final action sequence and see how things go. It is what propels me forward. Books that don’t do that for me, I can still read, but I don’t enjoy them nearly as much.

Does that mean the middle could just not be there? NOT AT ALL. Without the middle, I wouldn’t get all that sweet anticipation, which is the part I ACTUALLY love so much, and a well written book drops hints and details (LOOK at the six pack!) through there that make the ending a fabulous wind up of tons of details!

I think my love of anticipation actually feeds the fact that I like LONG books so much better than short ones. I crave that anticipation (seriously… on so many levels). I would NOT be a person who preferred longer books if there wasn’t something truly compelling about the middle, would I?


Writing Middles


Unlike my buddy Stacy, who sees middles like the scrumptious frosting of the oreo—savored and enjoyed, I see them more like the broccoli, which I never start with, because I can’t face it first, but I wouldn’t end with either, because I want something better to be the end note of my dinner…

I think this is hardest because the middle is what I don’t know before I start… even if I have a broad plan, the middle has gotten the least thought. In a normal book session, I can write the beginning and plot my points, and then wait for this connector or that connector to form more fully. With NaNoWriMo though, I can’t skip to a different project entirely for a couple weeks. I need to make progress on THIS project.

So here is how I handled it:

Diagnosis of what was causing the problem: I have two sort of parallel story tracts running—a physical running/keeping safe, and an emotional exploration via psychological counseling (though Phil is considerably more handsome and compassionate that Freud). The LATTER was the part that kept causing trouble (damn psychotherapists), partly because the pacing of it needs to match the action, and the therapy progress kept going too fast and bumping my other plot too much.

Decision to just write the OTHER half for now: I’m not completely skipping it, but I’ve decided to concentrate on the physical journey first, then come back and insert the emotional journey as it most closely runs parallel to the physical one. I think it will allow for the best overall story.

That said, the decision, once I made it, has freed my characters… they’ve gone on the run again… there is about to be a conflict BETWEEN them (all prior conflicts are them together versus external forces) so I think it should up the ante for my action and will set up the breakthrough of the final action sequence, so I am excited once again about my NaNo project.


A Further Look

When I made my facebook comment and a few people mentioned loving middles, I decided maybe it was a genre thing… the two who specifically mentioned loving them write romances… well romances it seems, go meet, resist, give in, conflict, resolve, back together… or something like that… I can totally see where the ‘give in, conflict, resolve’ would be the most exciting portion of that story.

I tend to write something that borders on suspense or thriller, and THAT cycle is more circular, with each sweep having a slightly higher stakes tension. I think the HARD part is coming up with and building to the next tension, then once it is started, that cycle goes smoothly and you get back to the same spot. Now normally, I have maybe 60% of my cycles set, but have a couple where I have to fly by the seat of my pantsless…. This story though, it is more an issue of trying to match the psycho/emotional tensions to the physical tensions. I want to keep them similarly paced and that was getting difficult.

So I’d love to hear if others like to read/write middles and what genre they do both in… trying to see if I’m onto something or just talking out the side of my keyboard…

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Only Ann Arbor

My power walk this morning had a little more excitement than normal and it has me pondering this stranger than fiction city I live in. I mean any city has an occasional Ambulance or Firetruck (saw three of the former, one of the latter—though I suspect of the three Ambulances, really I saw the same one twice) but that is run of the mill city stuff (even if it is sort of jarring in a city that really isn't very big—I'm actually more comfortable spotting the LifeFlyte helicopters that come in to UM from all over the state). But today, in a span of forty five minutes, I noted some singularly Ann Arborisms.


The Popular Fairies

Somebody had delivered flowers to the Liberty Street Fairies. Oh, they get food offerings all the time, so I've always known they are among the best liked (possibly in contest with the Rock Fairies at the Arc who receive guitar pics and ticket stubs), but these little miniature bouquets of real flowers were pretty darned precious. I've long suspected this door houses female fairies (they leave a trail of glitter that sometimes includes pink, is really my key cue—since any old fairy can like a piece of eggroll now and again). But the flowers reinforce that. I hope they wake up soon and get those flowers in water, or they are going to start to wilt.


Invasion of the Chicken People

On Second... not even downtown or near a 'real' business where it might be seen as something promotional (there is a University building there, but it is stuffy offices) there was a group of five 'people'. I am using the term people loosely because two of the people had heads covered in yellow feathers (completely covered) and had orange beaks. One of the chicken people wore sun glasses—I suppose the other might have, but was looking the other direction. With the chicken people was a woman with a short skirt and really funky patterned tights... she looked a little like she belonged in an alternative band, and two non-descript men. All of the 'people people' (as opposed to the chicken people) I would guess were in their late 20s give or take.

Two explanations came to mind:

Option 1: Jefferson Market has been shipped a case of Canary Cremes. This seems extremely plausible except that these chicken people did not seem at all distressed by their state, but I am not sure I could distinguish chicken people from canary people, so it is still possible.
Option 2: The Chicken Lady finally found someone with whom to reproduce. This seems more likely—we are, after all, only 4 hours from Toronto, where she was last known to be trying her seduction attempts... that was only the early 90s, but I don't really know how chicken people age, so these two might have been only in their teens.

If these explanations fail, it's I suppose it might be something to do with the camera they had ready for poses. It wouldn't be the first album cover shoot I've walked past on a Power Walking Saturday.

It is strange, I think, to live somewhere I see things that I couldn't possibly put in a book, unless it was a REALLY SILLY book, and then people would just think I was, well... being silly.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Misbehavin’


While I’m rather at peace with my own propensity for mayhem, characters that won’t behave sometimes make me think they’ve been staying in the Castle Anthrax. [for those of you unfamiliar with the Castle Anthrax, you can go here]

You see… my NaNoWriMo characters made a jail break last week. I was able to hold them to the overall plot for a while… well actually I sent them to Guantanamo… long story… but now there is no way around it. They are causing me headaches and it is interfering with my mojo, and there is just no other way to do it… they need spankings, the both of them.

I guess I knew the middle would get hard (it usually does). I planned for it, hitting 25K on Wednesday and only intending to be to 30K by Sunday, but I am going to need to plan in extra power walks this weekend if I am going to get these two back in line, and fast.

On better writing news, the Trilogy is moving along… I am rounding the halfway mark and it is going nicely. I finished chapter 16 last night (of 30, I think) so it I can keep going, I should finish it well before Christmas, giving me some down time to write the LAST book…

Miserable January is just MADE for editing, wouldn’t you say?


And Now Some RANDOM Stuff!
(paying digressionary pennance)


The Nudist Movement has crossed species:
Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear
Fuzzy Wuzzy has no hair
Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn't very fuzzy, was he?

I normally don’t approve of fur coats, and I would never ever condone fur over nudity on a human, but I think I need to go on record as telling this poor guy to put his fur back on…

Reality Loves Me: I may not be having any luck getting my novel published (though I still have that partial out… 5 weeks now), but the scientific world seems to love me lately. My boss and I have had two manuscripts accepted this fall and I sent a revision today that should also make it. Guess I’ll take my fame where I can get it.


And eleven years ago today I went on bed rest: You see… my children are an impatient sort… can’t wait for anything…even being born… so even though my son wasn’t due until December 6, he started challenging me about that… His birthday is next Wednesday, 3 ½ weeks early, and maybe I’ll interview him for it… I tell people that when my daughter was born she got my Chi (life energy, for anyone unfamiliar with Eastern Medicine)—I was drained and actually ended up with an herbal prescription to get that back. My son got my memory… I haven’t had one since… he has it instead. I’d like to blame testosterone… in fact maybe I will… but their personalities both go with what they denied from me ever after… funny how that works

(the pic is a year old, but I'm a bad, negligent mother without a vast supply of pics on my computer... so here are the childings...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Zen and the Art of Nakedness

I figure in this world there are Naked People and Pre-Naked People. Some people are so deeply Pre-naked that I even refer to them as People in Pants. But there comes a time when we all must learn that there are benefits to just letting it all hang out. Revealing yourself can be scary, I know, especially before you get rid of those embarrassing tan lines. But the only way to get rid of them, is to take off your clothes. Here are some helpful hints.

[note: this blog is useful both in a literal, and in a metaphorical way… hopefully I’m not too subtle]

Naked Among Like-minded Strangers

I think it is frequently harder to get naked among people you know personally unless you are all naked sorts… Other nudists are friendly and comforting, and know when to say something (you have toilet paper stuck to your foot) and when not to (you’d really look better if you did some crunches). Non-nudists completely don’t get it, so they either think that simply the fact that it’s YOU makes it perfect (the mother syndrome) or they think you are a brazen hussy for having the balls to be naked in the first place (I’ll believe you’re naked when I see you in a magazine).


I first came out as a nudist at HPANA among other young nudists… it was like a nude beach of sorts… gentle interaction, all of us careful to say mostly nice things (except when someone really needed a hint like “You’ll be sorry if you let that burn”. There are people who say things like “that’s not at all what I pictured you’d look like” but usually they are softened with, “Nice tattoo!” (At least a LITTLE compliment to go with the questioning and far more people only give constructive criticism in small doses and say nice things by the Abraxan-pulled carriage-full).

And then I found MY zen in a group of aspiring nudists easing into it together. My motto… share a little nakedness at a time (I’ll show you mine if you show me yours). My Nudist Group… I’ll call them The Burrow… shared a little at a time, gave feedback… of course we had a pre-agreement on honest critiques, because you can’t improve as a nudist without it, and we ALL want to be fully Naked eventually!

I don’t think people were shocked I was the first one fully disrobed and flashing to non-nudists, but there is a definite vulnerability to it.

I’ve recently had the mother of one of my daughter’s friends offer to trade manuscripts flashes, and again… a new layer of vulnerability… not only do I KNOW her, I SEE her. She periodically has my daughter at her house… so apparently the layers aren’t all off yet.

I can’t imagine what it will be like when I am naked on shelves at book nudist stores all over the country!

Know Who To Trust

So my advice to people who are afraid to get naked… find people first that you trust for POSITIVE feedback. It might be your family or friends, but remember… non-nudists may not get it. Many will just find it a cute little hobby you’ve taken up. A few will be enthusiastic cheerleaders who would love a muddy bare foot, but probably wouldn’t recognize a full frontal if it assaulted them, only because it is YOURS.


Better to find a few other nudists to share with. It is why I love the fan fiction naked Harry Potter forums—the feedback was gentle, consistent, and reciprocal. (never mind that there were some body parts already there for borrowing, so we could borrow parts we hadn’t quite developed yet—extremely helpful!).

Expand then to people who can critique and improve your Nudism… because lets face it… we all have a naked body in there, but some of them need a little work before they are ready for public consumption. You don’t want any cosmetic surgeons, because then it is no longer YOUR voice body, but recommendations on flexibility exercises or toning can only improve us. And those extra limbs? You’re doing your fellow nudists a disservice if you don’t point out that they should really just start a NEW naked person with those…

Expanding the Metaphor to Breaking Point


Nudists come in all shapes and sizes—there are mystery nudists, who don’t reveal themselves until almost the end; romance nudists who get naked in scene one and proceed to gyrate for 200 pages; suspense nudists, dropping an item here and there, teasing us; fantasy nudists (many of my nudist group fall in here—they are a colorful lot, what with their alien forms and giant swords)… and then people like me… mainstream nudists trying to drag the whole world along and convince THEM to be naked too.

But there are more nudists still… poetic nudists, painted nudists, sculpted nudists… I think whatever our art, revealing ourselves can be a truly frightening thing, but finding a nice gentle place to start, get feedback, grow, get more critical feedback, and then finally take it all off is a grand thing. Eventually we might even get paid for it!

Find your colony!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Missing Class


“Oh, there you go, bringing class into it again.”

I’ve lived most of my life entirely missing class. By that I don’t mean I was a low-rent, no class kind of gal (at least not until recently), but that I really had no framework in which to PUT an idea like class. I thought it was something America didn’t have—you know… American Dream, land of equal opportunity, all that.

I understood that I couldn’t marry a prince, because I wasn’t born with royal blood (thanks mom, for wrecking THAT illusion), but that was only relevant in countries that HAD princes. Ours, my mother assured me, did NOT.

Even into graduate school I felt like Education was the great equalizer—if only we could improve the education of the poor and downtrodden—the people who, through no fault of their own, hadn’t had the same kind of opportunities… all they needed were educational opportunities and all would be GRAND!

After all, if ANYONE had had low class roots, it was me.

Shot-gun wedding by an 18 and 20 year old who met at the burger joint they worked in… six months later… moi. Dad dropped out of college. Mom FLUNKED out of college. He got a hardware store job where he never DID make as much as it cost him to drink. She became a ‘key punch operator’ (my understanding is this is the predecessor of computers, but without having to KNOW anything). They were destined to raise a child who fell into ruts.

And don’t get me wrong, I’ve fallen in some ruts, but I learned early that if you dived into the roll, you could roll all the way through and land on your feet again. No reason to pretend I never fell in—I had the shit all over me to prove it… but isn’t it better to have swum in the muck and lived a little than to have driven the long way and not know what dirt looks like? I always thought so.

And thus we arrive at the source of my lifetime Reverse Class Discrimination.

I happen to think (though there are some wonderful exceptions) that people who live a life of leisure, who have everything handed to them in a shiny silver Nordstom box, lack compassion. People whose parents are wealthy, faithful, and sober have vast areas of knowledge they just don’t get. In fact they often deal with life as if people get what they deserve, when in fact if that were true, no kid would be without. (I have dived dangerrously close to the source of my politics here, but note I managed delete the partisan joke, with some difficulty).

I have confessed to mother issues, but in my formative years, there were a number of things my mom did REALLY well that I think led to my class oblivion…


1) She repeated again and again that if I had my dad’s brains and my mom’s ‘try hard’ I could accomplish anything I wanted.

2) She reinforced my self esteem around every turn.

3) She reiterated the importance of making sure I had CHOICES (that an educated person was never stuck—she could support herself if she needed to)

And probably most importantly:

4) She proved the priority of a college education by returning herself when I was 10.

So I always figured class lines didn’t apply to me (or anyone for that matter). In fact it took moving to the other side of the Mississippi before I got it. You see… I always thought Ivy League meant Fancy Schmancy Private University that was hard to get into… I didn’t GET that there were specific schools that qualified and lowly schools next door that did not (are you freaks kidding me? If less than 10% get in, it’s a picky freaking school and people should be impressed when someone gets in.)

So what does this have to do with writing?

I guess there are implications for both class and geography. I KNOW there are ‘high class’ people west of the Mississippi—I dated a guy in college whose step father ‘owned things’—seriously… he made his living owning things. Don’t ask me how that works but among the wealthy, it is apparently quite common. They thought the shot-gun kid from hickville Idaho was the best thing that ever happened because I kept their son from flunking out of school (try hard thing... works for everyone)… they were high class but NOT CLASS CONSCIOUS (except the whole pretending to know movie stars thing, but that is endemic of anyone who lives near Los Angeles). Someone from the East Coast might not GET that. Likewise they would not get the Pacific Northwest anti-materialism chic... that people who have STUFF in Portland or Seattle are sort of 'sneered at' by the educated as having faulty priorities.  I mean you can have SOME stuff, but money is better spent learning about the world via travel, buying art to support third world villages... you know... stuff with value added, not just toys.

Just like yours truly doesn’t get the class thing. I can write about people with and without means, and I can write about social problems (sheesh, I study disparities for a LIVING)… but meandering through the meanings of social hierarchy (like the East Coast Aristocracy) or even the appropriate etiquette (like my vast stereotypes about the south)… I just have no class.



And THIS JUST IN!!!! SQUEEEEEEEEE!

CC Chronicles

I got an award today for being UGLY! (but that is the GOOD kind of Ugly). I had a friend Brian once who used to refer to the ‘Ugly to Cool’ Scale—if you’ve ever spent any time in the Pacific Northwest you’ll know this goes right with my reverse classism… when something is SO Ugly, it is cool again... like orange shag rugs. I sort of figure this is like that… A little Class in the form of a flasher…

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What’s My Age Again?

I noticed some time ago that I had a penchant for teens. I’m not sure why they are so fun to write (as opposed to how fun they are to live with)… I was talking to my friend Kas about it this morning (she is also enjoying writing a teen). And I’m wondering… it this strange? Do Kas and I have unresolved issues we’re working out? (I should probably note that she is barely removed from legitimately falling into the domain… legally an adult, but not yet a drinker—in those nether years… I’m more than twice that.

The thought though, led to a desire to explore characters of different ages… what are the appeals and drawbacks of children, teens, young adults, middle age… the elderly… I’ve loved characters from all age groups, but what about writing them?

Children

I’m reading a book right now called ‘Elijah of Buxton’ by Christopher Paul Curtis (my son recommended it). The narrator is an eleven year old black boy, the first ‘born free’ in a community just across the Canadian border in Ontario (then called Canada West). Elijah is charming, but a huge amount of his appeal as a narrator is that he can see and describe things that he the boy doesn’t understand, but we the reader do. Children make wonderful ‘unreliable’ narrators and wonderful ‘fresh perspectives’. They can give us a reason to explain things that might otherwise be glossed over, but can add to the nuance and understanding. A child’s mistaken impression can add deep layers and emotional power. In CONFLUENCE I write from the perspective of Hannah, a five-year-old, and it was great to try on the naïve voice and wide open view of the world, though sometimes challenging, when there were things she really should not have been able to grasp.

Teens

So far these sassy, willful characters are my favorite. They’ve driven my stories in both my completed books, and one is driving my current WiP (my first male teen this time). Why not write YA, you ask? Because I do rotten things to them. My themes are adult, even if my characters are not always. But as characters teens can rebel, shake things up, act on their own, but are still worried about by others as children—bad things that happen to them seem more tragic than they would if they happened to an adult.

Young Adult

I haven’t written these, except the abandoned book I wrote when I technically fell into the demographic. I think, unlike the teen voice, it is just too recent to enjoy the recklessness of it. My half-written murder mystery has one for the MC, but she is an academic first in my mind—not typical of this age, though I am showing my agism by clumping all twenty-somethings together. In reality, they come in all shapes and sizes… some are even writer friends who will help me rule the world one day soon. I think though, I may have a fear of romanticizing a time in my own life that was a little self-destructive, master’s degree, marriage and first child notwithstanding.

“Real” Adult

There is a part of me that thinks this is what I ought to be writing, because theoretically, this is what I am. A career-aged person with family concerns… and I do seem to include these. Oddly though, this isn’t nearly as interesting to write… possibly because I am one… Maybe it’s because they issues they deal with are too real—there is no escapism to it. My NaNo heroine is exactly my age, chosen because I needed her to have been doing what she does for quite a while and it was easiest to keep the timeline straight if she and I had similar landmarks (college graduation, etc.). Her counterpart is eight years older, but that is just me knowing there is no more compatible pairing with a Firehorse than a Dog (Chinese astrologically speaking)—it is a loyal, friendly and ultimately compatible personality. Neither of these people though, is family people. He’s been married—no kids. She hasn’t been down that road. It makes them different… more fictional than the other people of this age I’ve written about.

Older people

I haven’t really delved here, except parents of my adults, but there are some FABULOUS older people I’ve read. I always think of Maeve Binchy’s older ladies—often these stories involve a new sweet romance even, and I love the idea that when I am that age I would be so genuine, wise, and…. Fresh. (I love how she pairs the young and old actually--and older lady and a tween--there is a nice dynamic to that).

So I’m curious what ages writers like to write about and why. Do you stick with favorite ages for your MCs or jump around? Do different ages call on different skills?