Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Death of A Bad Dude and Who Gets the Girl?

Phew!! With only one day left of 2011 National Novel Writing Month, I managed to pound out around 5,000 words on PAINTING TOTORA today. On this home stretch, I've learned I can always count on truly fleshed-out characters to have plenty to say. I can also always count on a carefully-timed chocolate break to help keep me focused. Exercise is going to make a reappearance in my life in December.

Today, I tackled the climax of my Peruvian steampunk novel and had the satisfaction of bringing a truly bad dude to an un-"timely" end. My apologies for the bad pun, but it's late and I'm all worded out for today. For those of you who may not know the term "steampunk", it is a sub-genre of science fiction and fantasy which usually involves an alternate history in which technological advances are as the Victorians might have envisioned them--with steam power or spring-propelled gadgets (ie. clockwork). The setting for steampunk is often Victorian era Britain, but for my YA novel, I chose South America.

Also during my write-a-thon today, I reached the point in my novel where the girl must choose between two very different guys. It's curious how much I enjoyed that. I think I enjoyed it because each guy has qualities I like in my husband and because it's interesting to require a fictional character to make such a hard choice. Characters who want things and characters who step up and make tough choices are the most compelling to read wouldn't you agree?

Tomorrow is zero hour. Check back to see if I make it.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Hawaii Burn (or "Vacation Euphoria" Part 1)

Why is it so easy to believe we are invincible while we are on vacation? Perhaps this is a problem unique to me but it's one of the reasons Mr. R. goes into cold sweats when I plan a big trip. Another reason is his disdain for the "undressing drama" we must endure for airport security these days--but that's another story.

My first big foray into Vacation Euphoria was my first trip to Hawaii. I've wanted to go to Hawaii for as long as I can remember. I pictured myself riding the waves on a surfboard and swimming with dolphins--and nothing less would suffice. We hadn't been at our hotel for more than twelve hours before I had booked surfing lessons for Mr. R. and me and reserved my spot at Dolphin Quest on Oahu.

At the surf school, we watched the demonstration, chose our boards, and lathered up with sunscreen. Now, although I'm not what you would call "sporty", I've danced since I was four years old and I'm also a fair snowboarder. In my heightened sense of adventure, as the moment of riding those waves drew near, I decided I didn't need sunscreen on the backs of my legs. I thought, "I'm fairly coordinated. I can handle a snowboard and I have good balance, so I'll be standing on the board most of the time."

As a college graduate, you'd think I'd remember something about the reflection of UV rays on water, It also didn't occur to me for a minute that, if I rode the waves back to the shore, I'd have to paddle back out. On my stomach. With the backs of my pasty white legs to the sky.

I got out on those waves and I didn't do too bad. I got up, stayed up, and rode the waves back to shore over and over again. I loved every minute of it. Except for the minute I wiped out, rolled in the water as my instructor told me, and sliced the back of my knee on the vicious coral of Waikiki. Pain? Naaah. I'm on vacation. A little bleeding across the back of my leg? So what? I'm on VACATION!! Get back on that board and paddle out to sea for another wave!! WOOHOO!!

On the way back to the hotel, I remembered something I'd read about coral microbiology and I thought, "I should probably apply Neosporin and a Band-Aid to that wound on the back of my knee." And I did. And Mr. R. and I went to lunch. A big, long, expensive vacation lunch.

Around the time the entrees arrived at the table, I sensed a strange pulsing in my lower legs as though my veins wanted out of my body. "My legs feel hot," I told Mr. R. "I think I may have a sunburn." Then the snapping and popping started and I had to get out of my seat and walk around. "It feels like someone's snapping my skin with rubber bands!"
Oh, something was snapping alright. Little capillaries in my deep purple, sunburned legs. And that Band-Aid I'd applied? Melted. Melted by the heat of my sunburn and permanently adhered to my skin--that is, until I panicked that nothing I tried would get it off and I yanked it off, skin and all.

I'm on vacation. 

And don't think I didn't still go swim with those dolphins with a Band-Aid-sized chunk of skin missing off the back of my knee. I hardly even noticed the stinging. 

I had the best time in Hawaii. But I paid for it on the long flight home with my leg elevated and with an emergency visit to the dermatologist for an antibiotic shot. Now, whenever Mr. R. catches me about to plunge headfirst into an adventure without thinking it through, we look at each other and ask, "Is this another Band-Aid?"

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Thankful Day and 19,000 Words To Go

Yesterday I did the grocery shopping for Thanksgiving dinner and the excitement of the upcoming holidays is tangible in my house. What a time to write a new novel in a month! Who decided that a short month with a major holiday should be National Novel Writing Month?  Yes, I know. Only I am to blame for the craziness that is my life. But, somehow, the craziness is what keeps me sane. I love waking up each morning with a challenge I enjoy and, believe me, writing a 50,000 word novel in a month is a challenge I enjoy.

With regards to thankfulness in writing, today I'm grateful for Mr. R. My wonderful husband took the kids on an outing to visit his work and to pick up our Thanksgiving turkey so I could have time to catch up on my word count. I'm thankful for my sweet daughter who enjoys talking over plot points with me when I get stuck. I'm thankful for the laughs my son gives me when he points at artificial pumpkins and calls them "fiction" because I told him that "fiction" means "not real". I am thankful for a writing blog that affords me a break when the emotional drama of my characters has exhausted me for the moment. I'm thankful for amazing critique partners who keep me motivated and whose insights always make me a better writer. I'm grateful for the many blogs of agents and authors who join together in a community of mentoring and support in the tough world of publishing.

Just to share an example of the amazing writers who help each other, the following is a link to a blog called "Miss Snark's First Victim". This post announces the completion of a writing contest on the blog called The Baker's Dozen, in which winners' entries will be reviewed by no less than 13 literary agents. When a contest participant whose entry wasn't accepted posted a comment that they were now going to give up on writing, a slew of writers came to the rescue in their comments. You have to read it for yourself. I promise it'll put you in the holiday spirit.

My thankful list here has to do with my writing life. I'm thankful for many other things as well. Things I will share over the dinner table tomorrow with my family.

What are you thankful for?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Day 9 (aka Dear Brain...)

I made it through my ninth day of writing a new novel with the goal of finishing 50,000 words by November 30th. I think the only thing left to do here is to write a letter to my brain.

Dear Brain,
I think it goes without saying that you know better than to arrive late for work. When I sit down at the computer, I expect you to be there with me...on time and prepared. Having corn chex for breakfast is no excuse. Eat your oatmeal if you must, but take naps when you are off the clock.

And may I remind you that this is November and you are not off the clock until December. When you give me that final 50,000th word, you can nap all you want and sing "All I Want For Christmas" on continuous loop.

First thing tomorrow I expect you to have solved that problem with the superfluous contagonist in Chapter 8. Does she have a reason to exist? Can we give her one or does she get the axe? I also want a motive for the antagonist and your little answer you gave me earlier of "He's just bad 'cause he wants to be" is not going to cut it.

That is all. I hope we don't have to revisit this again, Brain.

Until tomorrow,


Monday, November 14, 2011

A Novel in A Month...Day 7

Right about now, my fellow NaNoWriMo buddies who began on November 1st, should be nearing close to 23,000 words on their novels. Some of them have surpassed the mark and I applaud their momentum. I began seven days ago (the reason for that is long). I just finished word number 14,434 and had to take a break because my brain is mush and will not work on this story for me in the conscious realm anymore today. I'm going to mull some plot decisions around in my head while I eat a bowl of popcorn and watch a re-run of Frasier because that show never fails to make me laugh my head off.

I recently watched the episode called "The Seal Who Came To Dinner"--in which Niles finds a dead seal washed up on the beach behind Maris' beach house where he is hosting a high society dinner to compete for the "Golden Apron". In short, after all his attempts to prevent his guests from discovering the smelly carcass, Niles has wrapped the seal in his ex-wife's peignoir, doused it with her perfume, anchored it with a clapper lamp, and stabbed it repeatedly with a butcher knife to make it less bouyant so he can drag it back to sea. The neighbor calls the police because she believes she has witnessed Niles killing his wife. Niles, with butcher knife in hand, makes it worse when he tries to hide the whole thing so nothing will upstage his fancy dinner. The actors on that show have the best comedic timing I've ever seen.

Great diversion. Great way to let my subconscious work on the plot turns in my NaNoWriMo novel. Since it's November and we are nearing Thanksgiving, I will add something to my thankful list. I'm grateful for Netflix.

Here is what I learned as I wrote 3,264 words today...yes, another list. (I think they are easier to read.)

1. Villains show up in the most unusual places
2. Characters you thought were antagonists can turn out to be allies
3. Fantasy worlds have a way of changing on you, evolving, morphing--even when you don't want them to. For heaven's sakes! I created this world, why won't it behave itself and do what I say!
4. I hate the word "there". There is no place in which there is a reason for there to be useful in my novel over there. Okay, I made that sentence as awful as possible to prove my point.
5. I love researching other cultures but it means I take all day to write 3,264 words.

Off to my bowl of popcorn and some laughs. Maybe I'll treat you with another Frasier synopsis tomorrow.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Writing A Novel In Less Than A Month

I've officially signed up as a participant in NaNoWriMo--which is code for National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write 50,000 words for your novel in the month of November. I was still rewriting my middle grade fantasy novel when NaNoWriMo began, but I pushed myself to finish that and I began a new novel on November 8th.

But I can do this.

And I'm enjoying the challenge. I've embedded a word count calendar on this blog so anyone who's interested can track my progress. I'm averaging a little more than 2,000 words per day and, at that rate, I'm on track to reach 50,000 words before the end of November.

What do I like about writing a novel within such a tight time frame?

I love how alive the characters and setting become. I love how quickly the plot snaps into place and how subplots carry through and make sense. I wrote chapter one only two days ago, so today, as I write chapter six, I remember the character motivations and to pick up those subplot threads.

What do I dislike about writing a novel within such a tight time frame?

Nothing (except maybe some neck fatigue from looking at my computer all day.)

What is different about my life because I'm writing a novel in a month?

It's hard to stop typing and get out of my pajamas and take a shower. I actually picked up my son from kindergarten in my pajamas this week (a definite change for me). To my dismay, and to his delight, I had to go inside to get him. He laughed himself to hysterics and notified all students and teachers within earshot, "My mom is wearing her pajamas!

I think about the plot of my novel while I do everything else and my head is swimming with details from my research. This novel has looms and weaving and Andean farming practices mixed with an organic magic system and an oppressive society. So, I'm sure I have a vacant expression on occasion.

I enjoy my quality time with my children and am much more relaxed with them. When your brain hurts--reading simple picture books and playing Legos with a six-year-old is like a spa day.

To all you NaNoWriMo participants out there:
Write on! I hope you are enjoying the rigorous journey. Check back in a few days when I will have hit the middle of my novel--you know, uncooperative characters, lagging scenes where nothing important happens, subplots that went trailing down a tunnel to nowhere... Are any of you there yet?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Making Time and Prickly Burrs

People ask me, "How do you have time to write a novel and rewrite that novel and write another one?"

I make time.

I carve it out of time I would've spent doing less productive things. I give up television and movies and the obsession of an immaculate home. I sometimes give up sleep.

And I do the most important stuff first.

Everyone has good and bad days--I sure do. But, today was a good one in which the most important stuff happened and so everything else worked too. After two hours of writing, I took my son to the park. We were the only ones there and had sole possession of the playset. We climbed, we spun on the tire swing, I provided plenty of "underdogs", we ran laps on the trail, and we broke open the prickly burrs from the chestnut tree.

When my daughter came home from school she had some concerns about her day. We talked in the kitchen, we cuddled on the couch and we laughed through the tears. I helped her with a costume and her musical audition piece.

I didn't clean a toilet today, nor did I make cookies. I didn't pay much attention to the animals (although the kids fed the cats and apparently Mr. R had a chicken wander into the garage to keep him company while he worked on his bike.) I didn't wash a dish (although, thanks to my sweet Mr R, the kitchen is actually clean right now.)

I drove to Irish dance, had to get a jump for my car when the battery died, drove a child to a playdate, and actually made dinner. And after my son and I discovered those prickly burrs and made a collection of leaves, I buckled myself to my laptop at home and wrote over 3000 words on my novel.

Time to write...check. Time to