Monday, August 31, 2015

The Crack of Writing

And I don't mean butt crack.

I woke up yesterday... sort of... I actually lay in bed about 90 minute half asleep half awake with various ideas infusing my consciousness... I finished the season's True Detective the night before, so there was that... and I've been watching the Walking Dead, so there was a bit of that... a lot of escaping bizarre things, but I had enough awakeness to stop the action and go back and revise if something looked to dire. Lucid dreams... though I can't do that in a full sleep—only in a half-one. But I woke up with a truly great series idea... I'm very excited.

Now if you've been around, you know me and ideas... I have to let them stew a good long time before they are ready to expose to the light, but I tried to write down enough that I won't lose it all... enough to add to as things wind together. I am calling it the Armageddon Games. That is all I will say on the matter.

What I can say though, is that THIS is my favorite thing about writing. These shiny new ideas and the work of planning out a book from them. The actual writing I love, but I have lost some confidence on that part, so it feels harder than it used to. Editing too. But man the ideas are sure fun. I have a fairly large Excel file of ideas. I will never manage to write them all, but if I've lost steam, this is like a jump start. Actually got back to the editing I've been meaning to be working on all month last night.

Now if I could just have someone volunteer to shop and cook, and someone else to clean... then I'd be back on track.

In Other News:

Driver's license day
Samories, Volume 1

(Sam Memories, that is) My son begins his LAST week of summer vacation as a high school student this week. Last week he registered and yesterday I made him fill out a lot of silly long-shot scholarship forms (they are mostly lottery things, but somebody has to win, right?). I have tried to reinforce that college applications THIS week will be easier than they will after school starts.

He is applying to five schools—three in Michigan, my alma mater (Oregon) and our long shot (Stanford). The latter two would require incredible scholarships, but you never know unless you try, eh? His ACT scores were really strong.

I start to worry here, too. He is sometimes wise, sometimes impulsive, but a year from now, leaving for college, he will not be an adult as most of his peers are. He is sixteen right now. I'm not sure what that means except I think every year at that age is HUGE for maturing a bit more, so he will be 6-12 months behind most of his peers. He's only had his driver's license a few weeks.

At the same time, college was my very favorite time, so I am excited for him to have it on the horizon.

Friday, August 28, 2015

There's No Accounting For Taste. Thank Goodness.


Well first, let me give you a little background.

See, I am watching Season 2 of True Detective and a lot of people I've talked to (or read reviews from) really didn't like it. Know what? I LOVE it. I think it's fantastic TV. It's a little subtler than Season 1. And there are a lot more characters to keep track of and some people don't like that. I'm not sure if it is because it complicates it and some people LIKE complicated (*raises hand*) and some don't. Or if it is that the real estate fraud is harder to wrap the mind around than serial killer? Whatever the case. I think it's fantastic.

Know what else I've been doing? Obsessing about Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones... and the more I discuss this with many people, the more I see how SOME people love this character, and SOME people love THAT character. But more than that, SOME characters are loved by some and hated by others (and I'm not just referring to the sickos who love Ramsay Snow (because there are some). I mean legitimate normal people... Take Daenarys... My neighbor HATES her. She is my daughter's very favorite character. Me? I'm capable of more subtlety than that and can like her and still see her flaws.

Remember Harry Potter? Did you ever get in enormous debates about Snape? I was involved in truly passionate conversations where people deeply held beliefs about him, all based on the exact same material.

What This MEANS to me...

Every reader, watcher, player, consumer brings their whole self to their experience and so what they see or read or hear is filtered through that and every last once of us has a different experience. It can cause some people to like absolute drivel like The Bachelor (yes, I'm judging). And it can cause others (sometimes reasonably, in the case of people who can't tolerate violence) to hate a masterpiece like Game of Thrones. My buddy Joris isn't interested because he likes his favorite characters to live and it's a fair point.

I think this is all FABULOUS. Why?

Because it is incredible, as a writer, to think I might be part of something so interactive like that. That I can feed one side of the equations and a thousand people can turn it into a thousand things but I was part of ALL of those things...

And ALSO because we ALL create different stuff, and the fact we all bring something different means we all have different preferences, which means there is a market for just about anything. (if we can find them, anyway)

So there.

Do you have any favorites you feel unfairly get the shaft? Any truly popular books or shows that you can't seem to get into?

Monday, August 24, 2015

My Home State on Fire

If you haven't been under a rock for a couple weeks you probably know about all the fires in the Pacific Northwest. Washington State has has a lot of attention as some of those fires are particularly large and three firefighters were killed last week battling one.

What you may NOT know is every firefighter in the US is already working overtime. There is no more internal capacity available. So KINDLY, Canada, Australia and New Zealand have sent help.

For an idea of how bad this is I took a screen shot from THIS mapping website—it is an official one—it is the same one I use professionally to pull mapping information and they are updating it regularly. Look at all the fires in Northern Idaho.

The red spots are satellite-observed hot spots, even if a fire hasn't been formally marked. My parents are in Moscow, Idaho, which is about 30 miles above Lewiston on this map (about where Idaho, Washington and Oregon all meet) and about 30 miles from the nearest fire which is in Harvard, Idaho, but because the fires are in every direction, the air quality is horrible—full of smoke. Wear a mask if you go outside, bad.

My friend Nancy took a picture yesterday and posed it with one from 5 years ago (images used with her permission), same time of day, same “official weather” (clear) were it not fr the fires.

July 2009 8am
That dome in the middle is the University of Idaho's Kibbie Dome where they play football. It's a pretty little town, isn't it? Farmland in every direction.

Then this picture taken from the same exact spot (she thinks the smudge in the middle was a bug, but the difference is striking, regardless) Same weather forecast except the one below is meant to be cloud-free. In addition to the smoke, you ca see how much drier the grass is below--how much higher the hazard potential.

August 23, 2015 8:30am

I remember an earthquake recently that got me into a conversation on natural disasters and I always think of Idaho as a place that doesn't really have them. This is a startling reminder that in fact they do.

Homes have been lost. People have evacuated. It is heartbreaking that people with herds of cows or horses sometimes just have to open gates and hope for the best because they don't have means to move them.

A friend of mine played local hero and set a time and threw out an invitation for people to donate whatever they could. On Friday they took 1000 bottles of water, a bunch of Gatorade and power bars, and delivered them to Kamiah, Idaho (Thanks, Reen!)—the people coordinating firefighters were very appreciative, for the water especially. I feel badly for being too far to help tangibly and am worried about family and friends. And SO SAD. For all my mocking Idaho's politics, it is one of the prettiest and most varied states anywhere, and it is devastating to think of the thousands and thousands of acres of forests that will be gone for decades.

If everybody could join your karmic energies, whether prayers or meditation or thoughts... however you do it, and send thoughts of rain, it would definitely be appreciated.

In Related Spirit, Sort of...

Idaho is an underappreciated place and my cousin's cousins, Cameron (left) and James, are spearheading a TV show related... two brothers trying to save their farm. The trailer is funny and the idea is fresh and it feels very much like home. If you have the ability, they are doing an Indiegogo funding of it. It's called Idaho Boys.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Subject to Experimentation

So I think our son is experimenting on us.

Let me give you some background.

In 1992 my husband and I adopted a kitty named Lucy because Bernie, our other cat, had lost a sibling and was sad. (I mean who doesn't get their cat a kitten when they are sad?). Lucy was very quirky. A guard cat. A beer thief. And ice cream thief. (really any dairy product) And like ALL the cats I've had as an adult, she was a bathroom cat. And then some. She trained us very thoroughly, that one.

You see, if we left the lid up, we would come in and there she was, poised on the rim, scooping all the toilet water all over the bathroom. (so we became people who put the lid down. Always. And if we looped the toilet paper from over the top she would sit on the toilet and unravel the WHOLE ROLL into a heap on the floor. So we became “from under” people with our toilet paper.

So About This Experiment...

We no longer have Lucy, sadly. But we have maintained those habits. Yet SOMEBODY has begun putting the toilet paper on wrong. Now I ALWAYS still go from under. And I think hubs does too. But I believe my son (nearly 17) has learned to change the toilet paper, yet... HE DOES IT WRONG! But see, I'm proud he's learned to do it. So I usually just enjoy that it wasn't just stacked on the side of the tub or the back of the toilet. But SOMETIMES I can't help myself... and I turn it around.

But YESTERDAY, I KNOW for a fact I ignored that a new roll had been put on backward... yet when I got home someone had switched it... and it occurred to me the son may be testing his dad and I to see how long it takes to flip it... to see WHO flips it.

So today? New roll. And I turned it around.

Does your family have any striking quirks?

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Onion: A Problematic Metaphor

So the first thing that is problematic here, is an onion is usually used as a simile. A person claims he is LIKE an onion. Not that he IS an onion. But semantics aside, let's look at what this poor loon is trying to say.

I'm complicated. Layered. Like an onion. You keep having to peel back layers to understand me. I'm really very deep.

Well okay, my mistaken friend. Here is the deal. While the onion SKIN is different (because it is exposed to the dirt it grows in and then the air and elements, the other LAYERS of the darned onion are just like the layer before but a wee bit smaller. Unless of course you hit rot... that is a possible surprise. Not a good surprise, but at least unexpected... Otherwise when you peel back, you are just getting more of the same. Not that it's bad. I like onions. But they just are NOT that complicated.

So if you are NOT trying to claim that you might be secretly rotten deep down, probably avoid the onion metaphor.

In Other News

No, never mind. I don't have any other news. I DO have a reminder though... if you are in or near Ann Arbor and are interested in professional feedback on your first twenty pages during the Kerrytown Bookfest, check THIS out.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Argue Naked

So I went to a sort of Bridal Shower for a colleague Wednesday—I say sort of because really it was more a happy hour get-together in her honor rather than a silly game stuffy affair. But the one wedding-y thing we DID do was each of us around the table gave a piece of advice to the bride. And everybody said mine couldn't be topped, so I thought I'd share it with all of you.

Now I know what you're saying... that Tart looks for ANY excuse to be naked. And you aren't wrong. But this is actually some excellent Tartish relationship wisdom. Know why? It is really hard to be MEAN when you are naked. You are all out there and vulnerable and it just seems like a really stupid time to be rotten for the sake of being rotten... And mean and rotten are two things it is best to AVOID when you argue with your sweet baboo. Because mean rotten things come back to bite you again and again and again. Far better to stick to the topic at hand with a tangible reminder than this is the person you love standing there in all his (or her) glory.

I'm not even the first one who thought of this. There is a website and a book by the name... (I have a book plan, too, but mine is a mystery)

But this stuff works... (provided neither of you is a psychopath)

So there. Now you're smarter.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Sparkling Edit: An Insecure Post

Welcome to First Wednesday and the Insecure Writer's Support Group!

So I finished a round of edits on Friday. That was good. I'd actually mostly finished a week earlier but had several places marked for expanding, so Friday is when I finished “filling out” those parts. (Yay me!) But with all the books I've read recently, I've felt like I want to now do a round where not just the STORY is what I want, but the words are. I am calling it the sparkling edit.

I am delusional. A friend asked me if I planned to throw glitter at it. It might come to that.

I know I don't write super descriptively, and I've always preferred simple language because while it might not be beautiful, at least it never gets in the way of the story. The language itself can be invisible as the story soaks in. But I'm starting to think it's not enough. I need a bit more “pull the reader in” stuff and some of that just has to be descriptive language. But well done descriptive... evocative and visual, not just describing... Emotions, too... I can't just tell what they are, I need to infuse how it feels.

It doesn't feel natural and it's hard. And I may just abandon it and go back to the last draft. Even in my first two pages trying to think about writing this way has me totally questioning what I have there. I feel like I need to completely rearrange everything. So I am feeling VERY insecure at the moment, but I suppose if we don't try new stuff, hard stuff, stuff that makes us uncomfortable, that we never grow...

Have you conquered any new writing challenges lately?

Don't forget to go visit some other insecure writers!