Saturday, March 30, 2013

Rise of the Guardians

Happy Easter!

Today's post is going to be short and sweet, since I still have a mountain of candy to cram into tiny plastic eggs, not to mention baskets to put together.  (Why do I always wait until the last minute?)

Have any of you seen the movie Rise of the Guardians yet?  My kids are in love with it, and this week alone I've probably seen it half a dozen times.  My son is six, and he's at that age where his friends are beginning to say they don't believe in Santa, or the Easter Bunny, but he's holding on for as long as possible.  I was scared that this might be the last year for him, but thanks to Guardians, I think we've got another year or two ahead of us.  He's totally convinced that a giant rabbit with an Australian accent is going to come hopping through the house tonight and hide eggs, while Sandman gives him sweet dreams.  He made me promise to lock the dog up as he partially quoted the movie with, "Do you know what dogs do to bunnies?"  I've even heard him quietly whispering to Jack Frost that he'd be okay with a snow day or two.  You can bet I'm jumping on Amazon next week to order William Joyce's The Guardians of Childhood, the series that inspired the movie.  Any story that can keep the magic alive in my six year old's heart is top notch in my eyes.

That's the kind of story telling that makes me love writing.  There's something special about reaching out to an audience and giving them something magical, something that will hopefully stay with them for a long time. We all have books and movies that made an impression on us throughout our lives, and as writers, that's the best we can hope to achieve.  There are faster ways to get rich.  There are better ways to find acceptance or even fame.  For all but a few, writing can't offer you those things.  But it can give you the chance to touch someone else's life in a unique and very personal way, and maybe make a difference to them in the long term.  

Time to keep one little boy's faith alive by hiding a few eggs.  Have a great Easter everybody!

P.S.: Don't forget to check in each day (except Sundays) during the month of April for the A-Z blog challenge.  Sheena kicks things off for us on Monday with the letter A.  I've had a preview of what the other Prosers are writing about, and I can tell you there's a lot of great stuff coming next month!  I'll be checking in with as many blogs as I can, so good luck to all those participating.  Can't wait to see what everyone else is doing!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Books books books

I have a short attention span. I’m not ADD or anything (I’ve checked). But I am one of those people who is happiest when I’m doing 8 different things at once. And things like meetings, long university lectures, and waiting in traffic are close to my worst nightmares.*

It also means that I can have a slight lack of patience with reading. So if a book isn’t engaging me 100 percent, I can have a hard time getting into it. And thus there are a lot of great, potentially slow-starting books that I might miss out on… if I didn’t read more than one book at a time.

That’s right. I’m one of Those People. Apparently I’m not alone though – Karen, friend of the blog, admitted on facebook lately to reading multiple books at once. In the comments, a couple people mentioned they much preferred one book to the two books – maybe three – at a time.

I do six.

Yes, that’s right, six books. That’s how short my attention span is. Most of these are lighter books. I’m not trying to read Doestoyevsky, James Joyce, and Salman*** Rushdie all at once. I’ve been reading a lot of YA lately. You’ll note my list bares a shocking resemblance to Melanie’s lists (particularly this one). Here are some of the books I've read and enjoyed recently, somewhat in order of how good they were.

Really, this should have made it on my awesome list. I adore this book. I want to buy dozens of copies and give it to unsuspecting acquaintances. This is definitely one where my system of multiple books helped me out; I found the first third to be very slow, and almost stopped reading. Thank god I pushed on, because this is the best book I’ve read in a long, long time.


Really? You haven’t read this yet? How many of us is it going to take jumping up and down with this book proclaiming our undying love? Yes, there are kids with cancer in this book. But it’s not a cancer book, not in the Lurlene McDaniel way. It’s a book about living, not about dying. Oh god, I’m about to cry again. But in a good way.

Love, love, love this series. It’s completely addicting – and I’m always pulling these out of my larger pile to read frenetically because I absolutely have to know what happens next. I've got the third one in my stack of books to read. I'm convinced that a certain female love interest is secretly out to get Cassel.

Adult fantasy set in an Egypt-based society (no pyramids, but rivers and desert and loincloths). The main characters are Gatherers, a group of assassin-priests who are sent to kill those judged corrupt by society. The Gatherers are masters of dreams. This was recently nominated for a Nebula award.

I was warned it wasn’t as good as Divergent, which I really liked. But still worthwhile. And I still can’t wait for the third book. In other news, have you heard that they cast the same actress as both Tris AND Hazel from The Fault in our Stars? I think she looks more like Tris, personally.

 I think by the time I got to this book, I’d read far too many dystopian YA novels in a short time span. It was still good, and the sequel is waiting for me to pick it up from the library. Apparently they're making a movie from this too.

I’m only halfway through this. Another slow-starting book, mostly because the first half seems to be entirely about the horrible things happening to all the characters and multiple innocent civilians in the course of war. It’s lacking some of the wonder of the first one. But I’ll still keep reading, because darn it, I want to figure out how Karou and a certain someone are ever going to manage to reconcile. And yes, there will be a movie for this one too, which I think that of the group of upcoming movies has the potential to be completely amazing or completely horrible.

And, of course, there are lots of other books on my to-read lis.

The Far West, Patricia Wrede  (I’ve loved all the books in this series so far; fabulous worldbuilding)
Crewel, Jennifer Albin
Tuesdays at the Castle, Jessica Day George
A Confusion of Princes, Garth Nix

Some of the other nebula nominees:
-Glamour in Glass, Mary Robinette Kowal (liked the first in the series; I highly recommend that series to Jane Austen fans)
-Throne of the Crescent Moon, Saladin Ahmed
-Ironskin, Tina Connolly
-The Drowning Girl, Caitlín R. Kiernan
You’ll note there aren’t many YA books in that to-be-read. What do you all think I should add to it? I’m particularly looking for more good YA. I’m also always on the lookout for adult non-Tolkien-esque fantasy (no elves, and also no politics please. Unless it’s an extra awesome book).

A-Z challenge!
 Almost time! I’m going to start writing my posts this weekend. I bow down to those of you brave enough to do ALL of them on your own. Even four is kind of intimidating.

*Actual worst nightmares (the sleeping kind) tend to include things like zombies, tornadoes, tyrannosauruses**, and being late to work.

** No, really, I’ve had like three dreams about being chased by t-rexes. Thanks a lot, Jurassic Park.

***You know you’re a biologist when you spell it Salmon Rushdie the first time.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Do You Write Linearly or are You a Hopper?

I have to do a short post this week since my kids are on spring break, and we’ve been busy with parks, zoos, and play dates.  Enjoying our balmy 57˚F weather. 

Picture by alceu at stock.xchnge
I just want to share an oddity of mine.  I’ve been doing an editing pass on my novel, and every time I go from the end of the story to the beginning, it takes me a minute to reset myself, to remember that my characters and their relationships with each other are different at the beginning than they are at the end.  It makes me feel good about the story because I can see that relationships have developed and characters have changed.

I’ve heard this advice before that you don’t have to write the story linearly (even if the plot is linear), that you can hop around and write the scene that most excites you.  I read that Stephenie Meyers wrote Twilight this way (I know Twilight again).  She would write the scene that she most wanted to write until she had all of the important scenes, and then strung them all together.  I’m not saying that this isn’t great advice.  If it works, it works.  But I can’t write that way.

I’ve tried to skip over scenes before, and I can’t.  I just don’t work that way.  Every scene changes the character a little bit, and I can’t move on to the next scene until I’ve gotten the characters to the right emotional state.  I’m not saying every scene needs to be perfect, far from it; I only need to know where the character ends up, so I know where he or she is in the next scene.

Sometimes this can be a little frustrating because I can get stuck on one scene for weeks, and there are times when I think I should just skip over it and come back to it, but I can’t.  Believe me I’ve tried.  That's just the way I write.

I’m curious if other writers have this problem.  So tell me about you?  Do you have to write the story linearly or can you hop around from scene to scene?

Happy Easter (a little early).


Friday, March 22, 2013

The Other Woman

Last week, I was miserably sick. If you know anything at all about me, you know exactly what happened next:

I got addicted to a television show. 

Actually, I was already well into season 2 before I got sick. But my true addiction didn't begin until I was sick on the couch with my kitten curled on my chest.

I'm going to do my best to hide the main features of the show so that I don't spoil it for anyone. If you've seen it, you can probably guess what show I'm talking about. If you haven't--I don't want to spoil it for you when you finally discover it. You'll thank me later. J

For the season finale, our intrepid heroine wakes up in an alley in a foreign country. As she makes her way home, she realizes something dreadful has happened--she's been gone for two years, and she has no memory of those two years at all. Everyone thought she had died in a fire. They had already mourned her and moved on. Worst of all, she realized that her boyfriend had not only moved on--he was married.

What did I learn from this show?

First of all, you should review MaryAnn's seminal post about the love triangle and the love lambda here.

1. I was watching this show intensely. I would have noticed if anyone went out of character, and it would have ruined everything. Readers/watchers pay very close attention when they are harboring a secret desire for people to behave in an out of character way. You can't do it. People will stop watching.

2. I wanted that Other Woman to be evil. I wanted it desperately. But I would have been disappointed if she had been. I needed to be able to see what _____________ saw in her. I suppose this circles right back around to characterization. We'd already established that he had good taste in women, that he was observant and not easily manipulated. She had to be amazing enough to not only win his interest but to win his interest while he was mourning another woman.

3. Their love story had to have an arc that made sense. In this case, he met her at his lowest point--he'd begun drinking and was hearing voices in his head. He knew his only choices were moving on or insanity.

4. It can't go on forever. In a television show, you've got maybe one season. Probably less. In a book series, maybe one book, but probably less. You don't want your readers to be screaming "Just move on already!" at your book. Especially in public. They won't thank you for it. How long you've got seems to be based on intensity. The more intense the relationships, the less time you have to resolve it.

6. Something has to tip the balance one way or the other.

**Spoiler Alert**
Yup. A spoiler for this show whose name I haven't divulged. But IF you find it, this is how that storyline ends. You've been warned.

In this case, as soon as the audience had accepted the fact that the Other Woman was a pretty amazing gal, we found out she wasn't. She had her own agenda. The key is that the authors waited until WE BELIEVED in her before showing us her bad side. And I gasped, which caused a fit of coughing, and then I said, "Oh thank heavens." I had never been so honestly glad to realize someone was an evil hag in my life.
**Spoiler ends.**

It was as if I were on a rollercoaster, and that moment was when I finally stopped climbing and started the fun part. The climb was necessary, but it isn't the reason people ride the roller coaster.

The rest of the season was a lot of fun to watch. My moral dilemmas were all resolved, and I knew it would turn out fine eventually. I almost didn't want to get better. But I did. Now I'm taking a hiatus before I finish the show. It isn't easy. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The A-Z Challenge

First of all, I'm stepping on Susan's oh-so-talented toes here, because I am posting completely out of turn. Forgive me Susan. Everyone else, please check out today's real

This year, for the very first time, we are participating in the A-Z Challenge. During the month of April, each day except Sunday will be devoted to a letter of the alphabet. Each post must somehow connect to that letter. 

You're going to think we are cheating, but you're wrong. We've scoured the rules pretty thoroughly, and we're good. Although most people do the whole month alone, there are 6 of us Prosers, and we are doing the A-Z Challenge together. We'll be talking about writing, for the most part. This is the order we will be posting in:
Sheena: A, G, M, S, (Y)
MaryAnn: B, H, N, T, (Z)
Susan: C, I, O, U
Sabrina: D, J, P, V
Melanie: E, K, Q, W
Trisha: F, L, R, X
This is our first year doing the challenge. I've been harassing everyone to get their post themes to me for this blog-hop, but after careful consideration (and a perusal of the other blogs) I think that information can stay top-secret for now. Trust me. It's some good stuff.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

I'm a Builder Part II

The Awesome Huge Family Calendar Project

Please ignore the shadow blob on all these pictures - camera defect - *sigh*

So, over the years I've tried to convince myself that my horrendous disorganization is simply the byproduct of an incredibly creative mind. *snort* Okay, but really...with four kids and some huge changes in our work/life schedule, my life was quickly devolving into no creativity and a lot of sheer panic for all the things I kept forgetting.

What I wanted was a huge calendar. I mean huge. And pretty because it was going in the main entryway. And reusable, like a white board. Wouldn't you know it though, every huge calendar I could find looked like it belonged in an office break room.  I'd seen some cute things done with chalk boards and chalk board paint, but it wasn't going to work in my space.

So, since I couldn't find anything I liked (how in the world wide web is that possible?), I decided to create my own.

This project is easy - no nails or screws involved.
Okay, I lied. There's one nail, to hang the calendar.


Picture frame of your choice with glass
Paint (optional)
Wrapping paper - a subtle pattern helps
Letter stickers (if, like me, you are penmanship challenged and/or don't own a Cricut)
Spray adhesive (optional, but I bet you'd get better results with it)


The Picture Frame Part

1. Find a picture frame the size you wanted. We just happened to have this puppy in storage under our stairs. Not a bad picture, but it was outdated and hadn't seen the light of day for years. Best of all, it was 30x30 inches square. Nice and huge, just like I wanted.

2. Take the picture apart. Carefully remove the picture, backing and the glass from the frame. You'll use these later.

3. Paint the frame, if desired. I actually am a wimp with color, so I used leftover trim paint from the house in a nice, clean white. For the space our calendar is in, it blends in well.

The Calendar Part

1. Choose paper for your calendar. Ours was so big that wrapping paper worked out perfectly. It took me a while to find a pattern than I liked that was still subdued enough so that I'd be able to focus on the calendar and not the print. (I found mine at Target)

2. Use your awesome math skills to determine where your lines are going to go (this is dependent on the size of your picture frame and the amount of border you want around the calendar).

3. Draw your lines using a Sharpie and a straight edge. Another benefit to using wrapping paper was knowing I had a few 'do-overs' still in the roll if I messed up. And yes, I used them.

4. Add your days of the week. I used oh-so-stylish stick on letters from Wal-Mart. You, perhaps, don't have the penmanship of a neanderthal and can do something better. 

The Really Tricky Part

1. Place your calendar onto the picture backing you saved when your took your picture frame apart. In my case, the picture and the backing were just a single piece of cardboard, so I turned the picture over and placed the calendar on the blank side.

2. Center it. Yes, I know, for you it'll be easy. For non-crafty me, it was pull-your-hair-out, millimeter scrunching torture. I found that it helped to put the glass over the top and line it up with the cardboard backing. Then I could see if I really did have it even.

3. Secure it. I taped my paper to the back of the cardboard. But, I'm betting that if you had some of that adjustable spray adhesive, it would work a lot better. At the end of my attempt, I had a few puckers. But by that point, there was no way I was taking it all apart again to fix them.

4. Put it all back together again, frame, glass, calendar and backing.

That blob on the camera lens is really starting to bug me.

The Using It Part

1. Hang it on the wall.

2. Use wet erase markers so it won't smear. The glass acts just like a white board, so you can write and wipe off to your heart's content. 

I write the month on the left of each row. You can use it any way you want, but for me, this is a rotating calendar, so my months are not neat and orderly, always starting the month at the top. As soon as a week is done, I erase it and replace it with the next week so I always have five weeks running. I put a sticky note on the current day. So, for instance, my calendar right now is set up like this:

             Sun   Mon   Tue   Wed   Thu   Fri   Sat
April         7     8     9     10    11    12    13
April         14    15    16    17    18    19    20
March         17    18    19    20    21    22    23
March         24    25    26    27    28    29    30
April         31    1     2     3     4     5     6

When this week is done, I'll erase it and add the fourth week of April. I know it looks odd, but it works well for us.

* Oh, and I think this project would work just as well for chore charts or weekly menus, etc.

In case you're wondering why I can never get a straight camera shot of the calendar or my nook desk, here's the answer:

The space I have to work with is a three foot wide hallway. There's my calendar hanging on the left and my desk on the right. It's the perfect spot for dropping stuff and checking the calendar on the run. It's not so great for trying to take head-on camera shots of your building projects.

Anyway, I hope you've enjoyed this little diversion into something not writerly.

Now, get back to writing!


Monday, March 18, 2013


reblogged from

Two weeks from today, Funny Tragic Crazy Magic will be published.


I can't wait to share with you all what I've been working so hard on. 

Today, I get to share with all of you the gorgeousness of my cover. The amazing designer at designed this for me, and he's just the best. If you, or any of your writing buddies, plan on self publishing, you can contact him at

But now, without further babbling... here's my full cover.



LARISSA ALVAREZ is a witch. Magic was useful enough to make her pretty, but beyond transformation runes, Larissa has ignored her mom’s pleas to learn about her magical heritage on the grounds that it’s just too weird.  
But when her family is killed. and the powerful book of runes Larissa was supposed to inherit disappears, she realizes she’s not going to survive without magic. Worse still, she’s falling in love with her only ally, her best friend Joe, who has A SECRET THAT COULD KILL THEM BOTH. 
Now magic is the only way she can reclaim her heritage and save the boy she loves. Larissa dives into the world of magic she’s always ignored and finds herself caught in the middle of an age-old war between Witches and Mages.  

Saturday, March 16, 2013

A Name Worth Remembering

Naming kids is tough.  I'm half way through my third pregnancy, and the first question I get from friends, family, and even strangers in the supermarket is, "Boy or girl?"  When I tell them I don't know, the next question--without fail--is "What names have you picked?"

Talk about being put on the spot.  The truth, dear friends/family/perfect stranger, is that I haven't decided on a name.  I haven't started THINKING about names in any serious way.  I tried to throw a few around near the end of my first trimester, but nothing felt right and I gave up.

What annoys me most about naming my flesh and blood children is not that I wait until the last month or so to settle on a name, but that I am the exact opposite when I write stories.  I get a brilliant idea (or mediocre idea...or downright crappy idea--doesn't matter) and before I can sit down to outline the plot, I start looking for names.  I've read about writers who use place markers for their characters as they outline, with things like, "He drove to town while She made breakfast."  That doesn't work for me.  I HAVE to know His name.  I HAVE to know who She is, and where She came from to get to this story.

In books, you generate the characteristics that make your characters who they are.  You give them qualities, good and bad, that anchor them to their name in a unique way.  When an author has done her job right, she's created not just a simple story, but a realistic person, and world, and adventure, that will forever stick in the reader's head.  Think about your favorite books, and the characters that inhabit them.  Do their names jump out?  When you hear Harry or Ron, what comes to mind?

One trend I'm seeing as I slowly begin the search for my future offspring's moniker is an increase in book-related names.  Isabella and Jacob topped the Social Security Office's list of most popular baby names in 2010, and hardly budged in 2011.  Over at Baby Center you can find a list of inspirational sources for naming your child, and at the top of their list is "Baby names inspired by writers."

In an article from the Daily Mail, listed the following book/movie-inspired names as up-and-coming popular choices for parents: Atticus, Darcy, Eloise, Esme, Gatsby, Holden, Kairi, Katniss, Rhett, Zuzu.  And as the teen readers from the last decade grow into adulthood and begin families of their own, I think we'll continue to see a rise of characters-turned-baby names.

As for me, I think I'll keep looking.  I've got a few more months to figure it out.  And if all else fails, I can do what I did with my first two babies: steal my favorite name from one of my own stories.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Writing music: Ludovico Einaudi edition

I've talked a lot about what music I love to listen to while writing. Overall, the music I've discussed has been pretty dark - not surprising, because I mostly write dark fantasy or horror. But every so often, I do need to write a happy scene, or even a peaceful one. For those times, my favorite artist by far is Ludovico Einaudi.

I'm not generally much of a fan of solo classical piano music. I suppose it can sometimes seem very jarring to me (see previously discussed dislike of baroque music), or sometimes like nothing more than a display of skill. I'm sure it doesn't help that my musical brain is completely lacking, so I can't properly appreciate skilled playing (this may also be why I'm not a huge fan of instrumental jazz).

Okay, I'm wandering off topic. It's probably because I've spent the past two days doing nothing but filing at work. It's amazing how much doing mindless tasks like that completely kills your mental faculties.

Anyway! Music. I could keep trying to explain why I love Ludovico Einaudi's music, or I could just put in a sample for you.

Divenere is my favorite album of his by far (the album art above and below are from his Best Of CD). It's 100 percent lovely and hopeful and melodic. Some tracks are solo piano, but others have strings as well, as does the above track.

Who knew Mondays could sound so nice?

I Giorni is another lovely piano track:

But one of the biggest contributions that Einaudi has had to my writing is that he is responsible for one of my two Inspiration Tracks. My Inspiration Tracks are for those nights when I'm feeling a little down. When I'm not quite in the mood for writing. When I need to get a bit pumped up for being creative, but not in an Eye of the Tiger or Chariots of Fire way.  For those moments, this song is perfect:

(The second of the two songs is by Zoe Keating, previously featured on one of my writing music posts, and her song "Escape Artist.")

What kind of piano music do you like best, and what are the songs that help you get started writing?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

David Farland's Four Elements of Every (almost every) Bestseller

Picture from stock.xchng
Not too long ago I went to LTUE where I met the fabulous Sheena and Susan, and yes they are even more awesome in real life.

 We attended a talk on “Tricks on How to Make a Living as an Author,” by David Farland.  He gave great advice like write stories that win awards and become bestsellers.  Okay maybe he had a few other suggestions too, but those were two of them.  If only it was that easy.  :)

But Farland did give his personal insights on what makes a bestselling novel that I thought I’d share.  He said he looked at a list of the bestselling novels of all time and identified four commonalities.

1.   Immersive, interesting setting.  Most of the bestselling novels make the reader feel transported to another place and/or time.  For me this could be overdone and come off as a little self-indulgent like in the series The Wheel of Time (someday I’ll blog about this).

2.  Wide audience appeal .  A lot of bestsellers have a story line that appeals to a lot of people with a diverse cast, strong male and female leads with old and young characters.  A little ethnic diversity doesn’t hurt either if done respectfully. 

However, Farland also recognized that sometimes it is wise to target a specific audience especially if you are an avid reader of that genre or subgenre.

3.  Highly emotional.  Most of the bestselling novels evoked a strong emotional response from readers.  Personally, I believe that stories tap into that emotional side of us, and emotional payoff is essential to a great story.

4.  Lengthy.  A lot of bestsellers are very long, longer than publishers and agents recommend.  Most likely because it takes a lot of pages to create a strong story with a detailed, realistic setting.

So that is what makes a bestseller according to David Farland (I'd add romance or a romantic subplot to his list).  I have to say that a lot of blockbuster novels and movies that I love fit these points:  Harry Potter, Les Miserables (threw that in for you Melanie), Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, etc, so there may be something to it.   Although a lot of stories even those that aren’t best sellers also fit these four criteria.

I wish I knew the list of books he based this analysis on, but I did a little googling and I found some lists for the bestselling books of all time here and here.  And because I’m an avid fantasy reader, here’s the list for the bestselling sci-fi and fantasy writers.  Check them out, and see if David Farland is onto something.

So what do you think?  Is David Farland right?  What do you think are the keys to producing a bestselling novel?


Friday, March 8, 2013

Speaking of music...

This morning, I went on a walk with a friend of mine and declared that this blog post was going to be a simple one, because I didn't have time to spend hours on a topic that needed in-depth research.

Which is why we will be discussing leitmotifs in music and how those principles can be applied to your writing to highlight important connections between characters or events.


And it's not because I'm that smart. It's because I'm that stupid, and don't really know how to write a 'simple blog post.'

Leitmotif: a musical term referring to a short, recurring musical phrase associated with a particular person, place or idea. Some of the most popular leitmotifs in film are Darth Vader's and Jack Sparrow's theme songs.

As you may remember, the music to Les Mis is on constant repeat at my house these days. Even when I don't want it to be. The Song of Angry Men has even become the theme song for my dieting endeavors. The CD (perhaps I should say "CDs" because we have several different versions) don't even have to be playing anymore. One kid will walk through the otherwise silent house mindlessly humming "Look Down" and the tune will get picked up by anyone in earshot, and pretty soon we're all singing along or sharing our latest Les Mis finds from youtube, which is a gold mine of Les Mis related stuff. (Really. Look up Nick Piterra and Les Mis. Or Les Mis Flash Mob wedding.)

A little background: I first heard I Dreamed A Dream years ago, when I learned it on the piano. I thought it was gorgeous, and so I read Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, which was one of the most dismal things I'd ever read...right up there with The Grapes of Wrath. When my mom fell in love with Les Mis, the musical, I thought she was crazy. A musical rendition of the most depressing book ever written? Really? Whose brilliant idea was that? And I never, not even once, listened to it with her. Years later, my daughter fell in love with Les Miserables the musical, and she was more persistent than my mom. My daughter can wax eloquent about every Broadway performer from Les Mis ever, and when I refused to listen to the music with her, she enlisted her brother as a fan. One by one, the songs hooked me.

Because I listened to it in such a haphazard manner, it took a long time before I noticed all the recurring melodies in Les Mis. Every time I find one, it feels like a special gem that I'm ferreting out for the first time, to the general astonishment of the rest of world. 

But really, anyone, listening for the first time, would notice the similarities between The Work Song and The Beggar's Song.

The Work Song:
Look down, look down
Don’t look ‘em in the eye
Look down, look down,
You’re here until you die
The sun is strong
It’s hot as hell below
Look down, look down,
There’s twenty years to go

The Beggar's Song:
Look down and see the beggars at your feet
Look down and show some mercy if you can
Look down and see the sweepings of the street
Look down, look down,
Upon your fellow man!

But it took a lot longer before I noticed the leitmotif that binds the moment when the Bishop is first kind to Jean Val Jean with the moment when Marius returns to the café to find all the chairs empty. That particular connection still gives me chills.

My favorite, absolute favorite connection is the Song of Angry Men and the Epilogue. Somehow I missed hearing both of those songs until I saw the movie in the theatre. I loved The Song of Angry Men immediately, and when the music was reprised in the Epilogue, with the changed wording, I couldn't help but sob. To me it symbolizes the idea that people who sacrifice their lives for someone else go to heaven.

In literature, a leitmotif would be a recurrent use of a word, an expression or a concept that becomes linked with a person or theme. A leitmotif helps create depth in a story. One simple example of a leitmotif would be the descriptions of Sirius Black, James Potter, Peter Pettigrew and Rita Skeeter. Throughout the Harry Potter series, the descriptions of their appearance and personalities all refer back to the animals they transform into, and the characteristics associated with those animals. 

What are your favorite leitmotifs in literature? What do they add? Do you think they are worth the added effort?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

I'm a Builder...But my Name's Not Bob

Unorganized. Disorganized. Paper Challenged. Pulp Product ADD.

Any way you name it - me and bills and school papers and junk mail do not a good combination make. Add to it that I haven't had a desk space all my own in three years, and yeah, well, my financial and calendar life was pretty much a disaster.

In our house there's a hole in the wall that's the perfect place to put a drop zone for all that kind of clutter. But it's narrow and visible right in the main runway of the house, and I've just never found anything to fit there.

Enter Ana White, a mom from Alaska who is a downright genius with power tools. She inspired me that maybe, since I wasn't finding anything I wanted, maybe *gasp* I should build a desk myself.

So, I did. And as I drilled and sawed and sanded the last few weeks away, I thought how much the process of building was like my writing. In fact, I began to wonder if most creative processes don't go through similar steps to get to The End.

Anyway, I couldn't figure out exactly how to write this, so, here's my story in double vision (Oh, and you get some lovely bonus shots of the inside of my garage which is just about as organized as, well, my paperwork):

Once upon a time in my house, I had this little empty nook.
Once upon a time in my heart, I had this little empty space.

And one day I had this idea to build something useful to fill that nook.
And one day I had this idea to write something to fill that space.

I took to staring at that empty nook and imagining what could go there. I scribbled things down on paper.
I took to staring into space and wondering about character and plot and setting. I scribbled things down on paper.

I'd never built anything before, but finally I got up the courage to act.
I'd never written anything like this before, but finally I got up the courage to act.

Lowes cut my lumber (bless you Lowes, or my project would be forever irredeemably crooked), and I invested in the best building tool EVER - the Kreg Jig.
I cut my proverbial writing teeth on a great site (*Hatrack* ahem), and got the best writing tool EVER (for someone like me) - Scrivener.

And look at that! The pieces fit together so nicely. I'd be done in a day. This was going to be sooo - easy!
And look at that! The story was coming together so nicely. I'd be done before you could say NaNoWriMo sooo - easy!

Um, it's looking a little wobbly. It sort of lists to one side. How am I going to fix that? Think, think, think - ah, maybe some corner braces will do the trick.
Um, the story is looking a little wobbly. It sort of has a few little - okay, who am I kidding - giant gaping plot holes. Think, think, think, - ah, that might do the trick...

Wow, but now I had to add hardware - and a drawer - and a door. I'd never done anything like that. This was getting hard.
Wow, but now I had to really look at the nuts and bolts of my writing. I'd never done anything like that. This was getting hard.

But persistence pays off, right? It was time to add the finishing trim. And no, persistence hasn't paid off. It looks like a podium, a big, ugly podium. This is a disaster! I'm the worst builder EVER. And now I've wasted all this time and money. *whine*
But persistence pays off, right? It was time to add the finishing touches. But no, persistence hasn't paid off. It reads like a discombobulated pile of glop. This is a disaster! I'm the worst writer EVER. And now I've wasted all this time and energy. *whine*

Wait! It doesn't have to stay a podium. I can pull the ugly trim off (hooray for not using wood glue!) and get something prettier. Sure, it'll take a little more time and money, but won't it be better to have something I love?
Wait! It doesn't have to stay a discombobulated pile of glop. I can pull out the bad parts and rearrange and get something better. Sure, it'll take a little more time and energy, but won't it be better to have something I love?

And wow, look what a couple coats of paint do to it. Add a few bins and suddenly I've got something functional and beautiful and - holy cow, did I just build that?
And wow, look what a few more edits do to it. Add a few finishing details and suddenly I've got something coherent and beautiful and - holy cow, did I just write that?

So, this is the finished product - a vertical desk about 41 inches high and only 26 inches wide and 20 inches deep. It has four filing spaces in the drawer, two 13x13x16 Ikea bins, and two 'inbox' bins (actually made from Top Ramen boxes, which turned out to be the perfect size - shh, don't tell anyone).

I'm almost done with the matching wall cupboard which will have holding bins for each of the kids' stuff, a cork board and nine cubbies for letters, pens, etc. Wanna see it when it's done? And the awesome, huge calendar I made from an old picture frame?
Who knew I'd like designing furniture this much?
Believe me, if I can do it, anyone can.

Hope you find happiness in whatever you pursue!
And I hope you pursue what makes you happy!


Monday, March 4, 2013


The End.

A reader held the book to their chest, and smiled. Just a few more words left, and they savored them.  They held the book in front of their face, and read those last two words.

Moments before, the reader had been on an adventure, falling in love, escaping the drudgery, or pain, in their real life, as the book rewrote bits of  the reader's soul and changed their life.

Before they read it, the book waited for the reader, collecting dust on a library shelf, or ignored among a million of other digital titles. Sometimes it was picked up. Sometimes it was loved, sometimes it was hated, sometimes it wasn't even opened.

Earlier, the book was in the hands of a publisher, through the halls of a marketing team, and fitted for a cover. It waited as the author and the editor cleaned it, changed it. It waited while the publishers waited for a holiday, or a fad to change, or as another book from the same house launched.

For months, years even, it waited in a pile of papers until someone read it, liked it, and put it to Acquisitions, waited.

Before the pile, it was just a file in some agent's hand, who lovingly pestered publishers to take a look at it. Most ignored it. Some read it, and liked it, but worried it wouldn't make enough money. Some read it and loved it, but were publishing something too similar, or it got lost in office politics. Some forgot about it, some never got around to reading it, and some just didn't get it.

Earlier, shrunk down into less than 500 words, it was paraded in front of hundreds of  jaded or tired agents, who read it in an annoyed or halfhearted way. It was rejected. A lot.

Before that, the author gave up on it. This is the best it will possibly be, she thought. I've wasted too much time and effort into this story, to not try to get it published. She researched, prayed, closed her eyes, and then waited.

Before that, the author worked.

Weeks earlier, some song came on the radio, or some dream, comment, or blog post reminded the author about why they loved the story in the first place. They picked it back up.

computing,Internet,Photographs,please wait,technology,text,World Wide Web,WWWThe story was abandoned. There's no way the author could fix those glaring and obvious mistakes. It waited, for a long time, for it's only reader to notice it, and help it.

Because earlier, while it was separated into a million different files, cut up into chapters, or drafts, it was placed into the arms of beta readers who happened to point out the flaws in logic, and syntax. It waited as the author read the comments. It waited as the author tried to fix a few things.

Before that, it was perfect. The author had tweaked the original story,moved scenes, deleted characters, added steam into the make-out scenes, and fleshed out the descriptions. It had been pure joy discovering the story. The author knew that it was a brilliant, beautiful story, and just a few short weeks from publication.

Six weeks before that, the author and the story wait.

Finally, after months of painstaking and beautiful work, the author wrote the last few words.

"The end."

This week I read this post, the-glacier, where the author, Andrea K. Host, tells about the TEN years her story waited on a publisher's desk before pulling her submission. That post is, in my opinion,  the best argument for self publishing that I have ever read.

This is the thing, your story has been waiting since it first whispered into your ear. It waits as you play with it, it waits as you abandon it, it waits while you live life, and get up your courage to be enough for it. It is waiting for that one or two (times x) people who will read your book and say, "I feel that same way," or "I think that same way", or "My life sucks so much, only a good book can save me." The story is waiting for its audience.

There are a million things that will make your story wait to save someone's life.

What are you making it wait for?

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Random Pieces of Awesome

This morning, I'm posting on Trisha's behalf. Sabrina's Awesome List has inspired me to come up with a list of my own. My Awesome List is much more random than Sabrina's. Rather than being a list of All-time Awesomeness, it's more a list of Awesome Things My Kids and I Thought About Last Night.

It all begins with Imagine Dragons and It's Time. This probably won't stay on my Awesome List forever, but I certainly love it right now.

Last year, a friend of mine told me about The Perfect Recipe for Losing Weight and Eating Great by Pam Anderson. It's not a diet so much as a way of creating routines and rituals surrounding food that are fulfilling enough that you don't have to keep searching for that elusive contentment in the cookie jar. If you have food issues like me--this is a life changing book:

Horatio Hornblower was a TV show produced by A&E. Have you seen it yet? If you love swashbucklers, this is one for you. It's also a great book series, but I think you'll enjoy the books more if you watch the series first:

Ender's Game/Speaker for the Dead. With the exception of scriptures, no book has had a bigger impact on my life than these two books.

I agree with Sabrina's assessment of The Princess Bride and Howl's Moving Castle. They are made of awesome. I can't think of The Princess Bride without thinking of Ghostbusters, since they are the only two movies I've ever memorized.

Sometimes, my younger kids and I gather around the computer and take turns picking youtube videos. We have to suffer through the ubiquitous I'm Elmo and I Know It and then we get to the good stuff. When someone finally picks our favorite puppy video, even the teenagers wander into the room:

Psych. It is rare that a TV show makes me laugh this hard. It is even rarer to find a TV show that I like this much and feel comfortable watching with my family.

Clearplay. This is a special DVD player that will filter inappropriate things out of TV shows and movies. You get to decide what counts as inappropriate, and at what level. I can even share my favorite TV show ever with my kids without feeling embarassed. Which brings me back to when we pick youtube videos. I almost always pick this one. The most Awesome Action Scene ever.