Sunday, November 30, 2008

A New Record

I don't know if it was the movie You Don't Mess with the Zohan or reading Laurell K. Hamilton's blog, but I was suddenly inspired to sit back down to write. My earlier session was plenty for the day (1,885 words) and more than enough to get me to the Nano goal. I didn't need to write any more. Maybe that was it. I realized that now that Nano is over, it's just up to me to finish this book when I do, and the sooner I finish it, the sooner I can take a day off.

I just wrote another 1,973 words! My total for today (3,858 words) surpasses my previous single day's word count high by 500+ words! What a great way to celebrate the last day of Nano!

The End Is Near!

Look at that tracking bar! I made the Nano goal--I'm over 50,000 words at the end of the November month. Whew! What a roller coaster. Of course, my coaster has a few extra feet added on at the end, so there's a few more loops left.

Everything's progressing nicely. I'm thinking now that I should have aimed for a 70,000-word book since mine always run long, but oh well. It'll be the length it needs to be. Right now, it's 166 pages long. I expect 250 by the end. That's a nice solid number. Then I'll hack and slash the beginning.

Congratulations to all who successfully completed Nano! And congratulations to any and all that participated!

Old School Romance

I just finished Jayne Ann Krentz's Night of the Magician. The book was originally published in 1984. All the clothing descriptions are hilarious. Also, the main character lives in an apartment with peach carpet that "offset the white furniture perfectly." It cracked me up.

Reading this short romance, it made me realize how much romance itself has changed in the last twenty years. The main characters (women) want more from life than to be swept off their feet in today's books--in fact, most of the time they're doing an equal amount of sweeping. They're stronger, too. This main character was so constitutionally fragile she was frightened by a magic show. She also was overwhelmed with lust for a man fifteen years her senior. I don't find that often in the romance I read these days. Maybe I'm just not reading those books, but now the main characters typically seem to be within five years of each other's age. Just the whole dynamic between the characters made me marvel at how romance writers have had to adapt their stories and characters to changing cultural desires. Or maybe the authors changed right along with the rest of culture and never really thought about it. Now I need a romance author to interview.

The one thing that absolutely drove me nuts about this book hearkens back to a similar thing that drove me nuts about Nina Harper's Succubus in the City in my "The Importance of an Editor" post. Editors, or in this case, proofreaders, are very important!

This version of Night of the Magician was reprinted, and as we all know from personal experiences with computers, fonts don't always translate well from computer to computer. It's why experts tell you to put your resume in certain fonts--so that all computers read them correctly. Since this book was relaid out, this is where a proofreader would come into the picture, doing one final pass over the new layout to make sure it all looks good. This step either wasn't taken for this reprint, or something went wrong after the proofreader. Every instance of seance, which should have an accent over the first e, was printed as "s;aaeance." There were a lot of seances in the book, too!

It's little things like that--misspellings, typos, lack of quotes at the end of certain character's dialog on the first five pages--that takes a person out of the story and reminds them that they're reading, which is not often a good thing. Perhaps I should have titled this post "The Importance of Proofreaders" because proofreaders are very important, too! Go hug your nearest proofreader!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Bits and Pieces

Look at how close I am to the traditional Nano goal! Last year on November 29 I was at 64,000+ words, but I also only took one day off the entire month. This time, I'm treating it more like a real job, and I know the novel writing will take longer than 30 days, so being 1,500+ words ahead of my goal is really good. Today I wrote a fun scene that I think is pretty amusing. We'll see when I reread it in December.

Speaking of books read, for all those of you who have been losing sleep over the fact that I'm behind my book-reading count goal for the year, you can rest a little easier. I've finally caught up to last year's number of books ready by November. However, I thought I was actually now two books ahead, so I felt quite relaxed in starting a nonfiction book, since nonfiction typically takes me longer. Now I'm not so sure I'll meet my 52 books read in a year. Of course, miracles do happen around Christmas...

I hope you all had wonderful Thanksgiving vacations--I know I did. I overate on great food, saw my family, hung out with friends (and will be doing a little more of that soon), slept in, and didn't worry about word-count goals. Does Thanksgiving get any better?

Friday, November 28, 2008

A New Method

I'm trying something new for this book. I've noticed on the previous two books I've written that when I'm drafting the storyboard of a book, I get a lot of specific ideas for each scene--ideas that don't often fit onto the note cards I use. Previously, I've trusted my memory to remind me of these tidbits when I get to the scene. I've experienced pretty good success with that method, though often I remember something I wanted to include in a scene once I'm past it, and then I have to go back in the editing phase to add it in.

This time, as I wrote out the storyboard, I titled each scene and created a corresponding section in my notebook for that card. In my notebook, I've written down all the ideas that came to me about the scene that wouldn't fit on the card. This includes everything from short thoughts like "Madison should have a bruise, which Rose should make fun of" to extensive conversations and descriptions.

Then, before I write the scene, I go back to those notes, look them over, and add anything new that comes to mind. I also think about the goal of the scene at this time. If I don't have a goal in mind, I find that my writing tends to meander. I ask myself a series of questions: What's the importance of the scene? What are the main emotions of the characters? What are their motives? Is there anything to be foreshadowed or anything that needs to be carried over from a previous scene? Once I have all that jotted down (this can take only a few lines or a whole page), then I begin to write.

I'm finding that I really like this method. It's like a warm up before a workout. By the time I place my fingers over the keyboard, I'm primed to begin and ideas are already swimming through my head. It beats staring at the screen or restarting the same scene over and over again.

The only unfortunate thing about this new method is that I started it about 75 pages into the book. Those first 75 pages are going to need a lot more edits than the rest of the book. However, it was a good lesson learned, and I'll be able to see if all this preplanning really does help on the first round of edits.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I hope you've all stuffed yourself on the very best foods and are enjoying the wonderful company of those you love.

As befitting of the holiday, I thought I'd share a blog-theme-specific "Things I'm Thankful For" list, specifically, authors I'm thankful for (in no particular order):
  • Jacqueline Carey (for great characters)
  • Jayne Ann Krentz, Laurell K. Hamilton (for ongoing inspiration of success)
  • Dr. Christiane Northrup (for breaking free of the male-oriented approach to women's health and then sharing it with the world)
  • Anjali Banerjee (for reading my blog post on her book Invisible Lives and taking time to chat with me via email a few times)
  • Regina Thomashauer (for making things fun)
  • Dr. Mona Lisa Schultz (for her insightful works, and for the advice she gave me--advice that led me to the happy place I'm at in my life right now)
  • Diana Gabaldon and J. K. Rowling (for breaking the norms in the publishing industry and proving that it's a good thing to think outside the traditional scope of genres)
  • to the plethora of authors whose books have given me inspiration, pleasure, and a delightful escape into a different world over the years (to see a full list, visit my website)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I Love Action Scenes

Huzzah! I got to the first action scene with the main enemy! I love writing action scenes--they write themselves most of the time. Everything's happening so fast, I just need to make sure my fingers keep up. Today, I wrote two day's worth of words! Which means I'm now only 1,814 words away from the traditional Nano goal and even closer to my final goal!

It's time for some food--some real food. The chocolate chip cookies on the microwave have been calling to me every time I've gone out to heat up more tea. (I've successfully resisted, but they're getting more crafty each time.) I think a burrito is just the thing I need.

And then some cookies.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

In Honor of the Holiday

In the true spirit of Thanksgiving, I've been thinking of all the things I have in my life for which I'm grateful. The list is extensive (another thing I'm grateful for!), but here's a few I can share with you:
  • Cody
  • my family (two- and four-legged)
  • my friends
  • fun times with all of the above
  • Basic Trouble and Book 2, which includes the time to write and work on selling them
  • all the people that come to my blog everyday to read my ramblings
  • being self-employed
  • two cars
  • my wonderful apartment with its great view
  • my stocked pantry (even if half the cans are beans--or maybe especially because half the cans are beans and I can have my daily burritos)
  • avocados
  • good health (mine, my family's, my friends')
  • the privileges of being an American
  • dark chocolate

What are you thankful for?

Monday, November 24, 2008


I've been at this computer for nearly 12 hours today. Ug! I made a lot of progress, but not on Madison 1 or 2. I did write 1,149 words today and I'm happy with that even if it is under word count.

I have discovered a great way to relieve chair-butt: Cat vs. Human tag. Zenzo, my little girl cat, loves to race up and down the hallway. If I run into a room at the opposite end of the hallway, she'll come running after me, tail up, and waiting to be petted when she "catches" me. It's adorable. If I am in the front room, she'll zip between the chairs and do a sideways arch at me. Again, so cute!

I'm off for a little late-night tag before the apartment's mandated quiet hours.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Christmas Music Comes Early

In an effort to continue to get into the right mood/setting for Christmastime at the mall, I've been listening to Christmas music while I work on Madison. I suppose it's not that early to be listening to it. One of the local radio stations is already playing all Christmas music, all the time. People are going to be going out this week to get their trees. A little Christmas music in November isn't going to hurt me. Especially since I didn't have my usual Christmas music in July craving this year.

I've been using Pandora for the music, but I've found that unless I know specific artists and songs, it starts to play a lot of non-Christmas music in the mix. It also lets you reject only so many in an hour, so let me know if you have any good suggestions that I can add to the Christmas station I've created. All holiday songs are welcome.

I finally got to my first clue of the big enemy in this book today. Okay, technically I wrote myself a note for the scene where I'll get to it tomorrow, but I'm pleased. The fact that I'm over halfway through the book and just touching on this reminds me that I'll have a bit (read a lot) of editing to do at the beginning of the story, but that's the way these things go. The more novels I write, the better I'll get at beginnings, I'm sure.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Outside World

Lo and behold, I left the house today! I've been a bit of a hermit lately between work, Basic Trouble edits and synopsis and query creations, and Nano. Getting out of the house was fast becoming mandatory, if only so that I would have something to chat about on the blog other than my dry eyeballs and cat poo. (I'm just thinking of you guys. Aren't I sweet?)

Cody and I went to the mall. The trip was not completely for pleasure. In fact, it was mainly for research. Madison 2 involves a lot of scenes at the mall after Thanksgiving (in none of which does Madison actually get to shop), and I wanted a chance to capture the flavor of the mall without having to actually be out in the crowds on Black Friday.

The trip was made even more delightful by the mall's recent expansion. It was like touring a brand-new mall, with an entire new wing and stores, only this wing is a nice, big, curving loop, and I do like curves in my architecture. (That sounded weirder onscreen than it did in my head.) Things of note from today:
  • There's a gelato store in the mall. The bins of various gelato flavors were larger than some turkeys. I will definitely be going back.
  • There's a popcorn store in the mall. They sell fresh popcorn with your choice of toppings, including white and dark chocolate! Another place to go back to.
  • I held my first Louis Vuitton shoe today. It was this cute, understated little gray pump with an open toe and a small silver flower on the fabric that arches across the top of the foot. The heel was too high and thin for my taste, but for the right price, I could have worn it on special occasions. I flipped the shoe over and actually dropped it, without meaning to, when I read the price tag: $853.00! I should have guessed, since the men's much more comfortable-looking shoes were in the high $500s. It was a cute shoe, but not that cute!
  • Strollers, especially ones with infants and toddlers still in them, are not battering rams, folks! I don't want to hurt your child, but if you shove your stroller into my shins, it might happen by accident. Think of your child, people. Please!

We managed to escape without purchasing anything, which was the goal, and had a lovely lunch at a local cafe rather than at the mall (though there were some vendors at the mall that looked as if they might actually have had some quality foods). All in all, it was a highly successful outing--I got over a page of notes and some fresh air. Hooray for the contemporary, convenient settings of Madison! Hopefully later in the series Madison will need to go to Europe, and I'll be forced to go on a research trip there, too.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Denial Lends Strength

For a few short days, we were a one-car family. Cody's Volvo died mysteriously on his way home. The mechanic later diagnosed it as a broken timing belt. What could have been a very costly engine repair job ended up being feasible due to some amazing good luck, and the 17-year-old car is running again. We've been celebrating.

It was, oddly, like a miniature psychological experiment for me, though. In those few days when Cody was using my car to get back and forth to school and work, and I was working from home without a means of transportation, I thought of all kinds of things that I wanted to go do and appointments to make. Suddenly, I needed a car. And just as I expected, today when I had my car back, I didn't think about leaving the house once. Once the option was available to me, all the urgency went out of me. The brain is such a strange thing.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Tapped Dry

And by that, I mean mostly my eyeballs.

Check out the slightly modified tracker. The site I was using to create the old one no longer works, so I found this one that's virtually the same. I'm so close to halfway done with the word count. I am not close to halfway through my scenes. We'll see how this one goes. Maybe some of those scenes will be super short. (I already know scenes at the beginning that I'll be shortening and tightening down.)

I'm off to do nothing and keep my eyes closed. Today has been a long day in front of the computer.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Copycat Massacre

You all might remember the Lamp Massacre of '08 when my apartment started killing off lamps in record numbers. Well, it's at it again, only this time, it's taken out a light switch.

To be specific, the apartment/copycat has had it out for the light switch in the front bathroom for over a week now. It finally stopped toying with its prey and snapped its neck two days ago. The fan works fine, which is of little help, unless you like peeing in the dark with a fan on. We do have another bathroom--we have sort of a his and hers bathroom set up. Mine is the master bath, Cody's is the front, fritzing bathroom. (And just in case you think that Cody's getting the raw end of the deal here, both bathrooms are the same size.) To make this massacre worse, we use only the front bathroom for showers. The other one would simply never dry out. (I could write a whole separate entry on the idiocy of building apartments that don't have outdoor ventilation to the bathrooms, but I'll spare you.)

We will, of course, be getting the lighting fixed, but in the meantime, I've had to plan my shower times with military precision. There's a certain time in the morning when the sunlight slants across the office floor in a long, bright beam of light that illuminates the hallway. Then, by angling the white door of the office just so, I can reflect that light into the bathroom, brightening things enough to make it feel like I'm showering in a foreign country (again, another entry entirely). Not for the first time, I'm very glad for my nearly see-through curtain which allows the maximum amount of light through.

I suppose I could bring a lamp into the bathroom, but where's the fun in that. This way, I'm being environmentally conscious (or I can pretend that I am choosing to be and not being forced to be) and I'm not concerned about electrical fires in the walls (remember, this is the same apartment that melted my blow dryer plug into the socket). All in all, it makes for an eventful morning.

Oh, and for those of you who know about Feng Shui, the bathroom is in my creativity section. Yes, the light went out in my creativity section in the middle of Nano. I'm not worried about any hidden messages, though--look how creative it's made me already. Though, now that I think about it, this is the same bathroom that the toilet flush handle gets stuck on, that needs to have the tub recaulked, and the stopper in the sink drain gets stuck shut, so we currently have it laying on the bathroom counter. Okay, that's it. We need maintenance in here immediately!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What You Don't See in Movies

I think a lot of what is so glamorous and attractive about movies is the things in life that they don't include. This is, of course, overlooking the escapism enjoyment of movies, the attractive people/setting/clothing/cars/homes, and the visual adventures that most of us will never experience. More specifically, I'm talking about cat poo.

I've seen many cats in movies, I've even seen a cat poop on a toilet in a movie, but I've never seen a litter box in a movie. Where do these attractive people with their long-haired, fluffy, overgroomed cats keep their litter boxes? Where is the ideal place to put one? The answer: nowhere.

In a two bedroom apartment, there aren't many options. It couldn't be put the front room, definitely not in the dining room or kitchen (ew!), and most assuredly not in the bedroom. The bathrooms are off limits--have you ever had a cat trail litter into a bathtub? The little kernels swell to puffy gray goo the moment they land in a drop of water which, and I guess this could go without saying, but I'll say it: it's disgusting. That leaves one place: the office.

Occasionally, as I'm working away on a story or a query letter, or in this case, a blog, my cat comes in save you from the graphic details, let's just say, I'm overwhelmed, unable to concentrate, and the result, in this case, has been this delightful blog. I promise, tomorrow I'll talk about something pleasant. Right now, I'm going to flee the room!

Monday, November 17, 2008

New Energy

I had one of those great moments in writing today: I looked back over my previous text to make sure I started with the right tone and at the right spot in the conversation and I realized that what I'd written yesterday--what I'd pulled painfully from the depths of a dry well of inspiration--was good. It was funny, even!

It made today's writing that much easier, and it made the scene better for my renewed confidence. Hooray for good surprises!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Not Quite Halfway

November is officially half over, but since I'm shooting for 80,000 words and not 50,000 words, I'm not quite halfway done. I feel like a runner that has reached a plateau. Every day, I can churn out the word count, but not much more. I read a book several years ago about a couple who decided to hike from the Mexico/California border to the top of California (or maybe it was to Canada). I wish I could remember the name of the book now. They journaled about their experience, which is what eventually became the book. Every day for the first weeks, they could only get maybe ten or fifteen miles a day in. Then they made 20 one day, a record that they thought would break them. However, after that day, they began to consistently hike more than 20 miles a day. It was like they had to break past some invisible barrier in their bodies first, and then the impossible was suddenly easy to repeat. I'm waiting for that to happen in my writing. I thought it already would have.

Maybe things will get better when I really do reach halfway and it's all downhill. Or maybe after I finish this scene things will be better. This is the last scene where I'm introducing new people and exploring the nature and reactions of two other subcharacters. I know the action that is to come, and I'm looking forward to that. I just need to get through this scene.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Chef Ramsay's Hypnosis Powers

The other night as I was diligently working on storyboarding the entire Madison 2 novel out, Cody was in the front room playing a video game. After a while, I realized that I was no longer hearing the cheerful sounds of machine guns and death cries. Instead, I was hearing a lot of bleeped out words. Naturally, I assumed he was watching Cops (one of my least favorite shows of all time).

I put the final touches on the storyboard, taped the whole thing up on the wall above my computer, and fled my office for the evening. I fully intending on commandeering the TV, for Cops and I do not coexist peacefully in the same room. I was quite surprised to see that all the bleeping was coming from a regular TV show, Kitchen Nightmares. In less than two minutes, I was sucked in by Chef Ramsay's dramatic flare—and the horror of the restaurant which he was trying to revamp. Bugs, slimy meat, expired foods, dirty plates. Ew!

The show, however, had two unanticipated side effects.

1. It made me hungry. Isn't that odd? I mean, I'm watching a show about a disgusting kitchen, but all my stomach sees is food. So I made us a snack while we finished watching the second show in the back-to-back Ramsay lineup.

2. It made me want to open a restaurant. I'm not a chef. I've never owned my own business. I know the astronomical failure rate of restaurants. I don't even know what type of restaurant I'd want. But watching the people on the show who've made every bad decision they could and seeing that they're still in business made me think, I can do this better.

Fortunately, Ramsay's hypnotic sway over me didn't last until the next morning. My ambition is still pure and true: I want to be a full-time, New York Times bestselling author.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Title at Last!

Thanks to the wonderful input of friends and family, Madison 1 now has a title:

Basic Trouble

I love it! It's a play on words, which I'll need to bring into the tag line so everyone gets it right away. I haven't done that yet, but here's the latest teaser for Basic Trouble:

Beneath commonplace suburbia lurk rather adorable evil creatures who feed off the good life force of average, oblivious people. Now it's up to Madison Fox to decimate these cute creatures (and a great many others who are uglier and fiercer) before her region is overrun with evil. Her grasp of the skills she'll need for her job are rudimentary at best…but that's never stopped her before.

Clearly, this isn't the final tag line, but it's closer to what I need.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Hand Cramps

I was feeling inspired today after I finished writing a synopsis for Madison 1, so I sat down to storyboard out Madison 2. Two hours and a massive finger/hand/arm cramp later, I know the whole story! I have to go back in and make a few tweaks, but for the most part, it's done! That means that when I sit down tomorrow to work on Nano, I'll know what scene I'm writing next, and the one after that, and it'll eliminate a lot of guessing. It also means I get to look forward to certain scenes now that I know they're coming. It's like looking forward to the good parts of your favorite movie, but seeing them for the first time (if that makes any sense).

I am, however, not Nanoing today. For two reasons. The second is that I'm almost two days ahead of my required word count, so taking a day off is technically okay (meaning I won't be having a guilty fit about it tomorrow). The first reason is because that hand/arm cramp is no laughing matter. Pushing my tendons beyond their stress points will only lead to prolonged pain. I know this from too much experience. So they get get tonight off.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Neil Gaiman Awaits Me

It occurred to me last night that I have very particular rules about what I read when I'm writing a novel. I can't read anyone who will influence me, so no Laurell K. Hamilton or Jacqueline Carey. I can't read any books that are too close in nature to mine, because I don't want those story ideas creeping into mine, so no Charlaine Harris, Karen Chance, Kim Harrison--okay, basically, no fantasy. Not even any paranormal romance. That leaves me with two options:

1. Non-fiction. I shamelessly admit that I read Oprah's magazine. The short articles are often just what I need as a break in between work and writing. They're also good for over breakfast. A book might cause me to linger too long and waste writing/working time; the articles cut themselves into nice time chunks. There are also non-fiction books. As I said in the Falling Behind post in October, non-fiction books are in the number 2 most-read genre for me this year. I've found that the raw truth is often very inspiring of the fantastical.

2. Romance. There's nothing quite like a well-crafted romance into which to make the perfect escape. My story may have romantic elements in it, but it's not the pivotal plot point. There's no danger of unconsciously drafting part of a romance into my novel.

Last Nano, I read three romances and one non-fiction during the month. I ended the month by reading Laurell K. Hamilton's Mistral's Kiss. That was brave of me. This year, I'm sticking to the romances and non-fiction. Which means that the Neil Gaiman book that I purchased almost a month ago is going to have to sit on my shelf a little bit longer.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Half-Eaten Author

No, I'm not talking about me. I'm talking about Jayne Ann Krentz. Whenever I think about her books, I think about how I tend to gobble them up. I only discovered her within the last three years, and there are over 45 of her books on my shelves. I think I might have discovered her historical romance pseudonym, Amanda Quick, when I was younger, but it was the Krentz and Jayne Castle books that I purchased in armloads and frenzies. Just ask Cody. We couldn't go to the used bookstore for several months without me coming out with stacks.

I'm currently reading White Lies. This book impresses me on two levels. One, Krentz has become so popular that she doesn't have to use her pseudonym, Jayne Castle, to include paranormal elements to her romance--they sell just fine under her most popular name because everyone loves her books. The second reason it that it's so well written. I've been hunting as I read for the exact reason why I think it's well done, and I'm finding it rather hard to pinpoint. The characters are good, but let's face it, they're a bit similar to several other characters that she's written. The dialog is good, too. Maybe it's the pacing. Maybe it's the plot. Maybe it's the very familiarity of the characters. Is it the depth of the characters that's shown, not told? Is it the way she mixes information with action? Or is it the tension between the lead characters? Yes to all of the above. Now how do I do that, too?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Doesn't Everyone Nano?

(Melodramatic disclaimer for yesterday: Okay, so I was rather dramatic yesterday. In that time which I said that I spent working only on characters and Nano I also went shopping and had lunch. It wasn't all work. It just felt that way.)

I woke today with tired eyes and seriously considered not Nanoing. I'm over two days ahead, so a break wouldn't hurt me. However, by 4:00 this afternoon, Madison was calling. As her willing slave, I capitulated and sat my butt down in front of the computer, managing to get over 300 words above my minimum.

However, I did a Nano no-no today: I went back into text I'd already written. I justify this by saying that I hardly deleted any previous text, I just added more. I realized yesterday (after finishing writing and laying around with my eyes closed and moaning pathetically) that the scene I'd written lacked purpose. Today I went back in and added purpose and plot advancement. I'm very pleased with the results even though I'm technically at the same story point where I ended yesterday. Those extra bits of information and conversation that I added today give real depth to the story and characters. Victory is mine!

I ran into an old coworker today who knew me when I was still working on my first novel, Areia. He asked how the writing was going. I asked him if he'd heard of the National Novel Writing Month in November. He hadn't. I said, "It's been keeping me busy." He still didn't get what it was. I wanted to ask him how he could not know about NaNo WriMo! Isn't it the central focus of everyone's lives? How is it not being reported on the news every night, broadcasted across the sky in those fancy plane writings, advertised ad nauseam on the radio? It feels that central to my life. But seeing his blank expression when I said "NaNo WriMo" brought me back to reality. I had to explain, "It's a challenge to write a book in a month, so I've been pounding out 50,000 words this month." He was suitably impressed.

Then he asked how I could do it. To which, I wanted to respond, "How can I not? How can you not? It's the chance to write a novel in month. It comes with a built-in support group. It's the opportunity to become a published author by getting another novel into text. How incredible is that! Grab a pen! Get busy." Instead, I only shrugged.

I think you either get it or you don't; you either have that drive or you don't. The authors out there understand. The rest of you, well, I don't understand you, either, but I'm glad you like to read!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Delusions of Time

I sat down at 11:00 today to write my Nano quota. I reminded myself of the wisdom of knowing more than I plan to write--of knowing the motives behind character's actions and knowing their pasts, even if their pasts are never, ever going to make it onto the page. Having fuller characters makes every story better. So I decided to write new character profiles today. I had three to do, with thoughts of flushing out Mr. Dark and Deadly from book one. Character profiles, for those of you out there without privileged, insider information into my computer, are three-page forms in which I fill out everything from the character's name, age, height, and birth date to their strengths and weaknesses, their friends and enemies, their hobbies and motives, and their philosophies and family. In essence, I try to capture everything about a character that makes them a person, well-rounded and believable.

It ended up taking nearly an hour per character. It was fun, but damn! That was time-consuming!

So even though I started over six hours ago, I've just finished with Nano. My eyes are beat. My thoughts are sluggish. But the good news: I'm over two days ahead of my Nano schedule!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Whole Foods and New Characters

A new Whole Foods opened up near us today. From how excited I've been about it, you would think they were going to hand out free books and have agents hoping to meet me in attendance. Okay, maybe I wasn't that excited. The store is huge (I think all Whole Foods are) and carries more varieties of organic and specialized foods and household products than I knew existed. For instance, did you know there's such a thing as goat ice cream? Fresh spices sold by the ounce? Frozen cheeseless pizzas? Hemp oatmeal? More than the one kind of environmentally friendly dish soap that my local, national-chain grocery would like me to believe is all that's out there? I tried my first persimmon today, and liked it. I was hoping to sample some wine, but that was a no-go. I was also hoping for more samples in general, but with how packed the store was, I don't think they would have fit.

We came away with just a few items, and only the wine was an impulse buy. It's an Argentinian Malbec. If it's good, I'll let you know. I could have spent my entire savings there today, and most of it in the sweet-filled deli. I was strong. I remembered that there are only two of us, and our pantry space is limited. It was tough, though, when everything looked so good.

The rest of today has been odds and ends, and Nanoing. I barely made it above my word count today by a hundred or so words. I felt like I'd written double my word count. I'm bringing new characters into the book, some of who will be sticking around through this book and several in the future, and that took a lot of energy. Suddenly I'm back to building entire people, with personality quirks, fashion tastes, and agendas that sometimes have nothing to do with Madison and sometimes have everything to do with her. It took more energy than I thought it did, and made the six pages I wrote feel like ten or twelve. Tomorrow will be more character development. Maybe I'll work on it before I write so that the characters come through stronger, faster. We'll see. That was the plan today, and when I sat down to write character bios, the story was there, at my fingertips, so I went with it instead.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Strength of Perception

*Warning: This post is oddly deep and philosophical for me. Look for a more light-hearted post tomorrow, and if you're not up for philosophical, please simply take the pole to the right.*

Perception is the most undervalued strength of humanity. I've been thinking a lot about it lately. I read a wonderful book, Apocalypse 2012 by Lawrence E. Joseph, in which he details all the horrible things that could happen to Earth to bring about the prophesied apocalypse of world-altering change of 2012. The list includes a slew of natural phenomenon that could have horrific results on the human species: earthquakes and flooding, super volcanoes like the one in Yellowstone erupting, solar flares, weakening magnetic poles that normally protect the planet from radiation, asteroids...and the holy war in the Middle East. After all those horrific and uncontrollable possibilities, to the last, Joseph devotes a very lengthy part of his book, because the holy war is the most predictable and the most imminent.

Which is where we come to my boiled-down assessment of an extremely touchy subject: this impending holy war over Temple Mount is a war like all holy wars before it, built upon the perceptions of each individual--the perception of right and wrong, the perception of what is holy and what is impure, the perception of what happened and what didn't depending on each person's interpretation of words written thousands of years ago, the perception of who is right and who is going to burn in places potentially only perceived in the human mind. All this strife and conflict and hatred and importance has all been build upon a thought, a perception. It boggles my mind.

More recently, with the election and all the talk of change and hope, I've found myself thinking about the power of perception all over again. President Elect Barack Obama's speech on Tuesday night talked of the hope of America, that guiding beacon that has led our nation from a group of people who knew and believed that our country could be more than a colony of Britain to where we are today, where the young can feel entitled to job satisfaction, where all people can feel entitled to the very best opportunities, where all people believe that tomorrow will always be better than yesterday and that progress will always be made in a positive direction. We're a nation built upon a perceived ideas--of freedom, of hope, of rights and equality, of possibility and opportunity--and we've remained strong because of those perception.

I think a lot of people credit fear as the greatest motivator. Romantics say love is. I say that the greatest motivation is hope. But underneath and behind all those emotions is the powerful, guiding force of our own perception. Perhaps fear, love, and hope are all equal; it is only the strength of our perception that makes one stronger than the other.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

New Poll: Are We Entitled to Happiness

I read in an article recently that (I'm paraphrasing) "the younger generation feels a sense of entitlement to job satisfaction." It was stated as if to say, "these young people have never had to work for anything and they still think they deserve to always be happy." I found it a bit offensive and a bit amusing. Aren't we all entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? Doesn't that include happiness at our jobs?

Please take the poll on the right and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Underage Fang

I think that I fell into the vampire boat with the same wave that was carrying the rest of the nation. There's been such an upsurge of interest in vampires in the last four of five years (at least for me--maybe longer for other people). It's everywhere I look now: in romance, in fantasy, in horror, in comic books, on TV, in movies. (And does anyone else think Evanescence is trying to look a little vampire/werewolfy in her videos? Check out her home page, or even her site gallery, and tell me if I'm wrong.)

There was a point in time when I resisted vampires, too. My downfall was Laurell K. Hamilton. Really, I guess I could blame Borders for placing the horror section at the end of the fantasy section so that they bled into each other, but I think blaming Hamilton is more accurate. I never would have been attracted to her book if they hadn't been so large. (I know, I'm so shallow!) For months, maybe a year or longer, I would see her series lined up, then already nine deep, each one larger than the last. I would read the titles or casually pick one up, read a line or two on the back, and set it back down. It was probably Cody who finally convinced me to get the first one--not because he has ever read one or even heard of Hamilton before I became her fan, but because he also saw the length of the series and each book's increasing girth and knew I'd be a happy girl for a long time if I liked the first book. One book in, I was hooked.

Since then, I now own and actively seek out five authors' ongoing vampire/wereanimal series, including Charlaine Harris (she's got a new TV show out, True Blood based on her series), Kelly Armstrong, Kim Harrison, Carrie Vaughn, and most recently the thoroughly unpredictable and unprecedented vampires of Robin McKinley's Sunshine. I've even added Buffy the Vampire Slayer to my list of favorite TV shows, and I only started watching the seasons this year. (Is anyone else disappointed that the vampires in the show are so ugly? I get that they're animals hunting humans, but I thought part of their predatory skill set was the ability to mesmerise people with their irresistible sex appeal. There's nothing sexy about those Cro-Magnon brows.) I never did read VC Andrews or Anne Rice, though. I completely missed them in my teenage years and have no desire to go back to them now.

However, there are some places I don't like vampires. Romance is one of them. I've tried several paranormal romances with vampires in them, and haven't really cared for them all. There's just nothing about blood sucking that does it for me. The only vampire romance that I've thought decent was by Katie MacAlister, but I've loved her other books, so saying I liked this one is kind of an insult.

And the whole reason why I started thinking about this topic in general is because I now know that I don't like vampires in young adult books, either. I think it might be more safe to say that I don't like young adult books in general, and not even a vampire element can improve them. In particular, I just finished Rachel Caine's Glass Houses. I really like Caine's adult fantasy series, and she's what lured me to the teen side of the bookstore in the first place. The story was well crafted, the characters completely believable, but the story was rather blah for me. As in, I was ready to be done with the book halfway through and then it was just a matter of making myself finish it so I could know how it ended. Maybe I would have liked it more if I were fifteen years younger, but even then, I think I was reading fantasy novels that were more risque (therefore, more exciting) than Caine's vampire novel.

Okay, okay, I hear you all clamoring that I haven't given YA books a fair shot, and you're right; I've only read one YA vampire book. I've completely missed the Stephanie Myer train that blazed across this country from New York to Hollywood. I haven't even read one of the book jackets for her books. But if it involves characters who are awkward around boys because they've never kissed them, have problems with parents that won't let them stay out too late, have to fit their adventure in around school or extracurricular activities, or are picked on by mean high school girls or boys, it doesn't interest me. I like blood and sex and carnage and adventure in my vampire novels. I want characters who're old enough to have figured out what they want and have the independence to go for it. I want the romantic climax of the story to have one, not just end in a kiss.

Unless a YA novel can offer any of that, I'm not going to be straying far from my fantasy/horror sections again anytime soon.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Snacks

I had a much longer blog planned, but I've reached the end of my stamina for today. I blame the UPS lady who tried to make a package I was shipping look like it had been put together by a three-year-old who had gotten a hand on one of those tape guns. Which isn't at all fair, but it did waste my time today and screw with my perfect plan, which included me already eating by now. The longer blog will have to wait until tomorrow. Right now, I'm all for making some appetizers and watching the news coverage on the election (interspersed with something completely mindless).

Monday, November 3, 2008

Postmarathon Warm Up

I started NaNo with a bang, on a weekend, with lots of free time to write. I was motivated to power through 2,667 words (8 pages) a day to reach my 80,000-words-in-a-month goal. I was excited to be writing again. I could do this!

Then I wrote, and was reminded that sustained creativity takes a lot of energy. Like taking the SATs, somehow creativity can drain physical energy. In essence, I was trying to run a marathon without training or warming up.

Even over the weekend, where I had no other taxing demands on my time, I was 167 words short of the 2,667 words on the first day, and 677 words short on the second day. I'm keeping track on a lovely Excel sheet (complete with inspiring colors), and I would look at the totals for the day, see how far ahead I was of my 50,000-words-in-a-month goal (833 words ahead on Saturday, 1,323 on Sunday) and be elated. Then I'd look at my 80,000-words-in-a-month-goal column and see how far behind I was, and suddenly I'm thinking how much I suck. This is simply not a good roller coaster to be on at the end of a session of writing.

So I'm removing the column that makes me feel like I'm failing even when I'm doing exceptionally well, and I'm going to take a more realistic approach to this challenge. My daily word count goal is back to 1,667 words a day, and anything above and beyond that is a plus.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Lactose Dreams

I've recently been testing a theory that I might be lactose intolerant (though I desperately hope not). Thus, for nearly a month now, I've cut all dairy out of my diet. Unless you count the milk that's in dark chocolate, which I don't, and fortunately, it doesn't look like my body does either. However, one month without ice cream, frozen yogurt, and cheese does things to a girl's head. Like make her dream about eating--specifically, eating dairy.

I never dream about eating. I dream about everything from the mundane to the excitingly adventurous, but not eating. And yet, Friday night I dreamed that I ate a dish of pasta, only to discover when I was done that the noodles had been filled with cheese. I was very upset in the dream, afraid of the consequences, and disappointed that my experiment to see if I am lactose intolerant was compromised. Last night I gleefully ate an entire tub of soft serve ice cream with M&Ms in it, realized when I finished that I shouldn't have eaten it, and didn't feel bad about it at all.

I can't decide if these dreams are a good thing or not. Clearly I'm craving all the foods I've cut out, which I suppose is bad. But in my dreams, I'm getting to enjoy them without any negative side effects. I think the this-is-a-good-thing side wins this time, but only by a slim margin.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

It's NaNo WriMo Time!

I woke up this morning long enough to snooze the alarm and roll over. I was almost back asleep and then it hit me with the same feeling that I got as a little kid on Christmas: today was NaNo WriMo day! I was out of bed in a flash of energy and enthusiasm.

It's now much later in the day and I've finished my writing goal (with a long break in the middle to dart up to my mom's house), and my earlier enthusiasm is still in my thoughts, but my energy is drained. I wrote 2,500 words today (nearly 8 full pages), and I've reached the end of today's stamina.

I am not strictly following the NaNo WriMo goals, so I won't be registering on their site this year. For starters, I'm not working on a completely new, original idea. I'm writing a sequel, which they frown upon, saying that they don't think precrafted or partially completed work allows a person to be as creative (or willing to be as awful as might be necessary) to complete the word count in a day. Also, the NaNo WriMo goal is to complete a 50,000-word novel. A 50,000-word novel is about 30,000 too short for my needs, but even though my goal is 80,000 words, but I'm not forcing myself to write more than the 1,667 words a day that will get me to 50,000 words by the end of the month; I'll just extend my personal due date to November 18, if necessary.

With that said, check back for updates to the tracking meter to watch my progress, and feel free to cheer me on with wonderful comments, as you have been. I very much appreciate the support!

Right now, I'm going to go enjoy a much-deserved glass (or two) of a delightful wine I just discovered yesterday (by one of my favorite wineries): Rosenblum Celler's Chateau La Paws Cote Du Bone Roan. I picked it up because of its name; I bought it because the label on the back says that the money from my purchase of this bottle supports animal charities. It's the best of two worlds.

And I have one final thing to share for the day. Zenzo, my little girl cat, has been greatly enjoying the cold, rainy weather in her favorite (adorable) way...

...bundled up like a burrito.