Monday, December 31, 2007

2007: The Blog In Review

I had fun putting together some of my fave posts of the year in 2006, so I figured why not do it again, even if it does smack of the severest form of navel-gazing? Then I actually started with January and was reminded that 2007 contained a good deal of sadness and unpleasantness. So be warned: it's bumpy in the early-going.

It's a Bitter Pill to Swallow:
My grandfather loses his three-year-long battle with cancer.

Mark loses his job, then he gets it back, then I have a work hiccup, then everyone else at Mark's company loses their jobs, then Mark's company wins an award for small-business growth and one for bringing biotech to the Phoenix area, then Mark's company moves to San Diego. (I don't think I ever blogged about it, but Mark did get another job without any downtime. He's now in an industry-academia hybrid at ASU and loving it. Much more stable with awesome bennies, which includes nearly free courses for the both of us and substantially reduced tuition for Drewbie.)

When It Comes to the Breaks, Look to the Reason You Keep at It:
Drew the Climber, Drew the Poison Taster, Drew the Escape Artist, Drew the Kisser, Drew the Amphibian, Drew the Digger, Drew the Two-Year-Old, Drew the Candy-giver, Drew the Chef

When the Going Gets Tough, Figure Out Where You Went Wrong:
This year, I began to examine why I struggled with certain things in life and writing and reading, being sure to take the time to snark and explain and warn and laugh heartily along the way.

I'm curious as to what narratives will frame next year's best posts. Here's to an exciting journey toward figuring that out.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Season's Greetings!

I've got a few precious hours to see about steamrolling my way through the rest of the PPR revisions before we have to pack and then it's on to my mother's for an early Christmas dinner. We'll get back, send Drewbie to bed, and Mark and I will snuggle up together to watch Love Actually, which has somehow become our holiday movie of choice. And tomorrow we're off to the airport in the morning to work our way to Buffalo. We'll get back just in time next weekend for me to do a year in review and throw together my goals for 2008. Oh, and write that intro letter and synopsis for PPR so I can send it off for mad praise and publication.

If you're traveling as well, be safe. If you're not, stay warm and cozy with those you love--or their hearts and voices, if you won't be with them. I hope 2007 finishes well for you and that you are ready to tackle another year with all your hopes and dreams.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Pushed Past the Block

For a night, at least. I've been struggling to get back into a groove with revisions even though I've mapped out a whole bunch of things that will guide me through to the last page. Every time I sat down to hack and slash my way through the draft, I would look at the first line in the next scene I had to tackle and freeze, if it was during Drew's nap. Or my brain would decide that was a good time to liquefy if it was at night. The mushy brain happened three nights in a row, which really pissed me off. What is mushy brain? Well, usually, when I prod some higher thought processes from my brain, I have a mental conversation that goes roughly like this:

ME: Ping.

MY BRAIN: Currently left on your to do list for the day: clean up table, wash dishes, tidy Drew's toys, sit at desk and work on revisions. The scene you'll work on first involves the first turning point for your protagonist, so you want to make sure you tighten the conflict and connect better it with her decision that propells her into a new direction for Act 2, and in Act 2, you've made the supporting characters a bit too cooperative with that new direction, so you'll have to work on that as those scenes come at you. Also, you're feeling a bit chilly in general this evening, so be sure to grab your fuzzy slippers when you put on your pajamas.

What a lovely response to my ping. A quick rundown of things that some part of my brain is always monitoring and tracking so the rest of it doesn't have to. Now, when I have mushy brain, the conversation goes a little like this:

ME: Ping.

MY BRAIN: Uh, wha? Is dinner done already? Did we eat meatloaf or chicken soup? Soup is yummy, and warm, and tasty, and...

ME: Ping!

MY BRAIN: Oh, right. Dinner is done. Um. Dishes? No, table looks to be cleared. How the hell did that happen? Maybe Mark did it? Is he putting Drew to bed, or are they in the shower? You need a shower too, get all warm. Use that Winter Candy Apple body wash and lotion and...


MY BRAIN:...and after you smell all clean and Christmas-y, there's that dungeon chapter in Final Fantasy X-2 that you want to beat, level up all those dresspheres, though maybe you should just start all over from the beginning because that's a fun story, especially when you get to the chasing Chocobos part. Was there a better ending than the one you saw?


MY BRAIN: OK. Revisions. There's a scene that needs some work.

Long Pause.

ME: Ping?

MY BRAIN: You know, that scene. You should fix it. Make it tie in with the rest of the arc better.

Another Long Pause.

ME: Ping.

MY BRAIN: What are you bothering me for? You're the one who figured a few things out this afternoon. Didn't you write them down?

ME: Ping!

MY BRAIN: Come on! It was the thing with the arc with the conflict. You know, and then the love interest said the bit that tied into the first scene. And it all comes together and viola! A complete, fabulous revision!


MY BRAIN: Isn't that what you wanted?

ME: ...

MY BRAIN: Maybe you should just curl up in bed and put on a Firefly episode. Oooh! Maybe the one where Simon takes his shirt off?

But, finally, last night, I conquered this loop. For one scene. Now I'm going to tackle the revisions again, and hopefully I can carry on with the momentum from last night. At any rate, it feels good not to be stuck in the same place.

Thursday, December 20, 2007


In composing another post, I happily reminded myself about the Bonsai Story Generator. I had fun with it for SoZ, and I figured it would be good for THUMB. Here are the highlights:

Thematic Goodness:
Vin's gone.
That had to deal with Sela.
Let's hope they grieved in the first place.
Elzie reached out of denial.
She turned away the possibility of death.

A Healthy Dose of WTF:
Anger made it with a mechanic.
Her simple black dress had distracted her head.
The woman shook her own ears.
Elzie opened her body.
The woman shook her tone dry and turned to Vincent Merror's wishes, the solar flare warning system wouldn't have been trampled in the first place.
Then she turned to face flushed with SamCon, denial all over lunch?
He hadn't liked her head.

Simply Intriguing:
Muted was only appropriate for access to the appropriately compassionate woman.
Let's hope they don't mind the possibility of curvy, sultry beauty. Next to touch the woman behind her.
You're going to want to give them as they don't mind the break in.
Cremated, yes, the power of our business.
Forget a venue for word to examine the bones.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Stalling? Me?

It's hard to tell if today's distraction is part of my insanity regarding PPR or my outright terror over what to do with THUMB. However, it did make for an entertaining morning.

It started with a dream, as a good amount of writing inspiration is wont to do. My dream was about zombies (represented by Lurch, for some reason) and how a friend and I were holed up in an abandoned hotel room as our food supply (represented by a bar of chocolate) dwindled. Coworkers (nobody I know, actually) joined us, and there was much rejoicing in discovering we were not the last non-zombies left on Earth (represented by gathering around the Xbox that the room's previous occupant had left behind, no doubt as part of his zombie-fugue). Then one of the coworkers and I decided to scavenge through the hotel to see if we could find any more cool things (like a Wii or maybe, I dunno, food other than chocolate). Surprisingly, we found a terrified father and son hiding out in another room. The son, a teenager, donned an angsty attitude right quick, which the coworker felt compelled to rectify. This left me to check out the lobby area nearby, whereupon I discovered Lurch trying to nonchalantly get some towels. I called out to him, and suddenly the hotel went black. Cue sound of mass zombie attack.

It wasn't a particularly scary dream, but I had it toward the end of my sleep, and that's usually when I can exert a little narrative power on my dreams. These scenes were coming at me with some backstory, with links to related imagery that enhance the story, and with possibilities for conflict between the characters running around in the hotel. So I sketched everything out after I woke up, developing the story and characters in places as I went.

What made this so much fun and unique enough that I would sacrifice much-needed revising time on PPR? For some reason, this zombie tale framed itself to me in the form of a paranormal romance. Because nothing is sexier than a reanimated corpse, let me tell you. I shouldn't be surprised as my romantic elements in the stories that I'm thinking about for the pseudonym are fairly dark and not exactly in-line with that whole Happily Ever After thing. This, apparently, is the sort of career I'm trying to create for my pseudonym. It's gonna be hella fun, but maybe not so much with the success. Is it possible to subvert the romance genre from within?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

When Neuroses Collide

My deadline for PPR is under a month away, and I still have to write a 2-3 page synopsis and introductory letter in addition to finishing the revisions. And an entire week of the upcoming month is going to be "lost" to the holidays. (I say "lost" because it's not like I mind spending time with the in-laws and family, it's just that I won't have that time to write and must accomodate that in my writing schedule.)

Welcome to Kellie's Crunch Time Neuroticisms. Surely you remember them from before? Here's the pattern they follow:

1. Early in revisions, start thinking that my story is pure gold and that it will launch my writing career in many improbable ways, but launch it nonetheless.

2. Shortly thereafter, I fear the launching of my writing career and suffer a hit in productivity levels, crooning to the whimpering parts of myself that really, change is good, particularly this change, it'll be all right, you'll just keep writing only you'll get paid and isn't that what you've always wanted.

3. Revisions resume with a vengeance, if only to keep the beautiful and terrible images of success at bay one night at a time.

4. Approach the middle or end of revisions and suddenly become aware of the Vast Quantities of Suck in the manuscript. There's no arc! There's no conflict! My characters are stooopid! Logic took a vacation in this chapter and that one! The climax is broken!

5. Progress grinds to a halt as I curl into the fetal position and wonder just how in the hell I ever could have considered myself a writer.

6. Mark, utterly perplexed by the sudden morph of one insanity into another that seems so opposite that he cannot comprehend how my brain can possibly contain both at the same time, gives me a look.

7. My muse, realizing that her writer will not have any company in her misery, mutters, "Oh. Just. Hell," and starts trying to find the narrative thread and the pieces that work and sits down to stitch something together, by God.

8. I am somehow able to view the Suck without wanting to burn the manuscript, instead looking at how it can be adjusted into NotSuck for a killer story.

9. I resume revisions, knowing the story is gold that will get me in the door...assuming I can hack it together out of the junk in front of me.

I am somewhat nervous to find myself in this same pattern again because, you might recall, when I went back to the manuscript that jerked me around like this before, I realized that the work in question was not just bad but horribly broken, and I had tried to get it published in that state. I've been trying to bolster my confidence by outlining just how much I've learned in the past year and a half, how I've got such a better grip on this story and what it needs to get fixed. I understand so much more about how I write and can find the potholes quicker and know how to fill them.

Or not. Ask me what I think about this story in 6-10 months.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Drew the Chef

The Drew Monster has been big into utensils and measuring cups and bowls for a while now. It likely started when he discovered how much fun it was to take out all the tupperware from the lower cupboards in my mother's house, grab a spoon, and stir just like Momma. We put child safety latches on our cupboards, though, so Drew opted for dragging a chair up to the counter so he could rummage through the cooking utensil drawer (we have long since removed anything sharper than a butterknife from that drawer). He knows the word "hot" very well, not because he's burned himself, but because Momma and Daddy are so freaked about that chance given his predilection for cooking that we've drilled it into him.

He's added a new twist to his cooking fixation. In the past week, I've had to set up a cutting board for him and give him either a piece of celery or a carrot to work on with a butterknife. The kid's learned a lot by watching me, and his fingers haven't once come close to getting in the way. El Boyo Diablo appears to be a natural. Once he cuts up the carrot or celery into a number of pieces, he'll then load up a measuring cup with them. A couple of times, he's tried to toss the contents into whatever pot or pan I'm toiling over. He also tastes his diced vegetable at least once, discovering regularly that, no, indeed he doesn't like raw carrots.

I always try to give him something he can add safely to the pot or pan with dinner in it, usually it's a can of broth to add to the soup pot or something. But he's clearly learning and wanting to do more. I had just started getting items out for dinner and hadn't turned on the stove top when I turned away to take care of something (probably answer the phone). When I turned back around, Drew had climbed up onto the counter and opened the cupboard with all the spices and started rooting around for the perfect mixture.

Mark and I have known for a while that we'd be getting our son planning menus and cooking as early as possible as one of his "chores", but we hadn't realized that he would 1) take so well to it and 2) get a head start on things. Ironically, he's not all that interested in Ratatouille.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Seven Years Ago Today...

...Mark and I decided to give that whole relationship thing a whirl. It didn't take us long to realize that it was a done deal. While I was the one who made the first move seven years ago, it was Mark who, about a month later (maybe less) said something about coordinating careers after graduation (still five or six years away at that point) in the first bold step towards, "Hey, this is rather serious, this thing between us."

Friday, December 14, 2007

Process Examination #16: Zooming Ahead to Revisions (In Another Project)

I'm not entirely sure why I've needed so much off-time from writing THUMB, but my brain keeps asking for another day or another week whenever I try to organize my thoughts on that topic. So I've shifted focus back to PPR, trying to really dig into the text for revisions and learn more about that part of my writing process.

What I've done in the past is just read the completed manuscript of whatever piece I had just finished, marking, deleting, and adding stuff as I go. It's a good way to get a sense of what's working and what isn't and apply some fixes, but I've come to realize that it's not quite effective for actually improving the whole of the text. That is, larger scope issues like arcs and story structure and theme and such didn't get the attention they needed. Not to say that I wasn't thinking about those things as I revised, but that I kept all of those concepts in my head as I read through the manuscript, expecting problems with those topics to pop out at me in much the same way I can find errors in spelling and sentence flow and character portrayal. Not so much, apparently.

I've been suspecting this for a while now, so I've been developing a plan for a couple of months. Or the notion that I ought to have a plan, at least. That doesn't sound like much, but it means that, in the course of my regular reading of blogs and books on writerly topics, I've been looking for methods to help me. And I found some. Rather, I found addtional tips that helped bring some older ones into focus as well as giving me new ideas.

In the past, via Holly Lisle's One-Pass Revision and some other places, I realized it was important to have a scene outline handy while doing revisions. However, I didn't know what to do with that thing. Hence, I just extrapolated from how I do basic edits and tried to keep everything in my head. After working through Jenny Crusie and Bob Mayer's He Wrote, She Wrote Writing Course, I found a way to use the outline much more effectively. Specifically via the concept of scene analysis Jenny outlines here and the critical questions she dumps out here. Now I have a better sense what I'm looking for when I do my initial read-through (which I used to flag scenes that needed scene analysis for tightening and general fix-it stuff).

I completed my first scene anlaysis yesterday and was delighted to discover two things: 1) At least for this first scene, I had a natural rhythym for beats in the scene that kept the conflict going and accomplished a bit for the story, and 2) I have a much better sense of how I can improve a few bits and lines in the scene to reinforce all the big scope concepts I've lost before without derailing those beats. Awesome.

We'll see what Mark things. I've decide he is going to be a beta-reader of my "I've done all I can on my own with this thing" version without any previous exposure to this piece. He'll be my barometer of how well I've revised with the new techniques. No pressure, honey. :)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Let's Go To The Movies, Andrew

The Drew Monster has discovered the wonder of animated movies. He had watched bits of movies before, usually while on a long-distance trek in the car, but a month or so ago, he realized that it was fun to watch an entire story unfold from start to finish. His three favorites are Curious George, Finding Nemo, and Ice Age, and Monsters, Inc. seems to be rated highly as well.

The problem (other than the fact that we don't want him to sit and stare at the TV for long periods of time; we're working on this) for me with this arrangements is how often I have to see these movies now. Don't get me wrong, I love pretty much everything Pixar has done (haven't seen Cars), and I can usually enjoy any children's animated feature for it's "Aw, what a cute story" value. But repeated viewing is forcing me to look at all the story elements that unravel, all the small little conceits and all the themes and messages that, intentional or not, are lingering in the background to cast a nasty pall over things. The latter is a big deal for me with every time I see Curious George--theft of another culture's icon and dismissal of its indigenous value and heritage, father/son issues that color a child negatively because his father favored a smarter kid with similar interests over the son, and on and on. Had I only seen the darn movie once, I wouldn't have bothered with all this analysis and critique because the movie's not meant for that.

Of course, El Boyo Diablo hasn't been interested in Ratatouille since his first vieweing, and that's the one I wouldn't mind seeing a few more times since I missed quite a bit (watching movies with kids isn't the way to comprehend a good portion of what you're seeing). It's like Andrew knows this.

It's funny, though. When I was about 11, I would come home from school every day, plop myself in front of the TV and watch The Little Mermaid. Sometimes twice. I guess it's a phase?

Friday, December 07, 2007

Not Quite Coherent, Apparently

My brain's all mushy. Mostly I'm still not getting the sleep I need, it seems. But also, I did finish tweaking the ending to PPR last night, so that could have something to do with it. I'm also somewhat afeared of restarting THUMB, which has sat untouched on my hard-drive for two and a half weeks now, so I think part of my brain is resisting full consciousness. And the weather's all weird today. I was supposed to crit someone's writing today while the Drew Monster napped, but I'm thinking I might need a nap myself instead.

Next week. Yeah. Next week is when I'll get back on the horse.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Momma Downtime

El Boyo Diablo decided to wake up, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and ready for the day at 3:45 this morning. Add this to the fact that I've been taking between 1.5-2 hours to fall asleep every night this past week or so, and I'm quite the zombie at the moment. I had meant for today to be the day that I got back on the horse, but, well, now I'm more interested in sleep than trying to prove to myself I'm not a lazy, pathetic excuse for a writer.

So. Tomorrow. Tomorrow I shall crank out the adjusted ending to PPR (even though I recognize that, while the adjusted ending is generally what I want for the story, it's not quite right in its execution just yet) so I can ship this off to a critique partner and Mark for comments. Tomorrow I shall confront my writing demons and figure out just how exactly to move forward with THUMB when demanding a specific word count at this stage of the game freezes me. (I'm thinking "Finish Act 2, get into Act 3 by the end of the year" might work, though it's a bit terrifying in its vagueness.)

For some reason, 2008 feels like a nice, giant clean slate coming toward me just as I've reached the point where I've mucked things up this year. I can't remember the last time I was so eager to start a year with a new set of goals. But it wouldn't be too swell of me to laze around the rest of the year to get to that clean slate, now, would it?

By the way, one of the things I did while I was lazing around the past two weeks was beat Kingdom Hearts II. My reaction: Meh. The game had its fun spots and neat battle commands, but the story arc really really sucked and got mired in re-hashing all of the Disney flicks. Very much a disappointment after the first game. I wish I could find another game like FFX or FFX-2 to suck me into another world and a compelling storyline along with fun spells and weapons. But that stuff seems to be on PS3 or Xbox, and we're not down with shelling out $500 for a new platform just yet. So I'll content myself to max out all the outfits on FFX-2 and beat the special bosses and finish a first go-round of Ratchet & Clank: Dreadlocked, though it's not quite what I want. I suppose it's for the best, though, as I really don't have time for gaming at this particular juncture in my life.

OK, I think I'm going to ramble on about the odds and ends of my life if I don't end this now and hit the sack. Hopefully regular posting will resume for the next couple of weeks until Christmas.