Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Where Are All the Debut Authors?

I had a minor crisis this weekend when I realized I only had two more authors booked for NON. The panic prompted an immediate search for the next batch of authors. The first day of my search ended in a dismal failure.

This is it, I thought. This is the economy catching up, the trickled down of downsized publishing houses. This is the end of it all. No more books will be produced by debut authors. Life as I know it will cease to exist!

Which is about when Cody snapped me out of it (and some chocolate also helped). The next day, I found 12 authors to contact and I've already got the blog booked out through the very last week of August! Hooray! The blog (and the world as I know it) will continue.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Beautiful, Intelligent, or Athletically Gifted

I can't remember who first broached this question of me, but it stuck with me, mainly because of how much I had to think about it: Which would I rather be—incredibly beautiful, intelligent, or athletically gifted? Of course, I had to find out what others thought, which is why I broached the question for this week's NON contest.

Since I'm already both incredibly beautiful and intelligent, it's a moot question. Ha, ha. Just seeing if you're paying attention.

The vanity in me was torn between all three, actually. It'd be really gratifying to be more than just coordinated, but actually skilled at sports. However, I could only think of one good reason: I'd make a hunk of change for a living (and I'd be able to campaign from a good standpoint to equalize pay between men and women).

Beauty had the same singular appeal. I'm vain enough to find pleasure in being able to stop traffic/conversations at the mere sight of me (in a good way, not in a "dear god, what is that thing?" kind of way). Beautiful people have hidden benefits, too, since people unconsciously treat them better, pay them more, and let them get away with more. It'd definitely launch my career as a part-time supermodel or actress. But to be famous for simply being attractive...there's not a lot of lasting value in that for me.

Which brings me to intelligence. There are selfish benefits (think Vegas, think inventions—ahem, Mr. Gates), but it's the only choice that allows for the immediate opportunity to do more than benefit yourself. Yes, with athletic skill or extreme beauty, you could amass wealth and then donate it to worthy causes, but with great intelligence, you could better humanity through inventions not yet conceived, cures not yet created, shoot, even management structures not yet dreamed of. There's simply a much greater benefit to great intelligence. So if I had a choice, I'd go with a high IQ over flawless features or athletic prowess.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Making Life Easier

My mom has a quote on her fridge that goes something like this: Anyone can make something complicated; it takes a genius to make something simple. I can't remember who the quote is by right now, but I saw something at Magical Words today that made me think of it.

The folks over there have created a free (yes, free) character software program they're calling Character Keeper to help budding new authors (or authors of any level) keep track of everything that makes up their characters, in an organized fashion. Check it out. It's an amazing program.

Granted, this program isn't for everyone. It's a very left-brained, organized approach to the whole creative process, but that works for a lot of us. I know some authors have never felt the need to do character write-ups of their imaginary people. I'm not one of them. I have Word docs dedicated to the main players in every novel I've written and a few for characters that I've never used. If I'd known of this program's existence when I first started writing, I probably would be using it now. Maybe it'll help you.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Final Book Purchase

Borders lured me back again. After my tirade against the store's policy to hold fewer titles on their shelves so they could face more books out, I've felt a bit hypocritical returning again and again to purchase additional books from them. My only concession is that I've only purchased books when I have a coupon.

Today was no exception.

I have been wanting Jacqueline Carey's Santa Olivia since I learned of its existence (about three weeks ago). While Carey's Kushiel series are my all-time favorite novels, I've read only one non-Kushiel novel and didn't even make it all the way through it, it was so bad. So this is my second attempt to see if Carey is a one-world author for me or not.

This is also the last book I should need for a while. A long while. At least until next year, though I know it's too optimistic to say I won't buy another novel until 2010. I am curious, however, to see how long I last.

So as of June 26, I'm on a no-book-buying mission. I'll be sure to let you know how long I last. I predict three months, though I'm tempted to say only one month. Feel free to share your predictions. I promise not to be offended.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Relief in Sight

I have had the incredible good fortune to be more busy than I thought possible with work lately (the one that pays, not writing), and I've enjoyed it. Sure, there have been moments when I haven't wanted to work, but since I love what I do, it seems silly to complain about the tiny annoyances in light of the much bigger picture. Nevertheless, all this work bounty has taken away from my writing time (as I've no doubt mentioned).

I am happy to say that the end is in sight! By the end of next week, early in the first week of July, I should have a break. And what I mean by a break, is at least two or three days to do nothing except devote time to Madison! Hooray!

Until then, seeing the carrot so close, I'm finding a new spring in my work-day step.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

To Cliffhang or Not to Cliffhang

I finished reading Katie MacAlister's Playing with Fire in record time. The novel was everything I wanted and expected: funny, well written, and filled with great characters and imagination. I enjoyed having some of the familiar characters from the Aisling Grey novels back from a removed perspective. And, oddly, I was okay with the book ending on a cliffhanger.

Normally I would hate that. Normally I would be moaning and whining to you. Part of my zen might be the fact that I have book two already and don't have to wait another year for it. Part of it might be the fact that I've already started Up in Smoke, the sequel. But a major part of it is this:

Despite the fact that Playing with Fire ended on a cliffhanger for the character, it still was a complete story. The entire character arc was there, the complete hero's journey. Only, the consequences of that journey led to the cliffhanger.

It made me curious about this approach from a more professional angle. Would a publisher buy a debut novel that did something similar or is this something to attempt only once you're established? Fortunately my first novel ends with a solid ending, but it is part of a series, and I want to keep people coming back, eager for the next one. Nothing does that quite like a cliffhanger or impending doom. On the other hand, there's definitely something to be said for an all-wrapped-up ending and the feeling of contentment that comes with it.

Hence the question: to cliffhang or not to cliffhang?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Beautiful Cover

This week's NON author, Diana Rowland, has a beautiful cover for her debut novel, Mark of the Demon, and it got me thinking again about covers. My mind keeps going back to a cover I recently saw on Katie MacAlister's blog for her upcoming steampunk romance.

I absolutely love this cover. Something about it makes me think of UK covers. (You probably knew that covers in the UK are not always the same as the US covers, right? For some reason, British people are called to different art and text positioning than American people. I feel a whole thesis could be written to cover the why of that, something about historical upbringing, artistic and architectural influences of each nation, and Sesame Street vs. no Sesame Street. But I digress.)

I love the colors, the font, the artistic style, and (after looking up what it meant) the idea of a steampunk romance. I am really looking forward to this novel's release.

In my quest to find new NON authors, I also discovered the beautiful cover of the novel Havemercy.

Unfortunately for NON (and me), this novel was released over a year ago, so it doesn't fall into the recently released debut novel. Fortunately for me, I found a new book I want to read. Check out Jones and Bennett's site, too. It's very pretty. The idea of a clockwork dragon is fascinating!

I didn't really have anywhere I was going with this blog, other than to share some beautiful covers and some books that I think are going to be awesome. If you've read them, let me know!

Famous Author Chat

This week at NON, Diana Rowland mentioned that she got to chat with Anne McCaffrey, one of her favorite authors, and it got me thinking (and asking this question of the contest entrants): which author would I like to chat with?

Anne McCaffrey is a good answer for me, as well. I read everything she wrote, both about Pern and her straight fiction.* I discovered her writing when I was in my early teens, and I didn't stop reading her works until she retired and her son took over—not because I don't like Todd, I just haven't given him a chance yet. McCaffrey was a pioneer for modern-day fantasy and science fiction, and she had a huge impact on my writing. In fact, one of "my" first stories was inspired by her (in which I basically stole the setting, characters, concept, and basic plot lines—fan fic at its worst).

However, the first author that leapt to mind was Robert Jordan. I missed my opportunity, since he's already passed away. Nevertheless, I would love to understand his process, the way his mind worked (more left or right brained?), hear the stories of things that inspired him, and learn all the plot twists that surprised him or that turned out different than he planned.

*All this reminiscing reminded me of a fact I read years ago on McCaffrey's website that Pern was going to become a TV show in Australia. I did a little sleuthing and it looks like that deal fell flat. Ronald D. Moore of Battlestar Galactica, later actually got as far as the pilot of a show, but that fell through, too. Most recently, it was optioned as a film to a Canadian company that doesn't appear to have done much—nothing of note in general, and nothing with McCaffrey's work since 2006 when the rights were first purchased. Sigh.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Final Verdict

Summed up succinctly, my final verdict regarding Amber Benson's Death's Daughter is this: it felt like a YA novel (and it's not).

For a little clarification: Benson has an incredible imagination. I absolutely loved the characters she pulled into the story, the way she viewed gods and goddesses come to life, the settings, the creatures. But I wanted it to have been written by a different author.

The main character made zero real character development, and what little superficial changes she made were constantly flaking away with each new challenge, so she was reduced to the same whiny woman each time she came up against each problem.

The book felt stitched together, like Benson had these fabulous scenes or sets of dialog, but to connect them, she'd slap a few lines down on paper, make a chapter break, or—worst of all, both because of the frequency it was used and the amateur feel of it—have the main character black out only to be removed from the situation upon waking.

Which brings me back to the YA conclusion. I'm not a YA fan, so I could be way off base about what's being produced these days, but this book was one that I would have adored in middle school. Lots of action, lots of interesting images, but not a lot of depth, not a lot to remember the book by, not a lot to get upset or excited about. There were a few scenes in here that done by some of my more beloved authors would have had me cheering or crying (depending on the scene), but in Benson's hands, it was merely another plot point.

And yet, perhaps I'm fickle, because I'd like to see where Benson would go with this series if there's a sequel. A lot of what I consider flaws in this novel feel simply like amateur mistakes or green writing, something that a little more experience could smooth out. Would I read a third book similar to this? Probably not.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Roomba Lives!

Roomba (as of yet unnamed) embarked on its maiden voyage this afternoon. It was a bit more of a production than I expected, too. We spent the entire morning Roomba-proofing the house in preparation for its first adventure. (Okay, to be honest, I don't think we were out of bed before 10, and we also shopped, ate lunch, and went wine tasting, so maybe we spent a whopping hour or two actually working on preparing our home for the Roomba.)

We had to clean under the bed, which had an odd assortment of large artwork from my high school and college days, lots of wrapping paper, and a dust bunny so long I think it qualified as a dust serpent. We also had to tape down our area rug so the Roomba wouldn't get stuck, and pick up a small army of kitty toys.

The result was fabulous. Little Roomba zipped and zagged around our entire house, frightening then boring the cats, all while Cody and I played with my new audio recorder (another birthday gift). All in all, my part of the vacuuming took about two minutes, which was mostly me figuring out how to empty the collection compartment without spilling it.

I love my Roomba!

Friday, June 19, 2009

A New Addition to the Family

We are now the proud parents of our third "child," a Roomba! Cody got me a beautiful creamy gray Roomba for my birthday, and tonight was the first chance we've had to test it out.

First of all, it came with a prerecorded audio demo. My Roomba spoke! The cheerful female voice attracted my electronics-curious cat, Zenzo, my little girl. She watched from behind my leg while the voice talked, the buttons flashed, and the different parts demonstrated their efficiency. She hopped over my leg to investigate the dock in time to be pinned against the wall when the Roomba began to dance and spin around the carpet.

Undaunted, Zenzo sniffed and stalked the Roomba around the area until the demo ended. That was over twenty minutes ago. She's still standing guard over it, where it sits in its docking station. I think Zenzo's waiting for it to play again. Tomorrow should be interesting.
I'm now faced with the somewhat daunting task of naming my new child. She's so classy in color, that I think she might end up with a snooty name, though I'm waiting until I get to see her personality a bit. If you've got any suggestions, let me know.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

No Off Button

I can tell it's been too long since I've last written anything when my mind starts building stories without conscious effort, and this has been happening to me a lot lately. In the middle of conversations, while I'm reading, while driving, while working. Snippets of ideas for future Madison novels, new and interesting characters, short stories, novels. The whole works.

It's been nearly two weeks since I've had time to work on Madison, and then it was still just editing, not writing. Creativity is bubbling up, and there's no off switch.

Which is exactly how I like it. It's time to squeeze in a little writing.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Birthday Book Loot

I don't know how this happened: Though I try to always get the first book in a series when I'm buying new authors, and I make a special point to check the front of the books for the series order, I managed to acquire over the last year nearly a dozen novels that I couldn't read because they were the second (or later) in the series and I lacked the first. So when it came to my birthday, I had several very specific requests for books. Cody got me them all!

I now have Janet Evanovich Stephanie Plum novels 7-10, which means the 11-13 that I have I can also now read (though not all in a row), several new-to-me authors like Talia Gryphon (fantasy) and Jessica Andersen (paranormal romance; Who isn't fascinated by the 2012 apocalypse prophecy? And combine it with some romance and kick-ass men, and that's my kind of a book), and the ever-popular Katie MacAlister. I now have 58 fiction novels sitting on my shelves waiting to be read!

I must be addicted to reading, because that's the only way that I can explain the impulse that I still have to go to Borders and pick up a few new novels I know have recently come out. Honestly, it makes a certain amount of sense to me to have more than my usual number of novels on my home bookcases, since I've been reading a lot more this year than the last few years. In fact, I'm averaging more than one novel a week since I've read 29 books so far (30 by tomorrow) and we're only in week 24.

And the fact that I feel I need to justify it only solidifies my belief that I might be addicted to reading. I feel no need, however, to join a support group. Maybe a reading group...

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Celebration Meal

For this week's NON question and contest, I ask readers to comment on what a celebratory meal would include for them. I've actually be giving this a lot of thought lately, since my birthday is today.

Usually a celebratory meal includes a dessert of some kind, in this case, cupcakes. Also, I usually have wine (though not with the cupcake!). But for the real meal, the main course, I don't have a favorite. Childhood favorites of pizza and mac & cheese have fallen by the wayside now that I've given up dairy. I almost always am ready to eat Mexican food, so that's a possibility. Same with Italian, though there are surprisingly few dishes without both pork and dairy, so that's also slipped to the side. Having been reading In Defense of Food, I am leaning more toward veggies at the moment. A nice salad sounds good, though not particularly celebratory.

I've been running this circular track in my mind for nearly a week now, and the one conclusion I've come to is this: the food doesn't matter. I don't remember what I had to eat for my last birthday, and I suspect I won't remember what I eat at this one a year from now. The company, however, is far more important.

So perhaps my final answer is this: my celebratory meal is something tasty eaten with good friends and family.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Weekend Vacation

Cody and I are leaving today for our first weekend getaway in far too long. It's not birthday related, though my birthday is on Monday. It's simply about having some fun with friends, and I've been looking forward to this weekend for the last month or longer.

I hope you all are having similarly delightful weekends. I'll be back on Monday with this week's NON-related post.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Celebrity Influence

I made my reading selection, as you may have noticed on my Shelfari bookcase: the novel of choice is Amber Benson's Death's Daughter.

I admit that I was attracted to this book for the shallow reason that it was autographed and had a large eye-catching sticker on the front advertising this fact. The story sounded mildly intriguing from the back flap, but it was the author's picture that caught my attention. First, it was placed on the back of the paperback book, remarkable in itself considering that Benson has only one novel on the shelf, and this sort of honor typically seems reserved for New York Times best-selling authors. Second, the author looked familiar.

Flipping the book open, we come to the second shallow reason for which I purchased this novel: the author is none other than the character Tara Maclay on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I've never had the autograph of an actor. I was sold.

I'm amused at myself and a little embarrassed that such trivial things made me want to buy the book. Part of me laid down a silent gauntlet to this actress—a challenge to see if she could be any good when placed on the other side of the art (no longer mouthing the words of others, but creating them). To my credit, and Benson's, she's also cowritten several other novels, so there was potential to Death's Daughter that maybe it hadn't been purchased by a publishing house on the sole basis that Benson is a minor celebrity and, therefore, already had a selling platform.

I'm 37 pages into the book, and the verdict is still out. The character's voice is very...valley girl? Amateur? The writing is a little too telling interspersed with almost desperate showing verbs and adjectives when the action ramps up. The world is a little too narrow, like looking at it through the tunnel vision of the main character. But the story, the plot, is captivating enough that though I've thought several times about setting the book aside, unfinished, I can't make myself.

Hum, that didn't sound like particularly rousing praise, given that I'm less than 50 pages into the novel. Still, there's hope for it to improve, or at least grow on me more.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Food Conspiracies

While I've been trying to settle upon the next novel to be read, I've been reading Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food and finding it highly entertaining and equally eye-opening.

As a child raised after nutritionism became a national pastime, I'd never considered what general American culture must have been like before the food industry started dictating the eating habits of our nation. I've grown up with the mentality that what I hear from the media about which foods are (now) healthy and which aren't is the norm. It never occurred to me to question the truth behind the marketing of fad after fad—low-fat, low-cholesterol, low-carb, high-omega-3.

Now that I think about it, my grandparents clearly did not turn to science gurus and the media to tell them how to eat. They ate the foods they grew up with. They ate what their parents told them to eat when they were young, and they probably didn't vary that much when they became adults.

I haven't read more than a third of the book, so hopefully Pollan will answer this question for me: I wonder how much of our obesity-plagued society is due to the meddling with diets (like creating trans-fats and stuffing everything with high-fructose corn syrup) and how much is due to our cultural obsession with cramming as much as we can into a day, the faster the better, especially now that faster usually means electronically or by car, and therefore sedentary.

Everything I've read so far in Pollan's book feeds back into my desire to live like my idealized European lifestyle. He touches on this subject, too—how many European cultures eat everything our scientists tell us we shouldn't, yet still are healthier than we are, and how health has much less to do with exactly what we put into our mouths, but how we live our lives and how we approach our food. Eating on the go in the car brings no pleasure to food. Eating a two-hour dinner with friends is all about enjoyment.

Which makes me think of one of my favorite Mama Gena quotes: "Pleasure is not frivolous. It guides, instructs, unfolds creativity, educates."

And makes us healthy, she could add. Of course, I feel Americans in general have their priorities upside down, trying to cram as many chores, errands, and work into each day rather than as much pleasure as possible.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Hamilton vs. Carey

Cody was incredibly sweet and allowed me to open one of my birthday presents early: Laurell K. Hamilton's Blood Noir. I finished it too quickly to put it up on my Shelfari bookcase (and a week before my actual birthday!). However, I got to do what I wanted: read two of my favorite author's new releases back-to-back.

It was decadent. Two known good authors in a row, with familiar characters, was fabulous. What stood out, though, were the differences.

In Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Mercy the story unfolds over months, deeply rooted in the character's histories and environment, while Hamilton's novel takes place in less than a week's time, and is focused more on the impact of the present events on the future.

Their writing styles are so vastly different that it was almost jarring. Carey has fluidity and almost poetic prose; Hamilton is harder—not harder to read, but hard as in tough-as-nails, gritty. Both had more than the average novel's worth of sex, treated in strikingly different ways. They also both dealt with themes of love, but coming at it from such different angles as to make them barely recognizable when held up next to each other.

It's so hard for any book to follow Carey's, but Hamilton's was a good bridge between Carey and the unknown authors on my shelves. I no longer feel the need to hold off on reading anything else with the idea of lingering in Carey's world. Of course, another Carey novel is coming out later this month...

Monday, June 8, 2009

What's in a Name?

I have long believed that a person's name does more than give them something to be called by; it shapes and defines personality in subtle ways that, short of being able to see parallel universes where the same person is given two different names with which to lead the same life, can't be measured. It's a force that can't be pinpointed, but which everyone seems to understand on an intuitive level. It's the reason that authors create pseudonyms, actors create stage names, and parents choose names for their children from the names of stars and heroes of their generation. There are certain names that resonate with an adventurous personality and others that are happy working nine-to-five jobs and tinkering in the yard on the weekend.

When it comes to characters, names play just as important a role. A character named Marjorie Goldwaith conjures up a different character than one named Maggie Goodwate. Choosing names for the characters in my novels has taken as short as a few seconds to as long as days, weeks, and months, depending on how quickly I find a fit. In my second Madison novel, I've changed the names of one of the secondary characters midway through the second novel without realizing it until I looked back over my notes. It changed because the character changed from who I thought he was, and the first name I choose for him no longer fit.

The crowning example for me of the importance of a name is my main character's name. Madison Fox was not always her name. In the first draft, it was Bridget Fox. I liked Bridget. She was a curly redhead, spunky, with a little more enthusiasm than intelligence, and a gifted way of walking through the world with a permanent cloak of innocence about her shoulders. Somehow, this is how "Bridgets" are defined in my head, having never known a Bridget.

When I got to the end of the first novel and started the reread, I didn't completely like Bridget. She lacked the core of strength I knew she was going to need for future novels. Bridget Fox would have made a great character for a stand-alone novel. She was going to falter and fail in a trilogy.

Keeping in mind the decade in which my protagonist would have been born, her parents, and the scope of the series, I tried out a few different names until I hit upon Madison. Madison fit. Madison was just a shade darker, a touch more cynical. She has steel fused at the center of her personality. Her looks were different, too. Madison did not have red hair, and it definitely wasn't curly. It was dark and thick, with a little body. She was a little paler, without Bridget's freckles. She was also smarter but lazier, just as enthusiastic, but with a well-honed ability to think on her feet when her lack of foresight (frequently) lands her in trouble.

I've written book two, and "Madison" still fits. When I think of book three and all the plots I have, "Madison" still works. I am so very, very thankful that my character's names are malleable. I have a feeling that if I'm ever given the chance to name anything with a real birth certificate, I'll be filling out legal documents for a name change before that being is five years old.

Saturday, June 6, 2009


As a big surprise to me, my sister and her husband flew up to celebrate my thirtieth birthday with me yesterday (and through the weekend). While my official birthday is not until the fifteenth, plans prevented us celebrating closer to my birthday...which is all the better for me, since that means that I now get nine days of birthday celebrations!

Part of the fun today included going to see Pixar's latest release, Up. I went with moderate expectations and purposeful ignorance, or at least as much as I could maintain in light of all the commercials for the film.

Pixar slumped a while ago and fell out of favor in my eyes. After The Incredibles, which I thought was a very fun and entertaining film, I was sorely disappointed by Cars, which after watching I wished I could have those hours back. Ratatouille was somewhat better, but only by comparison to Cars. When Wall-E came along, I wasn't too sure about watching it, but ended up enjoying it.

Up outdid them all. There was not a single moment in the movie when I thought, this is dull or I wish they'd just get on with the story. I was enthralled from the beginning to the end, and I happily participated in the emotions of the film, surprised at the depth and variety the film elicited.

On the car ride back home, we all couldn't stop talking about our favorite parts of the movie. It was a great movie to watch in the theater, and I highly recommend watching it in 3D! I'm even considering renting it again when it comes out on film.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

What Not To Do

There was no possible way that I could go from reading Jacqueline Carey to another author without comparing the two. I very much wanted to immediately jump into Laurell K Hamilton's Blood Noir, but since I don't own it and it's mere days before my birthday, Cody's forbidden me from purchasing anything for myself. Short of going to Borders and reading it in the store (in hiding, and lying to Cody regarding my whereabouts), I've been reading something else.

That something else I won't name. There's no point in it. It's plain not good. The writing, oh, the writing. To have fallen from Carey to this. This telling not showing book, where the characters do things like (paraphrasing): "something in her sensed Zach was following her" when Zach is actually walking right behind her, and like a normal person, she could hear him, or "it was incredibly complex and simple at once" said about everything from an emotion to the sunrise, without further explanation. And how many times can fear/lust/excitement/joy lance through a person? Surely there are better ways to say it.

Obviously, this isn't a repeat author for me. And this isn't a debut author, either. She has nearly a dozen published novels on the shelves. However, she'll serve as a good warning of what not to do.

Oh, all-knowing Unvierse, when will the next Carey novel be out to save us from this mediocrity?

(I just checked, rather than continuing to whine to my computer. I have a mere couple of weeks to wait for the next Kushiel installment, but she's also released a stand-alone werewolf/superhero novel. I'm intrigued.)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


Knowing that I had a long day sitting in my work chair today, I went for a walk this morning around my apartment complex. I was up rather early (for me), so I was able to walk around before most people were leaving for work. In fact, in a 600+ apartment complex (I really don't think I'm exaggerating), it was just me out and about this morning...and some guy driving an ex-cop car from Dumpster to Dumpster, then diving in and picking out the glass bottles.

Well, it was just the two of us, and the birds. I don't remember being especially attuned to birds before in my life. When I was growing up, I don't recall giving them much thought. I thought birdwatchers were harmlessly kookie. Within the past year, though, I think I might be in danger of joining their ranks.

There are so many fascinating birds in this area, more than I know the names of. The tiny sparrow hoovering six inches over the grass looking for worms was adorable. The raucous calls of the tiny yellow birds contrasted with their two-inch height. The blue jays pierced the air with their dive-bomb sounds. Ducks and geese honked as they flew over. But it was the turkeys that finally made me realize how many times I'd been stopped, frozen in place during my walk by one bird or another. Turkeys are no small creatures. Put seven of them together, and they make quite a large flock. They're wild here, but they're not too scared of people. This flock got within seven feet of me before they got nervous. I eventually shuffled around them through the rows of parked cars and managed not to scare them too much.

All in all, it was a wonderful way to start the day, surrounded by nature while walking through the pathways of my apartment complex. The walk was as needed as I predicted. I just finished nearly nine hours sitting here, and I'm done!

Monday, June 1, 2009

What Draws Me In

For this week's NON contest, I asked readers to comment on what draws them into a story: plot, characters, or voice?

I think I've waxed on about this repeatedly in my blog, though a quick look back through my blog titles didn't reveal a string of "Character vs. Plot" type titles like I expected. Perhaps it's been Cody bearing the brunt of my musings on this perpetual debate. Nevertheless, I'm sure I've said this before here (under some not-so-specifically-titled post), and I'll say it again:

I'm a character woman. I need good characters. Good characters can thrive without a plot for the most part. They can be entertaining at doing nothing but living, much like good friends. When a character's quiet life is as interesting as the way she react to crisis and conflict, then I know I'm in the hands of an excellent writer. Combined with great plot...ah, there's the magic. The most fantastical plot without good characters is nothing more than a failed attempt to get people to suspend disbelief. All the right events are there, but there's no life to them.