Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I Found Martha's Vineyard

I've heard tales of Martha's Vineyard, read books where the characters visit it or live there, seen it in movies and TV shows, but up until today, I never knew where exactly it was. I could have, at any point, gone to Google and checked, but I didn't. There wasn't a need until today when I was researching a scene. I wanted the main character to go there for a party, one that turns ugly and gets her into something far more dangerous than she can handle. The problem: it's too far away from New York city. I don't want to put my electricity-frying character in a car for that long, and I definitely don't want her on a boat. Both scenarios would cause too many problems at the wrong point in the story. She doesn't want to be in either of those situations, either.

Now I'm tasked with finding a very nice house of the rich and famous somewhere closer to New York. And it needs to be a house because it needs to have a basement. Unfortunately, none of my three maps have little labels that say "sprawling properties here." Back to the Internet I go.

Monday, September 28, 2009

New York, Everywhere

My head has been bouncing between four stories these last few days. For some reason, Areia (my ridiculously long first novel that I haven't touched for at least a year) would not be quiet. So I mapped out the rest of the story, realized that the 1,309 pages that I have would have to be squished down to 200 pages if I wanted to make the entire story one novel. Two would be better, but the only thing I can think of that was sold as a two-part series was something that Tad Williams did, and even then, I think it was his third in the series that was split into two books. So I ended up depressed with that whole scene. Yes, there's a way to make it three books rather easily, but for some reason, Areia was ready to be worked on, edited, and go, and my muse was telling me I could finish the whole book/series in a few days. Ha!

So I tried to focus on Madison again, but no, my new stories were interrupting. I've made my decision between the two plot ideas for the one I'll be writing in November (I went with the lighthearted romance/adventure instead of the apocalyptic one), so I told the apocalyptic one that I'd map it out second and set it aside. And since getting the November story mapped out is on my list of things to be done soon, I stopped fighting the desire to work on it...at some ungodly time in the night when I couldn't sleep because it wouldn't. So that's partially mapped and I'm really liking it and I went a different direction than I was thinking I would, which again turned into a blessing and got rid of a lot of pesky plot problems. The male lead is trying his hardest to not be a stand-up guy, though, and that's bothering me. I'd like my as-of-yet-unnamed main character to fall for a decent guy.

We just returned from Borders with research material: in this case, maps. For some reason, both the stories I was deciding between seemed to fit only in New York. I, however, have never been to New York, don't know anyone from New York, and in general couldn't tell you where Manhattan is in relation to New York City in relation to Martha's Vineyard. Until now.

I have three maps in my office: a state map, a close-up New York City map, and one of those artsy maps that has buildings and bridges drawn in 3D of New York City "and Region." It's New York everywhere.

In order to get them all to fit, I had to move my framed diploma to my second favorite spot in the room to use that wall for the 3D map, then tape another to the office door, and the third is across the accordion closet doors, cut along the seems and taped so the doors can still be opened. I'm rather liking that one the best right now. It seems the most creative. On top of that, I've got 3x5 cards taped all along the hall as part of my plot brainstorming (there was no wall space left in the office since Madison one [condensced version] and Madison 2 [full version] are still taking up the normal wall of choice). Cody just loves what I've done with the place (not).

Unfortunately, I've run out of tape. Which put a halt to plotting, and means I have to move on to the next thing on my list: research of the actual city of New York online. And, of course, before I go much further with this new story, I MUST finish Madison!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Day Off

I was tempted to jump right into editing Madison again and working on the query and getting everything all polished, and then I realized that after working 14+ days straight, I simply didn't have the energy for it. So I took a day off.

Ah, bliss. I went shoe shopping. I went to one of those huge stores where they have at least 100 different styles of shoes all lined up on display, and all the boxes easy to grab from right beneath them—no waiting for salesmen to meander from the back room to the sales floor, no people trying to help you stuff your foot into a shoe.

It was interesting to watch the other women, too. They moved through the shoes the way I move through a bookstore, like it calmed them, righted their world, made their lunch hour better.

Of course, after I had that thought, I had to go to the bookstore. Gasp—shoe and book shopping in one day! I found sandals half off and a book for only $.69 after my coupons. It was amazing.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

What's in a Number...

...Except, perhaps, a feeling of satisfaction. I have just completed my 55th book this year. That's a record for me, and not one I set out to break/make. In fact, I'm a little shocked to realize how many books I've fit into this year so far, especially considering everything else going on in my life.

I've looked back to months in which I knew I was terribly busy, and those are often the months when I have the most books completed. Perhaps this is a reflection on my general approach to books: a form of escape or relaxation. If I'm incredibly busy, then those are the months when I fill my breakfast time and teeth-brushing time with books, when I sneak a few pages before falling to sleep, or bring a book with me on an office visit to the chiropractor.

So far, romance is winning as far as most book's in a genre read in the year—but it's only winning by one, and only because I combined paranormal romance and regular romance into one category. Otherwise, fantasy has been the winner this year. I've been lucky to have a lot of my favorite authors release one or two books this year, which definitely helps matters. The fact that I've got a Jacqueline Carey sitting on my shelf unread, and have had it since July, says a lot—that I've been busy, that I've been blessed with a lot of good books, that I'm silly for waiting and savoring it.

Anyway, I hope you all have been equally blessed with reading this year.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Memory Lane

I've been listening to Johanna Lindsey's The Devil Who Tamed Her lately. There's a very boring saga that leads up to the reason why I selected this book from the library, but suffice to say, I'm relatively stuck with it at the moment. I'm also almost all the way done with it, so it wasn't bad enough for me to turn it off and seek other means of entertainment to relieve the tedium of my work. I never would have made it this far, however, if this was a book being read solely for pleasure.

I used to adore Lindsey. In fact, I collected everything she wrote. She was one of the first romance authors I found. I loved her characters, the era, the problems her characters faced. Listening to this one, I believe I realize why now: they dealt with issues I was facing as a teenager—fitting in, finding love—while being exotic enough in regency England to be an escape from my life. Plus, they had sex, which is always cool.

And now, I find myself laughing more often than not over the plight of the main character (she's positively too beautiful, and therefore no one gets to know the real her and all they see is her beauty). I wonder if I would have scoffed at this book even in my teen days.

This novel did take me back a bit though, to all those authors, like Lindsey, who I recently purged from my shelves. Lindsey (and Catherine Coulter and Judith McNaught) were my romance-reading foundation. I'm glad they were there for me when I was into those books, and I'm equally as glad that I've graduated into different authors now.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Wisdom of Video Games

I had the best of intentions yesterday. I finished work, finished paying bills online, finished balancing the budget, and finished emailing people, which pretty much meant that I was finished sitting in this computer chair for a while. At least until after dinner. Then, I planned to return to write some no doubt mind-blowing, inspiring blog post that would leave you breathless.

Dinner came and went, but instead of returning to my computer, I switched on the PS3 and turned on Portal, a puzzle game that comes as part of the five-game Orange Box along with Half-Life 2 and a few other games.

Four hours later, I was stuck in the game, Cody was stuck with me, and I finally decided to turn it off. I stood up...and nearly fell back to the chair as feeling came back into my legs, my back tried to stiffen into a warped plank, and my bladder—my woefully neglected bladder, which I'd steadily been filling with glass after glass of water—reminded me of its existence. It was after midnight, so even if I had raced (okay, staggered) to the computer, I still wouldn't have gotten a post in yesterday. And despite the fun and challenge of the game, there wasn't a lot of anything left in me to write.

The experience, however, left me a little wiser:

1. Portal is dangerously addictive (though, that's okay now, because Cody and I beat the game this morning, so that addiction is out of my system).
2. Just like when sitting at the computer for long stretches of time, I do need to stand every once in a while and blink a little more often than I did.
3. Most important: We need new chairs!

The recliner that I sat in came as part of a package with Cody. It is 15 years old. The footrest has broken in the middle to a permanent dip. The arm padding is worn away enough that you can tell that the wooden boards beneath are no longer connected properly and have a tendency to give out if you attempt to use them to assist your upward momentum. But most important, any lingering traces of back support are gone.

My chair, which is now Cody's chair when we sit in the front room, is not a lot better. It's older—it was used before I got it 10 year ago. It will recline only with extreme force and a grating metallic sound that scares the cats. The handle to release the footrest broke, so Cody must reach under the chair and press a sharp lever to put his feet up. The footrest itself is crooked (I call it the Harrison Ford smile—take a look at his Indiana Jones smile, and you'll know what the front of my chair looks like when it is closed), so it doesn't like to close and must be mule-kicked into submission. And like my chair, there's only a wistful amount of support left in the back. The spring in the seat are rapidly giving up hope, too, so that it's gradually morphing into something that resembles upholstered quicksand. Not to mention that my cats thought the back of the chair made a great scratching post, so now it's shredded up both sides and a blanket is permanently tucked in around it to give it some semblance of class.

The time has come for new furniture. The surest sign (if this wasn't enough): the pieces selling for a mere $50 on Craig's List look like floor-room models compared to our furniture.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Cudos to Principals

I just finished watching a KVIE documentary on two different principals and their schools. Principals work hard! Cody, who was somewhat amused by my immediate emotional attachment to the lives of these people I don't know, asked me at the end of the show if I now wanted to be a principal. I didn't even have to think about my answer:

No way, no how.

It takes too much. Too much soul, too much heart, too much time and energy. It takes a certain kind of person to put that much of themselves into their job and come away feeling good and happy and pleased with what they do. I'm so thankful there are people out there who are replenished by being principals (and teachers and social workers).

Writing replenishes me. Getting to express my creativity is incredibly rewarding for me. By no way shape or form does it take that kind of energy from me, though. Goodness, I have so much respect for all of you who choose to go that route!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Life as Religion

If ever I were to follow a book as a form of religion (and I'll not get too specific in defining what is a religion based on a book and what isn't so as not to offend anyone), it would be Terry Goodkind's Seeker of Truth books. I adore the message in them, which boils down to this:

Live your life like you value it.

Of course there's more depth, such as think for yourself and don't blindly follow others out of faith or laziness, be loyal to your friends, look to solutions and not problems, don't blame others for your own misfortunes, strive to make your life better, be the best at what you enjoy doing, etc. Those are all very worthy, very noble goals were ever I to create a religion.

It's interesting to find a fantasy series that so blatantly places the theme at the very forefront, and doesn't bury it within the characters. Goodkind's characters, of course, embody the traits of his theme, but they also preach them. Ad nauseam (it's the reason I took a four-year hiatus from the series). Through character and narration, Goodkind beats the reader over the head with his ideals, rubs their face in it, buries them beneath it, adds on top an avalanche of a reminder of his theme, tops that with a blizzard with each snowflake inscribed with his theme...you get the idea.

But, if he were attempting to set the groundwork for a religion, it's definitely all there.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Go For It

A couple of weeks ago I asked the question of the Number One Novels commenters: what would they do for a career if money were no object? I was shocked by the fact that everyone listed a career choice that is obtainable.

Most people said they'd be authors—to no great surprise. But a few had other ideas. Craft shop owner, used book store owner, librarian. All jobs that could be achieved even with money as an obstacle. The distinction, I guess, being that they could not be easily obtained.

My dream—money notwithstanding—is to be an author. Which is exactly what I'm trying to do. I don't think I'm better than these people; I simply could not imagine not living my life with my dreams in focus. It was that—that these people would allow a monetary obstacle to prevent them from following their passion—that astounded me. You get the one life: make the most of it, folks!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Paper Seduction

I've just spent the last half hour glued to the very attractive Paper-Source website. This is rather unusual for me. First of all, lately as soon as I can leave this chair, I'm out of the office, not dinking around on the Internet. Second, I'm not typically a stationary type of person. I admittedly purchase my thank you cards at Target or wherever I find a pack that's cheap (like $3 and under), with the idea that it's all about what the card says, less about the card.

Paper-Source could change everything for me.

I went to the site to check out what paper flowers looked like (they were referenced in something I was reading, and I needed a visual). They're fun!

Left are the magnolias, right are the poppies.

But after I found the flowers, I spent most of my time clicking through the calendars.

I think I'm a little obsessed with calendars to begin with. I have three in our rather small apartment: one for personal stuff (appts, plans, etc.), one for writing, and one for work. Which enables me to have three different changing pictures throughout my house. I love it.

But this last year, it was suprisingly difficult to find attractive calendars and I had to fall back on generic ones similar to last year's calendars. Paper-Source.com has opened up a whole new world for me. Here are my favorites:

The dangerous (but oh so cute and tasty looking!) cupcake calendar.

The tastefully designed calendar in soothing tones.

The fun calendar.

(Aren't the penguins adorable?) This one is my favorite, but it doesn't leave much room for jotting notes.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

One-Year Anniversary

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the day I quit the corporate world and began working for myself. The time flew by (far faster than it would have had I not quit, since we all know time goes faster when you're having fun). And I have been having fun. Not only do I look forward to going to work every day, but Cody and I are better off financially than we ever have been in our 9.5-year relationship, and we're in a much better place emotionally without me coming home every day either raging mad or in tears. Life it good.

I'm a little shocked that I still haven't completed Madison (two years after I finished writing it!), though. It's been, sadly, on a back burner for almost a month now, and as you might have guessed from the sporadic blog posts, I've been very busy lately. First with birthday goodness, and now with a wonderful influx of work. I'm sincerely looking forward to September 23, which is the next day I'll get a break, and hopefully it'll be the next day that I work on Madison (if not earlier) and do the final polish I desperately want to finish and send off query letters.

Because once I do that, I'll be able to give myself free rein for story-building my next novel. (Yes, I do a little dance in my chair every time I think about that.)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Sinking or Rising

So I can't decide if I've sunk to a new low or risen to a new level: I have, over the last few days, been so absorbed in Terry Goodkind's Phantom that I've been listening to it while I work, then picking up where I left off in the book and reading it during my free time (breakfast, lunch, and evenings). It's a level I've never been at before, having always either listened to a whole novel or read the whole thing. Both is...well, rather decadent. I'll be off to the library tomorrow to pick up more audio books—Phantom won't last much longer at this rate. I hope that they have the next in the series!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


I've been torn between two ideas for a totally new novel—the one I'll write, or at least start, in November. This hasn't ever happened to me before. Usually, I get an idea, and then I get so wrapped up in fleshing out that idea that the one story pretty much takes over. This time, I had the idea, but no fleshing-out ideas were coming. And then a completely different story cropped up. Different in genre, different in tone, different in length. Pretty much different in every possible way.

I wrote it down in my file that I keep on story ideas. I talked about it a bit with Cody. I had just the inkling of what could be a good story. Basically the first thirty pages of a good story. No idea where it would end or go. Which made it perfect to set aside and allow to percolate while I focused on the first idea.

The second idea didn't want to be denied. New storylines and scenes began cropping up for it, until I found a theme that resonated with me in a way that the other story didn't. Only, by now, I'd developed enough of a plot for the first story that it's gaining momentum, starting to push to want to be written.

So I did something I've never tried before: I drew a line down the white board in my office and wrote down everything I had about one story on one side, and everything I had about the other story on the other side.

I didn't help. Now both seemed like the story to write. Both are fun, interesting, and challenging. Cody cast his vote for the one I'd write first. I'm still torn. I'm leaning toward one, but it's the more serious of the two, and there's a lot of seriousness in my life right now. The escape into a humorous book sounds appealing. Of course, the theme of the serious novel is compelling me, calling to me, cropping up everywhere I look. Only two months left to decide...

Monday, September 7, 2009

Birthday Season

Birthday season has officially come to a close today. Between August 20th and September 4th, we celebrate five birthdays and acknowledge another three. It's a hectic, cake-filled extravaganza that's delightful and always a bit of a relief to my sugar-overloaded system when it's over. Cody's is the last birthday, and his usually falls on Labor Day weekend, so we get to end with a three-day celebration that usually involves at least three different cakes. This year was no different.

So a little plumper, a little more sugar-filled, and a lot happier, I bid ado to 2009's birthday season and look forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas and the smattering of well-spaced-out birthdays in the meantime.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Cat Thief

Cute Overload has stolen my cat! That, or she's doing photo shoots that I don't know about (which would explain why the cat on the new all-wheat litter looks exactly like her with some photoshop color enhancement, too...). Here is what my cat, Zenzo, looks like, down to the brown nose on an otherwise gray and white body.

The differences between this cat and my sweet Zenzo are so minute, that I think anyone other than myself (and whoever is this cat's mom) would be hard pressed to point them out. Just looking at this picture makes me feel the same loving feelings I get when looking at my cat. Crazy!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

My Muse Is Amused

Remember how I said that the sychronized collapse scene in the Flash Foward preview really appealed to my muse? Apparently there's a few more people out there on the same wavelength. Check out the preview for Bruce Willis's new movie, Surrogate, with a careful eye for seconds 2:16-2:18. Very appeasing. Very amusing.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Dragon Dreams

I've been immersed in two Todd McCaffrey novels for the last week or so, as I've mentioned, and I've also been very tired. It took me three nights to connect the correlation and realize it's all the fault of Todd and Dragonsblood.

In the novel, the characters are hunting for a cure to save the sick dragons. Every day that they're unsuccessful, dozens of dragons die. There's a cast of at least six to ten main characters, all approaching the problem in their unique way, but all constantly searching.

At night, in my dreams, I tried to help. I kept waking up from dreams of dragons—not riding them or impressing one or anything fun like that, but of dreams of restlessness related to dragons, of hunting and searching and grasping at nothing to try to save them or train them or help them.

It took three nights of me surfacing from sleep repeatedly in the night, thinking, Don't go back to dreaming about dragons, before I connected it to the reason I've been so tired. I'm sad to have ended Dragonsblood, but happy that tonight's sleep will be restful.