Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Semantic Rant

Every once in a while, someone really drives me crazy with their use -- or misuse, as the case may be -- of the English language.

This commercial is one of my pet peeves lately. It plays on the Science Channel pretty frequently and hits me like fingernails on a chalkboard every time: "Do you wish you had sonic hearing?"

Argh. I already have sonic hearing. And visual sight, and a tactile sense of touch ...

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Past a Hurdle

Well, after three weeks of writing 50-100 words in a sitting which felt like pulling teeth, I've written 2,000 words in two days. I'm not sure if this is the downward slide everyone talks about once you pass the middle of your book, but it is certainly very pleasant. I just wanted to document it here so that if/when I hit another wall, I'll be able to look at it and remember that it wasn't just the first 10,000 words that flowed easily.

So what broke the logjam? Two things.

First, admitting that if I thought a scene was boring to write, a reader would probably find it boring to read, and then getting the point across another way.

Second, resurrecting a character I perfunctorily killed for no reason earlier in the book. Turns out she had a use after all. She saved the chapter, as a matter of fact. And solved a problem I had with my outline at the same time.

I love when one minor change fixes so many problems at once.

Now excuse me, I need to go milk this opportunity for all the words I can get.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Walking the Pattern

One of the series of books that I pull out and read on a somewhat regular basis is the Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny. Today as I was chiseling for all I was worth at my current WIP, I realized that on purpose or by accident, Mr. Zelazny had written a very good analogy for writing a novel into Nine Princes in Amber. If you haven't read it, buy it (trust me, it's worth it) and pay close attention as you're devouring the beautifully written story for when someone "walks the Pattern." This is what writing a novel is like; each step is more difficult, more painful, and more doubt-inducing than the last. To give up is to guarantee failure, and at the end is ... well, read the story. :)

Anyway, thank goodness for the internet. At least when every word takes agonizingly long to put on the page, I can read gems of wisdom from authors I admire who have very kindly shared their experiences, and take heart in the fact that it's like this for everyone.

Now if only that downward slide would arrive ...

Friday, November 21, 2008

Readers Beware

Today I'm compelled to make a public service announcement.

Folks, if you just received an email forwarded by a million people, chances are that it: A) is false and B) contains a virus/spybot/trojan/worm. Even the clean ones are usually used to collect email addresses; when you forward an email, all the previous email addresses stay in it and yours gets added to the list. 500 people later, a spammer has a ready-made address list so that they can send you and all your family and friends their advertisement for male enhancement.

In the last month or so, I've received from family members the following:

  • There are deadly spiders in the bathrooms at restaurants! (False)
  • If you use the button on your keychain to lock your car, people can steal the code and steal stuff from inside it! (False - it makes me laugh that they don't suggest they can steal the car)

I also get regular forwarded false emails about politics that I won't discuss here due to my no-politics policy on my blog. If you get one of these either Snopes or Factcheck is a good place to start for the debunk.

In general, if you assume that every chain email is false, you will be right the vast majority of the time. If you feel you MUST forward an email, copy and paste the text into a new email to break the chain. No bad luck will befall you (although it may befall the spammer who just lost their address list).

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Happy Birthday Mom!

I'd like to wish my mom a very happy birthday today.

Mom, you are a never-ending source of inspiration in my life and I wouldn't be where I am today without you. I love you behind my back and the moon and the stars.

Happy Birthday!

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Two days ago, I had a conversation with my brother in which he inadvertently gave me a compliment. We were having a philosophical debate and in pointing out that I'm inherently biased on the topic, he said this: "If I picked up the first two pages of your book and didn't know ahead of time, I still could have told anyone that you had written it."

I'd have hugged him if we were debating in person instead of over the phone.

What I hope this means is that I'm writing in my voice, something I've been nervous about as I write my first novel. Whether or not my voice is any good remains to be seen by the agents, editors, and hopefully readers that will encounter my book when it's finished, but it's mine. Another hurdle jumped (I hope).

On a sad note, I'm saying goodbye to NaNoWriMo 2008. I could write any number of excuses here about tough times at the day job or getting sick for the second time in a month, but instead I'll just keep it simple: I'm just not as okay as I thought I'd be with setting aside my main project to work on anything else.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Must-Have Tool for Sci-Fi Writers

This November, I'm doing NaNoWriMo for the first time. My project is a young adult science fiction book that's been kicking around my head for months, and I'm pretty excited to try to write it all in one intense flurry. I'm also excited to see if the book turns out as well as the muse keeps saying it will. In order to find out, I'm putting the fantasy aside for 30 days. I'll probably only lose out on a few thousand words of it, since lately it's been flowing like 2-day-old concrete anyway.

The tool I mention in the topic is Celestia. This free (as in speech and as in beer) software is a real-time model of the universe, complete with ability to create new solar systems out of vacuum and model those too. How many light-years is it to Sirius? Punch in Sirius and you get a distance counter. From there to Alpha Centauri? No problem -- zip through the stars and sit at Sirius while you punch up Alpha Centauri instead.

For my project, I needed to know (at least, this is what I was looking up when I found Celestia) what the communication lag is between Earth and Ceres on a specific day when two people would be trying to communicate. It's a 20-second lookup in Celestia.

The only downside is that since I've been playing around with this software, space documentaries are starting to look really familiar. It kills the suspension of disbelief when you can look at the amazing shot they somehow filmed from space and say, "Hey, they made that simulation in Celestia!"

Monday, October 27, 2008

Until November 5th ...

I'm back on track again, having gotten over both my issues with the current chapter and the most recent local plague. The site redesign is finally complete. Now I'm going to spend the next week succumbing to my inner political junkie and therefore not blogging, so that I can keep my oath to myself (and my friends) not to use my blog as a personal political pulpit.

Happy voting, and I'll see you on the other side of November 4th.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


I'm stuck.

I won't say blocked, because that's not the case, but I'm stuck. After thinking about it all day, I think I even know why it is that I'm stuck: I'm afraid to write this part of the book. What seemed like a perfectly reasonable premise when I started this project now feels radical, like it's going to make everyone who reads it angry. I don't honestly feel that this is the case, although there are people in the world who I'm quite sure want to be angry and will jump on any excuse to scream about something, but my internal political-correctness censor is screaming at me for what I have to write in order to get from the introduction piece of the book to the climax and finish.

I think I've been encouraging this behavior from that stupid censor in my head. I've been changing words from what I mean to some other nebulous thing in order for people not to think I'm talking about something real. In my fantasy novel.


So, no progress on the book this weekend. Tomorrow I plan to go through the manuscript and tell my subconscious censor to go to hell. I'm changing those words back to what I mean. Hopefully that will shut her up long enough for me to get through this chapter, which I suspect will not be nearly as controversial as she insists it will.

In the meantime, I'm going to go over to Holly Lisle's site and reread her article about exactly this situation. Over and over and over again. Until it sticks.

On a side note, the site design is finished; I'm now working on the code to get it to work on Blogger. Dear Google: It would have been incredibly helpful if you had included ANY documentation on the coding involved. Unfortunately, that happy circumstance is not the case, so it's trial and error which is incredibly time-consuming. Within another week or so, my beautiful (in my oh-so-humble opinion anyway) design will show up on the blog. Stay tuned!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Happy Sad Day in Hockeytown

Sad: Today was the Red Wings' season opener and we lost 2-3 to the Maple Leafs despite a couple of nice chances right at the end.

Happy: We were treated to the sight of several legends of Hockeytown past carrying the new 2007-2008 Stanley Cup Champions banner onto the ice for the banner-raising ceremony.

Here's to another great season for Detroit: Go Wings!

Writing Status: I'm working pretty hard on my website design at the moment. I did manage to get about 500 words written, a chapter reorganized and the rest of its scenes expanded from the few words in the outline to a real synopsis.

Is it Friday yet?

Stranger than Fiction

My brother brought me Stranger than Fiction to watch last weekend, which I highly recommend to writers and non-writers alike. He and my sister had to force me to watch it, since I haven't been watching much of anything lately -- not to mention that I generally don't like the movies Will Farrell makes. I'm delighted to say that I was dead wrong on this one. Mr. Farrell played a beautiful part, and by the end of the movie I was sure of two things. First, I'm not crazy -- I'm just a writer. Thank you, Emma Thompson. Second, I'd do just about anything for that assistant.

As an aside, this movie featured what I'm pretty sure is the best pickup line I've ever seen. You can find it in the quotes section of the article I linked above, but it's buried in the middle of a scene. Go watch the movie instead; you'll know it when you see it.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


A little while ago, I was reading this incredibly informative post over at kt literary's blog about why she rejected or requested partials for the queries in her pile, and I came across this one:
Query from a YA with a YA. An important bit of writing advice you pick up with experience: use ellipses sparingly, if at all.

I experienced a brief moment of panic as I realized that I had committed this newbie writer faux pas all over my manuscript. Onto my revision checklist went "get rid of ellipses!" and then I started thinking. I've been writing, albeit not novels, my entire life and I never used ellipses the way I do now. I wondered, in an absent, back-of-mind sort of way, where on Earth I had picked up that particular habit.

Then I hopped onto Gmail to chat with a friend for a few minutes, and our conversation went something like this:

Me: Found this great site ... think you'll like it ...
Friend: Yeah ... saw that yesterday ... it was pretty cool

The ellipsis mystery was solved. I asked all of my text-conversant buddies, and every one of them said they constantly used ellipses to denote a pause in their conversation.

I read another publishing industry post about ellipses fairly recently (sorry, I couldn't find this one when I went to look for a link -- I do a lot of surfing) asking, "Authors, what's with all the ellipses?" or some such. I think this is your answer: Gmail ... AIM ... Yahoo ... Jabber ...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

First Post!

"Never tell me the odds!" --Han Solo

I've always loved this quote.

Today I was talking to a friend about my grand plans for becoming a fabulously wealthy bestselling author (the introduction to the conversation was his grand plan of winning the lottery, so I felt justified). After we each dreamed out loud for a while, he turned sober and gave me the reality check any good friend would: "You do realize just how much competition there is for that, right?"

In other words, "You might be better off just playing the lottery instead."

Thankfully, I was not driven to depression by this grim reminder of reality. Yes, I realize that the odds of achieving bestseller status are astronomical. I don't mind. I assured my friend that I would be incredibly happy to simply get published at all, and the odds of that happening are much more manageable: only several thousand to one.

I wouldn't have it any other way. If I wanted a sure bet, I'd be publishing my story on this blog. Somehow, that just doesn't cut it. I want it to be hard. Those standards brought us the Lord of the Rings, the Belgariad, the Dragonriders of Pern. They let us get to know Honor Harrington, Pug, and Alvin Maker. The idea of my book sitting next to those I've known and loved all my life is ... well, it's indescribable.

So don't tell me the odds. I know they're a million to one. I have to try anyway.