Dear Rob Thomas, I Love Your Lyrics OR "Crutch"

"All you needed was a crutch.
One step away from down.
I could never be your crutch;
I could break you down."

We're going to have a little conversation about adjectives, but first I'm going to tell you why we're going to have a little talk about adjectives, even though the majority of  the people subscribe to this blog already know much of the following 'writerly advice' themselves.

There's a website called deviantArt where all manner of artistic expression may be put before the cyber world (which is why, though I love dA, I would not suggest you let your middle-schoolers view it without sitting-in-the-chair-next-to-them-all-filters-on-strict levels of parental guidance). Quite a bit of the literary arts at dA is comprised of fledgling writer hopefuls taking their first stab at the beast with no real zoological reference, known as a "successful novel".

These dear boys and girls may have all the imagination to make a decent go of it, but I find the absolute first earmark of Newbie-ism when I begin to read one of these offerings is the use of adjectives.

No, not *in* the use of adjectives--adjectives are splendiforous, in my opinion, even made-up ones--but rather in how the adjective is used. A very similar post on this blog addresses the same with adverbs (the crossbreed produced when one mixes the DNA from an adjective and a verb, and then lets it grow up as a latchkey part of speech, what with all that disreputable "-ly" business).

Strong, evocative writing rarely occurs if one uses adjectives (or yes, adverbs--slippery little rugrats) as a crutch for active tense.

Did I mention how much I believe in adjectives? I do, I do, but it's still true a strong, colorful, active verb will trump a flurry of adjectives almost every time.

And because I did not learn this on my own, I would very much like my readers, especially those who helped me learn the error of my own ways in this subject (*cough*Haveners*cough*), to take a moment to give one bad example of using adjectives as crutches, then giving a revised example of that same sentence, improved by some fantastic active verbage, in the comments, of course. Extra brownie points if you feel like being twice as generous and doing the same with adverbs, just as a refresher.

Personal Note: Last night I dreamt I'd left the house to go on some errand and when I got back my mother had invited over a band to rehearse, and they'd brought with them a bunch of agents, some of whom were of the literary variety. My mother gave them an old, unpolished copy of my mss, and I freaked. They liked it a lot, which made me feel like I was in trouble somehow, because if they liked THAT DRIVEL they couldn't be legit in the least. Then they made me take the annual Bunny Ocean Caves (something my brain completely made up, as we have no caves, and certainly no bunnies in them, though admittedly we have lots of ocean), and join their softball team. Um, if you don't know this about me, I am absolutely crap at most athletics, and I generally hate saltwater.

But I like bunnies . . . and caves. Even sandstoney ones.

Baby Did a Bad, Bad Thing.

A little while back someone whom I follow on Twitter made a few comments about, or linked to and article about, reader guilt. You know, that feeling you get when you come to the realization the book you're currently reading goes beyond your tolerance for bad writing, and you have to decide to stick it out or quietly close it, shelve it, and hope the mocking giggles coming from it one day subside. I know I'm like that. I think I've given up on a grand total of maybe three books in my life, and I have read some really, really bad ones. I mean books that just by existing should legally constitute a criminal act against literature. I won't mention them here, because I'm not quite that callous.

So, yes, I believe it's okay to give up on a book trying to take you beyond endurance, and indeed, I encourage you to know when it's happening . . .

. . . But, I want to look at bad books* from another angle. Therapy. Sometimes the best thing for a writer in the middle of a bad editing slump is to go to the grocery store, pick up a book whose cover screams "I am cheesy and awkwardly-written!", take it home, and read it cover-to-cover. You know what will happen? Well, yes, your brain will eventually congeal into something resembling post-Thanksgiving gravy, but before that your internal editor will begin doing her job automatically. She'll edit like mad. Syntax, bulky sentence structure, passive tense, repetition; she'll sink her teeth into that mess, and as a small voice (or sometimes a righteous bellow) behind your eyes, she'll worry it until she considers it NOT likely to give you a migraine.

And there is this to say about bad books: very few of them have nothing to teach you, even if it is by exemplifying what not to do. Sometimes a predominately bad book has that one shiny feature that--while it doesn't redeem the book as a whole--gives back something for the effort of reading it.

*Although, I should clarify, I don't mean guilty pleasure books when I say 'bad'. I mean books the tech specs of which make you wonder what drug the acquisitions person took when he or she gave the go ahead to publish said volume.

Personal Notes: For some reason, it always makes me sad when a girl with pretty, long hair cuts it drastically shorter. I actually grieve for the loss of other girls' hair. I think it has to do with how slowly my own hair grows, which saddens me, because I love my hair long.

Secondly, Authoress Anonymous gave me a dozen gold stars for impeccable grammar. Which guarantees no less than three grammatical mistakes in this post, I'm sure.

Gift Shop

When God put in all my programming, He made me rather detail-oriented. I sweat the small stuff, as they say, but I also love minutia the best. It's a bit tough when trying to organize a big picture with a lot of tiny ones, though. A lot of holes go unfilled, cracks form between similar-but-not-the-same shapes, and then trying to arrange everything so it's airtight gets tough. Sometimes the wall you want to fix is the one keeping you from the solution.

People will advise taking a little time off to gain objectivity, or to regroup, or maybe just to gain insights at a less-frenzied pace. They'll say you just have to buckle down and write crap, as long as it's got you writing. They'll say print off a hard copy, or read aloud, or make a secondary copy and change the font formatting so the doc literally looks different, or to just take the bit you're having trouble with and write it in a completely blank doc so you don't feel the mental 'weight' of all the text before and after.

Those all work, and I won't say differently. They have all worked for me, in their turns. But sometimes they just don't. Sometimes you get into this funk, be it from frustration, from boredom with the whole business, from not seeing the end of the tunnel (forget the light; you can't even make out an exit strategy), and nothing makes you want to pick up where you left off before. Nothing about the prospect of continuing inspires any excitement in you, or at least not to any last, productive effect.

Everyone is different, so I can't say if stopping for any significant length of time is good or bad for you in particular, but I think you at least have to be able to give yourself a break without feeling guilty or worse as if you're failing.

Maybe it's good to have a concrete amount of time established; here if you're in a writing slump, I officially grant you one week of absolute guilt-free non-writing time. If something comes to you, jot down the gist of it, or the line or two you think of, then put it with the rest of your stuff and walk away, so at least you won't feel like you're neglecting your work. When you're that close to something, and thinking about something is that ingrained, it's really hard to STOP thinking about it. It's a a learned behavior, like worrying about your kids, or biting your nails.

It's tough. Be tougher by going easy on yourself.


Personal Note: I love make-up, but I rarely actually wear it. I see the colors, and i want them, but then I tell myself time to use them. I just purchased a new eye-shadow palette and a new eye-liner, but I've not even opened either one.

Beauty and the Buffy

My sister Jamie and I have the following conversation while watching Buffy:

Angel--"Go ahead, I'm just an animal, right?"
Buffy:--"No, animals I like. You're a monster."

Jamie--"Oh, c'mon, you know you can't kill a face like that."
Me--"Um, yeah she can. It's like Beauty and the Beast up in there."
Jamie--"He's prettier than the Beast."
Me--"Hey, the Beast couldn't take of his face like Angel can."

Starting for Beginners

I’ve never actually liked the word ‘start’. There’s something both overly-simplistic and too abrupt about it, which is probably why it’s used to get races going. Start; it sounds absolutely made for barking in a frenzied, yappy-dog kind of way. I am also, not a big person for yappy dogs.

And yet, to me, ‘begin’ sounds pretentious. ‘Begin"’ wears diamonds and enormous, plumed hats while the Titanic slowly drifts toward luxury-hating icebergs.

I never liked eating worms, anyway.

Um, I was supposed to post yesterday.

I kinda got in a yelling contest instead.

And today? Today, The Toddler became three.

So here's me, telling him how beautiful he is, and how much passion he inspires in me.

It's mostly the good kind.

What a Let-down!

Okay, so my one-hundredth post is more of a Post-It, really, because I'm just reminding you guys I do NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) every year, so you're in for at least one post daily in November.

To catch you up, bullets! I love bullets!

Happy Things:

  • Fable survived the taking of his ability to procreate, his shots, and his de-claw (yes, I know some of you will be in an uproar over the last, but I assure you, he is entirely an indoor cat, and in order for him to be a permanent member of our family, he had to be a toddler-friendly cat).
  • I have a new critique partner. We have yet to stop saying things like, "Oh, you enjoy such-n-such? ME TOO!" Which is good. Probably good for you, too, because it's A's job to kick my rear when I slack.
  • I am finally getting new glasses that won't fall off my face with the slightest provocation. They're in the lab now, and since I have Le Toddler, I decided to go with the indestructible, even-if-your-son-sits-on-them-and-somehow-manages-to-wreck-them-we'll-still-fix-them-for-free guaranteed glasses. These, in fact. They're so stretchy you can't break them. Think of long grasses bowing in the wind, not breaking, but the large Oak snapping in two, because it won't bend.
  • Speaking of Le Toddler, he's about to be three. We busted out the 3T clothes, yesterday. I realize I'm biased, but the kid is still too gorgeous for my good.
  • I started spinning wool fiber into stuff that will someday be yarn. I won't bore you with the details, but first, you can blame Jodi, and secondly, considering the colors I like, this ain't your grandmama's yarn. Don't ask me what I'm going to make with it; I don't know. Maybe nothing. Maybe I'll open my own Etsy shop and sell hand-spun yard. Or maybe I'll learn to knit toe socks. I love toe socks. And those fingerless mitts Jodi's always rhapsodizing about.
  • Husband has been head-hunted by large, international corporation for much more pay, and great benefits. Everything has downsides, though, so we're considering all angles. Still, very cool and complimentary THEY tracked HIM down.
Not Happy Stuff:
  • My MISH!'s go at having an indie book store for only children and YA books has come to a close. People in Utah, you are worse off for it. Thankfully, MISH! is a highly resourceful, what's-the-next-plan kind of girl, so she'll be landing on her feet.
  • People I love have been left on this world while people they love have gone on to the next.
  • I have throat crud. So does LT. Betcha everyone will before the week's out.
And the bit of Personal Fact: I can read in a moving car without getting sick. I'm not sure if it's because I never knew one was supposed to get queasy if one read in a moving car, or if it's because I'm just that determined to read, or even if it's part of my unwillingness to puke FOR ANY REASON.

Ninety-nine Photos of Stuff on the Blog, Ninety-nine Photos of Stuff...!

Okay, so really there are only gonna be like three or so, but still. I got the ninety-nine part from this being the ninety-ninth post. Really gonna hafta think of something stellar for the next one, huh? The PRESSURE! It PRESSES!

First off, yeah, totally got my laptop bag. It's a tight squeeze, but the bag is primarily canvas, so I'm waiting for it to break in really well, like a good pair of jeans. Obviously, Precious isn't in it in these photos, but she's a little busy helping me post this blog right now.

So, from top to bottom, the online photo of said bag, so you can see it all nicely and cleanly.

Then a blurry version I just took with my webcam.

And finally, a webcam photo of the inside of the bag with some of my junk in it. Yes, that IS a Burton's Mad Hatter notebook grinning in there.

Another super awesomoso thing in there? These Eco-speakers by Fashionation. They're made out of this sort of tough nylon plastic stuff. When folded, they're thinner than my hand, and even with all the little tabs popped into place, they're smaller than a take-out carton. They come hooked together with a standard-sized headphones cord, which will plug into pretty much any mobile device, and they don't require batteries. Top that off with seventy per cent recycled materials and just ten bucks a pop.

And just to round off the day of picking up Things Which Make Amethyst Smile, have ya everheard of Pocky? I don't want to know what they're made of in case something scares me, or it's just really yummy plastic, but the strawberry ones complete me. Well, there wasn't a lot missing, but yeah. The boxes I get are about a buck fifty, less than a bag of Hershey's whatever candies, and probably less calorie-laden (plastic is very slimming...okay, fine, I'm pretty sure they're just slightly sweet, crunchy breadsticks dipped in a strawberry yogurt cream, and then allowed to dry).

Oh, and did I mention, I finally finished the chapter I'd been stuck on for six months? ;) And I did it with the help of my new critique partner, "M", and Bria Quinlan's Fast Draft writing sprints. If you end up loving what I do, blame them.

Sometimes Facing Your Fears Requires a Mirror

My dad had the most wonderful blue eyes. With eyes slightly tilted, heavily lashed, set above enviable cheekbones, my father was a 'pretty' man. People getting on to me for saying men can be beautiful or pretty, but I stand firm on this one.

Anyway, people say I get my eyes from him, which is kind of great, even if I didn't inherit the darker hue of his lashes, only the length. But his eyes weren't the only thing I got from him. I also got my suicidal tendencies. His tendencies became reality with the help of a pistol. My tendencies haven't succeeded, but I am incredibly afraid of hand guns. For the usual reasons, sure; my children, and intruder finding it and using it, accidental misfires. It doesn't stay in the house, but in N.'s truck. It's locked, and only he has the keys. It has a built-in trigger safety, so it can't be misfired.

But mostly I'm scared of that gun because of myself. I have help now, with my emotions and imbalances, but every once in a long while . . . I have the scary thoughts. A hand gun would be so easy. It worked for my dad, right?

N. made me hold it, made me name all the parts and what they did. He made me cock it. My hands trembled. I almost cried. I definitely panicked like mad inside, and maybe a little outside. N. understood, but he said it was important. He knew the worst fear I had, though we didn't mention it.

This is a very extreme truth to point out a much simpler one; sometimes, even if you're the thing most in your way, you still gotta do what you gotta do.

Empty, Pretty Boxes

Short post today, kiddos.

My fellow defender of Stealth Mode and Co-Queen of WAH!, Amanda, is the BESTEST package wrapper I know of. The girl still uses brown wrapping paper, like the stuff you see on parcels in adaptations of A Christmas Carol. And then she puts stickers of things she knows you personally are interested in all over it, super-artfully, writes little inside jokes in glitter gel pen, or poems, or funny sayings, just stuff tailored to you. And that's before you even cut off the tape.

Each little thing inside is wrapped with just as much care, in quirky, silly, fun varieties of papers, some with ribbons, some without. Some with paper-matching stickers, or metallic confetti, or loose glitter. It's not that these gifts are wrapped in 14 karat gold foil, or tied with ropes of pearls; they aren't. But they're special.

For about three minutes, and then they become a memory, albeit a very sweet, touching memory. Because you're not going to keep the paper or the boxes, no matter how much you love Amanda, or how touched you are she went so far to make this package just for you. You won't tuck away anything but maybe the card, or a small tear of the paper if you scrapbook.

What's important is inside the pretty, thoughtful wrapping paper. The heart is underneath.

Your manuscript is the same. You can mistake the wrapping for the substance in at least two ways I can think of off the top of my head.

  1. You can think the presentation of your manuscript (especially if you're snail-mailing a full to an agent), is important. Books will tell you to distinguish your work with something eye-catching. Don't. Distinguish your work by following the frakkin' parameters the requesting agents lists, thereby making the poor harried agent's day that much easier.
  2. You can think your story, the characters, the plot, the narrative, the tension, the things that make it yours, aren't special enough unless you drown them in the literary version of spot-lights and pageant make-up. Don't do that, either.
Your book is yours. Just for you. If you try to gimmick into being for someone else, you'll lose it, and you'll lose readers.*

*This is not to imply you are infallible, just that you don't have to please everyone all the time.

Personal Note: Amanda and our very good, very funny friend, Roger. They were at an Irish pub, so draw your own conclusions about the unrestrained smiling and glassy eyes.

I miss her. Stupid New York.

Where My Lucy's At?

Lately, I find myself reading the blogs posts of other people and all I can think is, "THAT'S IT!" because what they've said exactly matches my own experience, usually currently.

Like this one about being jealous by my writer pal, Jodi. Or this one she did on that nagging feeling I get when I know what's wrong, but I REALLY, REALLY don't want to face it/have no clue how to fix it.

Or this one from Susan Adrian, about getting discouraged, recharging, and how hard it is to get disciplined again (trust me, I--by far--had an easier time giving birth than I'm having getting back to this book the way I should.

Or finally, this one from my buddy, Authoress Anonymous? It's about not seeing problems your readers have a hard time explaining . . . and wimpy heroes.

These ladies, in their much more gracious, good-humored way, are my Lucys. They say what I mean, and I mean what they're saying, quite often.

And just so you know, yes, when it comes to writing, sometimes I'm afraid of EVERYTHING.

Lucy Targets Charlie Brown's Fears . . .

Today is your day, not theirs.

This may sound like a weird comparison, but the whole "book industry people can't decide what they want!" complaint sort of reminds me of my language teachers for my tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grade years (ages 15, 16, and 17, for you across continents) in school. I had the same teacher for tenth and twelfth grades (Mrs. A), and a different teacher in between (Mrs. B).

Mrs. A never wanted a real declarative sentence in research papers. She always wanted us to preface any statement with an "I feel the author meant . . ." or some such, followed by a " . . . because he/she . . ." to introduce proof for the assertion. You got a lower grade if you just came out and said, "Um, by that time, Poe had completely lost his mind, which just goes to show a broken heart CAN kill you, indirectly or not." (Okay, that example's a bit sloppy, but you get the gist.) I think maybe she felt we weren't expert enough to make an official judgment on anyone in the literary community, because, well, Mrs. A? Wonderful, encouraging, passionate, but loonier than a beta fish cage fight.

Meanwhile, Mrs. B, that teacher in the middle, she couldn't STAND the wishy-washiness of "I think" or "I feel", or even "It's possible". In her opinion, if you had evidence to back up something, it was worth throwing it out there with your guts attached (this from a classy, articulate, soft-spoken, true Old Southern lady).

So, I had just gotten used to cranking out "just what she expects" A-grade papers for Mrs. A. when I moved on to class with Mrs. B, and had to 180 my technique . . . and then, having pinned THAT, the next year, I had Mrs. A. again.

To complicate matters further, I had Mrs. B. twice a day during my Junior year. Once for formal English/literature, and then in the next class period, for creative writing, so during 2nd class period, she'd preach the necessity of correct grammar, following the rules of our language, the unbending laws of field writing, and so on. In third period, all that went out the window as she encouraged us to be as free as we could, think outside the box, get creative.

So, to sum up:

10th Grade: Think, don't state.
11th Grade: State, don't wobble/obey the rules!/forget the rules!
12th Grade: Didn't I tell you to just think things? Stop those statements!/Creative Writing 2, Be free my little birdies! Fly far, far into the pathos of art!

Book industry people are always saying we should write what WE feel like, or write what WE know, not to try to write specifically to what's selling right then, because too many variables play into whether or not what's hot cools down by the time you get to the table, including agent tastes, book trends, the economy, and blah, blah, blah. This is incredibly good advice.

Me, I just think we need to send all aspiring writers through my last three years of language arts before they're allowed to submit anything.

Trust me, that'll teach 'em.

Things I Had (Unfortunately) Forgotten

The last six months have been a study in apathetic hell for me. It's true. The hardest part was not knowing where my Great Big Fat Loss of Motivation had come from, and having even less of a clue how to get rid of it.

Somehow in the last month, I've gotten better. It happened piece-by-piece, because of some people, some blogs, and some filled plot-holes. That in and of itself isn't special, I suppose--writers find themselves in inexplicable slumps all the time, it might even be considered a routine part of the process, THE TIME OF GREAT WAILING AND GNASHING OF TEETH. But being reminded of things necessary to my own personal process, and reassured I'm in fantastic and massive company for committing certain literary atrocities, well that was good.

So, to be a little more specific, and to give myself a go-to for when I'll regrettably forget again (because I will), Things I Had (Unfortunately) Forgotten.

1. If you're looking for the Bondo, you've done something wrong. Because sometimes glossing over vital information (plot-wise, char-dev-wise, logically, whatever) is a lot like trying to fix a totaled car with Big Boy Silly Putty, a seriously half-a**ed job. And when some part of your inner writing guru knows this, but you ignore him or her anyway, you get stuck. Maybe in rubber cement, and that's no dignified way to go. So, instead of slapping on the Plaster of Paris, either leave that piece of art be for a while and go work on something else (you never know when one scene will tell you secrets about another), or admit to yourself something there is really messed up (A.A.--Author's Anonymous) and dig your heels in and don't come back up for air until you've wrestled that demon back into the netherworld.

2. If you have younger children, summer is always going to be less productive for you, and that's okay, as long as you don't use it as a crutch.

3. Change is not the death of something, but the birth of something, and there's no reason to be terrified of it, or to think the need for change translates to utter failure. In other words, don't be so stubborn or prideful you can't see the novel for the one-liners. In my case, I was really freaked out by the idea my anti-depressants would kill the writer part of me and I'd have to choose between a healthy mind and a healthy talent. I let that change rob me of my confidence.

4. Fear of failure is failure itself if you let it be. No, I mean it. Think of it like claustrophobia. Instead of small, enclosed spaces, you're afraid of small, closed minds, particularly your own. The cure is to shut up and keep truckin' Like my good friend MISH! often tells me, "It doesn't matter if you're writing crap, as long as you're writing something. You can always go back and fix it." Standing still is giving up, and when was the last time that got you closer to your goals.

5. It's Not ALL About Me: Wait, I mean, it IS, but also, I'm not the only one I should be depending on. I'm talking beta-readers and critique partners, people who give me feedback and provide me with different angles to view and arguments that may just lead me back onto the organic path when I go tramping through the bushes. A lot of my betas are/were my target audience, teens. Teens have super busy lives, and again, summer is a killer there. Also, MISH! up there, my main squeeze when it comes to talking out snafus? She spent the summer starting up a business, a indie bookstore which caters exclusively to young readers, in UTAH (check out Fire Petal Books). Without feedback, I go crazy, seeing the same old things the same old way over and over again. What happens when you can't see a resolution, only rotation? You get too sick to look at it again. I've been feedback-starved. I'm going to have to find more/new betas and crit partners.

So there's that.

Personal Note: While I was out, I celebrated my tenth wedding anniversary with my husband. There were diamonds involved, as well as amazing food, a rather damp outdoor concert (still awesome), hardcore sleeping in, and souvenir coffee mugs, because we still have the two mugs from our honeymoon.

Death Threats and Other Personal Favors

Um, hi. You may remember me. My name's Amethyst, and I blog sporadically.

So, people tell me I have writer's block, and I have cringed, wondering if they're right. You know back several months ago, when I told you I was doing a massive rewrite and it was going to take a lot of hard work and even more time, because it was so detailed? Yeah, I got 3/4 into it and just stalled out. For months. Nada. and it wasn't even like I just didn't know What Happens Next, because I did know. I knew everything that happened. And as time went by, my brain added even more to the plot, side-stories, backgrounds, and character profiles, but none of it got me to open up a file and start typing. All that amazing info lay comatose on post-it notes, scraps of paper, a miscelaneous file for the trilogy, but never worked into the actual book.

I didn't know why. I'm still confused. But I do know my friend Julie has informed me I will be 'given s**t' if I don't have at least the last 50 or so pages adapted (typos and whatnot not included) within a week, and my friend, Robb (Pops, to me) has volunteered a full read-through to help with a serious case of feedback deprivation. Both will be able to see things I can't, and I trust their suggestions.

So, that's where we stand. Let's hope I'm not a rippling puddle before it's all over. You can never tell with Julie.


Personal Note: I am exceptionally proud to have a toddler who is adept in the 'pretend' uses of light sabers, zanpactou, air bending, and sonic screwdrivers.

Snuggle, Snuggle, Coil, and Nuzzle

(With apologies to Shakespeare's Fates)

Personal Note: Henceforth, personal notes will come at the end of posts, because they sometimes mess with Title/first line flow.

For those of you who haven't had it bludgeoned into you yet, tomorrow is Valentine's Day (if I just saved your bacon by giving you enough time to grab something not utterly crappy, you're welcome; my usual fee will be fine).

A slightly lesser-known fact about tomorrow is it's also my 31st birthday (yes, I know. I wouldn't buy it, either, 'cept I've got this legal document and all), which means A. I hated Valentine's Day growing up (lots of long-distance boyfriends *sigh*), and B. my husband is doubly screwed if he forgets either one. Not that he would, because he's completely Awesome.

Anyway, poor N. is working my birthday this year, so we celebrated with dinner and a movie yesterday, exchanging gifts afterward. Before we left for our date N. hinted my Valentine's Day wasn't chocolate, but he'd put a lot of thought into it. Well, I did tell you he's awesome.

Oh, there was a lot of thought in N.'s gift. You couldn't argue that. The question is, were those thoughts had while he was in his right mind? The boy bought me a Snuggie. the pink frosting-colored one. It's incredibly romantic, right? I mean, yards and yards of puke-pink fleece screams sexy.
In case you're worried, I did not react badly. I laughed my butt off. I didn't stop laughing for fifteen minutes.

Because, technically, the boy's intentions were good. He made some really good points. I'm always cold while I sit on the couch writing, reading, watching TV. The color is because the one he bought supports breast cancer research, and he knows how much I love buying products supporting causes if I can. I love 'feely' material. To the boy these are all really great, logical, loving reasons to buy your wife a Snuggie.
And while I would never in a million years categorize a Snuggie as romantic, I got it. So, I laughed. And came up with several nicknames for myself while wearing it, names like "Bubble Gum Gandalf", and "Druid Barbie".
But I didn't tell you this story ONLY because it was funny. I've let you in on it because it's a decent illustration of a great little plot thing called 'misinformation'. Whether it be malicious gossip sent around the countryside to blacken the name of a rival or just a bad case of information starting out meaning one thing, but losing bits and pieces along the way until it means something else and all hades breaks loose, misinformation can be your vehicle to all sorts of plot hijinkery.
My absolute favorite use of misinformation is the version I think of as 'incomplete information', and if you want a good example of one person thinking he or she knows something, but knowing NOTHING, of sitting there, reading along, practically screaming in your head, "Would someone please just tell them they're both right!", because if no one does they are going to ruin their whole lives, read almost any book by Judith McNaught (hey, I don't want to hear any crap about it being a paperback romance novel; the woman can twist like she learned it from Chubbie Checker). I particularly like Almost Heaven. Badass, cruel-when-wounded geniuses are my weakness.
So, think of that the next time you want to make a reader cringe with anticpatory frustration. It's the kind of torture we'll pay you for.
And because, dear reader, I love you and I know you are only laughing WITH me, I give you this (be kind, I beg of you):

Cold Hands, Warm Heart

Okay, so I realize I probably don't have the kind of readers with money to burn lying around, but I do have the kind of heart that wants to help her friends. If you have some change in your pocket, or one of those jars, you know, the big ones you keep coins in? Count out a little of it and set it aside for the following.

You see that? A community center to help teach writers! You may not be in Utah, but there are a ton of would-be writers who are, people like the bulk of my readers who are in varying stages of reaching for that dream, and this will be their open door.

What is passion, but fire? Art, but beauty?

P.S. And yes, I donated some money, too.

Today's P.S.

This is just kind of awesome.

Some of the Best Things Begin with 'PL'

Personal Note: It's almost inevitable I'll "steal" st least one article of my husband's clothing during the day. He's not thrilled with it, but as long as I stay away from his most beloved sweatshirts or whatever he doesn't complain too loudly*. I usually keep it to a tee shirt or his socks, but I sometimes steal his belt (YAY! for "wiry" men!), and I pretty much steal his old Vaan's EVERY DAY because I don't want to dig out my ballet slipper Skechers to pick up the boys from school.

He hates that most of all. Hee.

Some people call it 'planning'. Evil people and book people (not a mutally exclusive or inclusive couple of species) call it plotting. Either way, it means thinking ahead. Two things have brought these things to the forefront of my thoughts (besides, you know, writing a novel).

First, the amazingly upbeat, gracious, and intuitive Jodi Meadows has written a post about the need for authors to challenge characters. If you're writing a book, or think you might one day want to take a crack at writing one, I HIGHLY advise you get over there and bookmark that post. Jodi tackles the 'lesson' in such a way that both visual and practical thinkers alike will be able to take away something valuable from it. I'd describe the post in more detail, but it's better if you just go over there and see for yourself.

Secondly, this morning I was a little off my game getting boys to school, and my brain was assimilating info in weird orders. For one thing, I have my young nephew A. today, and it's been a while since I've had a four-year-old. He falls into that gap between my own three boys, so I was kind of at a loss about what to do with him for a while. I knew the novelty of A's presence would make the boys scatterbrained, too. So, I was rushing around, trying to think ahead.

Turns out I didn't need to try so hard. After A, Ben, and I got back from taking older boys to school, I grabbed my glasses, a bowl of cereal, and pair of socks, and planned to put them all to good use. I reached to put on my glasses, thinking clearly to myself, "I am putting on my glasses, now", but I didn't put on my glasses. some back part of my brain somewhere informed the voluntary action part of my brain, "Hey, wait a minute. We need control of the girl for just a second for maintenance reasons" and that back part instructed my hand to rub my eyes and my nose, and wipe my face. My brain was already thinking ahead. Instead of putting on my glasses only to have to take them back off again, my brain knew the better order was "Rub, rub, wipe, THEN put on glasses". My brain 'overrode' me.

What does this mean about plotting? Is it a cautionary tale against trying too hard? Do we instinctively know all the who's, what's, what's, when's, and why's of storytelling, but we're so focused on 'getting it perfect' we forget we know them. I think sometimes we need to put all our 'parts' in front of ourselves and just take a deep breath. The big picture might come into better focus.

*Also, I think it helps I explained a big part of this clothing theft involves me feeling closer to him while he's at work . . . except the shoes, of course. That's just pure laziness on my part. *wink*

Dude Looks Like a Lady

Personal Note: Yeah, it's a weird title, but it suits this PN . . . and I like Aerosmith. Okay, so if you don't know this, I refer to my closest beta readers as "My Ladies", because all of them are female. But! I do have male betas. Some of them are even man enough to be a Lady. Hence . . . well, you get it. So, for my babe-alicious boy betas, come on, rock out your frou-frou coffee and get with us. Some of us are even single. *waggles eyebrows suggestively toward Bri*

Also, special note. Kathleen Ortiz is being extremely gracious and hosting a contest: winner gets a Red Marker Deluxe go-over of his or her query letter, which is nothing to look in the mouth. Have a mosey over to Neverending Page Turner, and when you comment, tell her I sent you.

I feel--and this is an entirely arguable point--there are basically three main sorts of realistic bad guys in the realm of, well, anywhere really, but for the purposes of today, we're going with literature. Yes, generally all villains are tagged by their directly opposing the goals of the hero or heroine, but there's a lot to be said in there, and when writing a villain an author has to decide just what sort of animal she's working with, which species is best to set against her conquering hero. Yes, the antagonist can be any subset or combination of the three main types, but here's how I (disclaimer: usually) break down a a rival in any story I come across:

  1. The Sympathetic Villain Yeah, many a romance novel can tell you, just as a hero can be "anti", a villain can have a little somethin' somethin' going for him to make us see where he's coming from. Either he lost the love of his life back in the day, or he really truly believes the hero is in the wrong (although the reader knows this to be untrue), but for whatever reason some little part of us feels bad for this bad guy. It's possible this madman is charming, beautiful, charismatic, or thrilling. Maybe we even kind of-just a little bit-want him to get his way. We definitely hope there's justice for him, too, in the end. Example: Jareth the Goblin King in Labyrinth.
  2. The Unintentional Villain This dude just had the bad luck to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. He's not very smart, or attractive, or anything, really. He's usually at a loss, and if he does manage to cause trouble, it's almsost certainly accidental, something that just worked to his advantage, even if he didn't plan it out. He may have been the main henchman to someone with some real E-VILE potential at one point, but Master got blown out of the water somewhere along the way, leaving Igor flailing in his wake, trying to figure out how to get things done. And totally bombing. Example: Wormtail in the Harry Potter series.
  3. The Irredeemable Villain We hate this guy from the get go, and for good reason. We know there isn't a 'good' bone in his body. He's creative, cruel, and unrelenting. He will crush the heroine like the insignifcant bug she is, body, spirit and mind. He would sell his mother to Satan to attain his goals, but not his own soul because he believes himself far too important to let a little thing like Hell impede his plans. Even when he has assured himself the heroine is no longer a threat, he'll still continue to torture her for ever daring to oppose him. It isn't good enough for him to win, he must win AND ruin life for everyone else. Example: Capricorn in Cornelia Funke's Inkheart series, and since he's so fresh in my mind, President Snow in Collins's Hunger Games series.

And there's that. These opinions are brought to you by adjustments to my own Big Baddie, Horace Huckleby, now that I know what his real damage is. He's still a disgusting little toad, true, but now he's a disgusting little toad of a different color.


Personal Note: I am nagging you again. That poor SocialVibe badge to your left has been stuck at 57 minutes for a long time. Do another acitivy, if you don't mind taking three minutes. I think I'd actually rather you do the activity than read this post.

Today, after this post I’m going to write a post about how I see villains. And tension. But you won’t see this post until tomorrow, because I’m telling Blogger not to release it into the wild until then. Yeah, I know; I’m diabolical and crap*, as my friend Matt might say.

But first! An update about what’s going on here in Amethyst is Learning to be a Writer Land.

Top of the list, I have two extra humans to guide through homework and such in the afternoons, bringing my total to four students (and a toddler). The toddler isn’t slacking on needing my attention, though. He’s learning to use a potty, so he requires my attention every fifteen minutes or so. It almost killed me yesterday. Mondays generally have a lot of homework for all four older children, and this one was true to form.

Next, I’ve been reading. A lot. Because when the aforementioned favorite cousin came to visit, we (oh, unwise, unwise we) went into a bookstore (on a side note, if cash is a little tighter, but you have to see to your book thirst, I suggest heading into the Middle Grade section of your bookstore. Most paperbacks are under ten bucks there, and either those MG authors have stepped it up or the world at large has realized people in their early teens aren’t just elementary kids with things budding and sprouting—in other words, not idiots—and there are some really fantastic MG stand-alones and series to choose from). So far I've loved Lisa McMann’s Fade (have a total crush on her character "Cabel"), am having a little trouble getting into Pride and Predjudice and Zombies, not because I don't like it, or it isn't good, but because I am such a cannon loyalist. The book is different, and interesting, sure, but it's not catching me. I also really like Terry Pratchett's A Hat Full of Sky, sequel to his The Wee Free Men.

But. The cake-takers so far have been Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games, and Catching Fire. These books are the first two in a trilogy, and I've been putting off reading them because I knew even before I bought one, after I'd read them, I'd be hit in the face just how much work I have to do on plot, tension points, and cliffhangers. Collins is a pro when it comes to these things. I can't say how surprised I've been while I read the books, because I knew so much going in, but even knowing what would happen I found myself flipping pages like crazy just to get the answers I needed. On the surface it all seems simple, when you describe it. Post-apocalyptic girl, fighting for her life and the lives of her loved ones. Easy, right? Noooo. Not easy, because Collins has made us all wonder just how girl is going to pull it off. We're all pretty sure we know where we're ending up, but getting there is just so amazing.

Anyway, I am once again convicted of my need to think ahead. I, too, am writing a trilogy. I'm studying writers who have totally nailed cliff-hangers, taking notes when I catch my breath, asking myself what about a certain feature or passage makes my brain go, "No! No, don't stop there, I have to know what happens!". Yes, the project feels enormous again. I knew it would. That's okay. I've got time. It's like I tell all those boys while I'm overseeing their homework: I'd rather take a little time and do it right now, than have to waste all that time having to RE-do it because it wasn't right in the first place.

Get ready to hold your breath. I plan on taking it away.

*Okay, so technically Matt would probably not use the word 'crap', but I'm editing his language in this hypothetical situation.

I'm really cold 'cause I ate some ice cream.

. . . and other truths.

This week:

My favorite came to visit. He left before I wanted to kill him 'cause he's cool like that.
My least favorite 'aunt' is also visiting. Urgh.
I mentally plotted my next scene.
I cried in church . . . again (there is just something about that place).
I went to a bookstore and bought Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Peter and the Starcatchers, Fade, The Hunger Games, A Hat Full of Sky, Graceling, and I already had Catching Fire, because I'm a ninny and accidentally bought it before the first book.

Right up there with "Butt-faced Miscreant" in my book . . .

Personal Note: I think it's one of the coolest things in the worlds that I'm Twitter/Aspiring Writer friends with a video game developer/programmer/whatever exactly that I wouldn't understand.

I'll admit it. I'd kind of given up. Burn out was approaching nuclear levels and any time I thought of editing this book again--especially an edit this extensive, where practically the entire novel is reimagined--part of me curled up in a little ball and meweled pitiably. I avoided it. I gave myself plenty of highly plausible excuses why I hadn't made any progress, like taking on the care of two extra boys in the afternoons, bringing my total to five between the ages of two and nine (that's four sets of homework, people. Four different math assignments on any given evening!).

I rustily churned out ten, fifteen pages, not really happy with the end products, but at least being able to call it progress. Just enough to say I was working so that nagging little voice didn't get too loud when it chirped at me.

And then I got the flu. You remember my last post. You remember the drugged energy bursts. Did I mention that one of them forced me into reorganizing the entire scene index/timeline? Yes? No? Well, it did. And that, heroes and heroines, was a game changer.

Ever since, I've been editing like mad. I blew through another four scenes yesterday and today, and retweaked others I'd already been over once this time. It's insane how much everything is opening up, how every character seems to be doing exactly what I need him or her to do, and it all feels natural.

As for the title of this post, well, you may have already read this on Twitter (I was really proud of it), but today my girl, my main character and narrator (first person love, y'all!), called someone a bloated wart-sack, and that, to me, is just about as fabulous as when Rory Gilmore called Logan Huntzberger a butt-faced miscreant, which is my favorite insult in the HISTORY of insults.

Ladies and gentleman, I AM BACK!

Things I Shouldn't Do Because I'm the Size of a Twelve-Year-Old

Personal Note: I like broccoli better than any other veggie. I know, I know, I'm a radical. Also, people seem to either really love my hair or absolutely hate it, and it's kind of surprising, who's on which side of the fence.

Top of the list, give blood. You have to weigh at least one-hundred-and-ten pounds. I've never weighed that outside of being pregnant.

But just after that? Take grown up medications for anything, especially anything of the cold/allergy/sinus variety. Why? Because they make me super-loopy. If you've been one of those extremely kind of helpful people to read past drafts of the first Dionadir novel you likely know there's a scene in which Joss gets the flu hardcore, and you'll remember her mentioning something about looking for the Meaning of Life chillin' in the fridge, a side-effect of her cold medicine high. That detail is based in fact, my own life around the time I was sixteen, actually*. I'd contracted Mono (as had our entire marching band--we'd all shared the same water fountain at practices and our drum major had spread the love around, so to speak) and was having a lot of trouble sleeping because I felt so awful. The doctor I saw put me on ten milligrams of Benedryl before bed every night. Yeah . . . that was an interesting two weeks. I might as well have been dropping acid every night (something I've not actually done, but I'm guessing here) for all the psychedelic shenanigans my brain ran me through. I even remembered to write down some of my thoughts. I think my letters to my boyfriend-at-the-time, Michael, and my friends were probably hilarious and riddled with hidden meanings only a drugged version of me could interpret now.

But you want to know something even sillier? In between bouts of insanely hard sleeping (I go out like you would not believe, or maybe I just don't believe it because normally I'm the lightest of sleepers) I get this . . . I don't know, giggly burst of productive energy (hence this blog post, you know?) and STUFF GETS DONE, BUCKO!

Earlier today I finally sat myself down--after having index carded every scene in the book last night--and physically put them in a really good, sense-making, tension-holding, heart-tugging order. And now I just have to surgery those suckers into a book worth NOT putting down, because my cold-medicined brain is shooting in fourteen different directions and all of them are made of PURE WIN . . .

At least until I pass out again, dead to the world as far as everything else is concerned.

But first! I must conquer a kitchen!

*Though I still maintain my best friend describing her behavior on Robitussin and/or sleep deprivation is the funniest thing I've ever heard. Patrick Swayze and a space so thin a piece of paper wouldn't fit in it were mentioned.