NaNoWriMo: Opening Day Denial

1 Nov

If I refuse to acknowledge that it’s the first of a certain month, if I avoid opening the NaNo site, then I can pretend that NaNoWriMo has not yet begun. I’m not procrastinating or falling behind. NaNoWriMo just can’t start until I’m ready.




NaNoWriMo: On the Brink of Madness

31 Oct

The madness begins tomorrow. Thirty days of grudge match. My imagination versus fifty thousand words. I think I’m up to it. Last year, I went into this with banners flying, confidence high. It wasn’t as easy as I’d hoped, though. The year before that was a breeze, by comparison.

This year, I’m feeling quieter about it all. (Part of a larger trend, as you might have noticed by the dust on this blog.) I didn’t think I’d have enough of an idea, actually. Luckily, one blossomed a few weeks ago. So I enter this year’s fray with less pomp and more preparation. This will be the first time I concentrate on plot instead of story or characters.  I’m armed with my copy of Save the Cat and the various “beats” of my plot. It’s not an outline. It’s more of a list of landmarks I need to hit as I meander toward the finish line in whatever kind of squiggly path I discover. Wish me good luck. Plotting is my weak point.

Another of my weak points is brevity, and I hope to make this novel 60-70k words, completed. Very short compared to my usual 100k-ish words.

Anyway, here’s my project. I hope to have fun bringing it to life.

A twelve-year-old runaway decides to pay “rent” on his woodland hideout by becoming its owners’ fairy god…um…kid – eavesdropping in order to grant wishes, serve as a human Ouija board, and perform anonymous good deeds from the tree tops. However, his “magic” keeps leading to disaster, winter’s on the way, and rumors are spreading that could lead to discovery by the stepfather he’d hoped to escape.

Background texture by Smoko-Stock

30 Covers, 30 Days – Redux

30 Oct

On Tuesday, NaNoWriMo will begin posting covers for the 2011 30 Covers, 30 Days challenge. I was the gleeful recipient of a cover last year (go day twelve!), and I made a collage of the entire collection. For old time’s sake, here it is again. Can’t wait to see the latest batch!

The Society of Unicorns & Other Exotic Goats

31 Aug

Society of Unicorns coverI’ve been at it again. Well, at a couple things.

One, I’ve turned back to my original novel and am about to embark upon a great restructuring. I think people are getting tired of hearing me say I’m going to turn it into a trilogy. It’s probably a novice move. But, hey, did you know I’m turning it into a trilogy? Yeah. I am.

Meanwhile, I’ve been using the stock/resource section of DeviantArt as a box of crayons and Photoshop as a coloring book. I made a temporary cover for book one using a fabulous tree background by Smoko-Stock and a vintage “fairy” photo. Ain’t it cute?

I’m also dipping a toe into the critique pool again by joining YouWriteOn, a UK site where you can post opening chapters of your novel and have them reviewed on a one-for-one basis. Each review you do for another writer earns you one credit. You use credits to “buy” a critique for your own chapters. The divvying of assignments is random, there are eight areas on which you can rate the writing with stars (narrative voice, plot, dialogue, etc.), and they require at least 100 words of written review after that. It all seems quite organized and fair. I’m not a UK citizen, and I didn’t even consider that when posting, but so far so good. I’m still waiting to have someone balk at my Americanisms, though.

I’ve also posted chapters to DeviantArt and requested critiques, but radio silence over there, although I’ve had views.

See, this is where you all come in. I know I have some awesome writers who read the blog, some avid readers, too. I’d love it if folks would visit my DeviantArt or YouWriteOn pages and take a look. Leave me a comment, even if only to say hello.

Please and thank you and all the best.

Novels & Nostalgia

13 Aug

Every so often, I drag out my journal from 1993, the year I studied abroad in Russia. At a rate barely faster than that of glacier migration, I’ve been transcribing the yellowing handwritten thing into a Word file. I was tired last night and needed inspiration, so I chose a Russian classical playlist on iTunes and searched the web for a photo of the Smolny Cathedral in the snow. I found a good one on Google Images. Then realized it was from this blog.

Oh yeah. The blog. How I have scorned it!

I’ve devoted most of my summer to revising my NaNoWriMo 2009 novel and ordering various proofs. I’m finally at a good resting point. A few kind souls have volunteered to be beta readers, I have the cover I want for now, and so I’ll pull back from it for a while. If anyone wants to join the beta brigade, let me know. I have pdf and epub versions.

Here’s the cover:

Nocturne Cover (proof three)

Click on the image below for a link to the first two chapters (on

Those of you who read my 99th Page blogfest entry will recognize some of this. I moved a middle chapter from my original novel to the beginning of this one (the alternate version).

Now I’m waiting for the next prompt for NPR’s Three-Minute-Fiction…


23 Jun

For the very first time, after three years of writing fiction, I completed a novel! I’m laughing maniacally every time I remember typing those magical words, “The End.”

I have a novel with a beginning, a middle, and an end! Whoa… [Laughs maniacally]

(So there’s some explanation for my absence from the blog.)

Thanks to the kind sponsors of NaNoWriMo, I had a code for a free proof copy. It arrived today! [Muhahaha!]

It has some errors, and I’ve made a few corrections to the story itself, so there will be a second proof, but, in the meanwhile…BEHOLD!

click for larger version

click for larger version

click for larger version

 click for larger version 

Coming Soon

23 May

I’ve got a post in the works that I’ll try to put up this week. I got to be a part of American Idol’s studio audience last Wednesday. Trying for a recap.


12 May

We are not amused, American Idol. It’s the sad, sad truth that James’ performances were one of the few things we looked forward to each week*. It’s been that kind of a spring. (Plus James Durbin is awesome.)

Now we have to amuse ourselves by skulking Hunger Games movie blogs, trying to imagine how well the actors fit their roles.

Okay. I only go there once in a while, but I did spend an otherwise useless hour today making Josh Hutcherson into Peeta Mellark — or at least a blond. Yep, that works. Easier to imagine now. That guy could decorate a cake and throw big sacks of flour around. Real.

*(James’s? James’? My name ends in an S, and I liked apostrophe-s, not s-apostrophe, but now the former looks wrong.)

And, Please, No Flash Photography (Unless You Really, Really Want to & Are Special)

1 May

Mr. Untitlement was off with our youngest son this weekend, so elder boy and I decided to have some special mother-son time at Disneyland. Always good for a list, if not a laugh.

  • First special moment: sitting in gridlocked traffic, staring at the carpool lanes that are supposedly under construction — empty except for the projected rage of a thousand thwarted motorists.

At Disneyland

  • Number of times strollers ran over my feet: 3
  • Number of times I was struck in the face by a sabre: 1 (but isn’t that all it really takes?)
  • Choice moment of sweetness: Sharing a frozen strawberry lemonade with my son on a shade-dappled bench, and having a butterfly land on his hat. Then watching him stand still as stone, hoping to lure the butterfly back, once it flew away.
  • Opposite of sweet moment: Waiting in line for Peter Pan and watching a man get divebombed by birds that proceed to peck the top of his head in wrath. Their nest was behind a sign for the ride, and apparently the top of his head looked pretty darn predatory. (They bothered no one else.)
  • Best Q & A: Stranger staring at endless procession of dead-eyed, shuffling tourists: “What’s this the line for?” (It was verrrrry long and slow.) Me: “To get out of Adventureland!” (They’re building some dastardly arena for a new Pirates of the Caribbean show, and pedestrian traffic was being tightly controlled, a.k.a. clogged up).
  • First regret: Accepting a table in the sun at Carnation Café on a hot day.
  • Second regret: Allowing my son to sit on my white cotton over-shirt when he complained how hot his seat was.
  • Third regret: Ordering a large Orange Fanta, although it came in handy when our forks were too hot to touch — a quick dunk into my drink, and they no longer branded our fingers with cutlery shapes.
  • First moment of Eeee!: Reaching for the crayons they set out for my son ten minutes earlier, only to find THEY’D MELTED!!! I wound up with blue goo all over my hands.
  • Second moment of Eeee!: Son borrows Fanta while I deal with crayons. Son spills Fanta everywhere, including his cotton shorts and my shirt that he was sitting on. Mmm…sticky. And ever so attractive. Especially combined with my blue-goo covered fingers.
  • Best overheard observations: Woman sighs as we enter It’s a Small World. “Ah, it’s an air conditioned world, after all!” Her companion, upon leaving the ride — “That’s the first ride we’ve been on that lasted longer than its line!” It may be the only one that can claim that honor.
  • Random laugh: Watching the diamond in my wedding ring glow under the black lights in Peter Pan.  Some diamonds fluoresce like that. We first discovered its special powers while touring a cavern  in Arizona. The guide turned off the lights so we could all develop recurring nightmares of a place where you can’t see your hand in front of your face, no matter how long you wait. Then, just as claustrophobia (or whatever you call it) started to seize us, the guide turned on a special light that made some of the cavern’s rocks glow like a black velvet Elvis painting — including my ring. It seemed magical. You know. In the way that roadside tourist science always does.

We had a great time, despite the crowds and the heat. We ended the day with a frantic trip to the grocery store to buy as much fruit salad, fruit juice, fruit sherbet, and fresh berries as we could. I couldn’t imagine ever having enough fruit. The product of theme park dehydration, I suppose.  We dined on big bowls of mixed fruit and drank the sherbet-juice-soda punch I made.  Now I’m ready for a late night fruit snack, and maybe some more of that punch.  I feel as salty and dry as beef jerky.

Life As Seen from the Left Shoulder

26 Apr

Hey there hi there ho there. Why, yes, I have fallen off the face of the earth. Luckily, I landed somewhere around the left shoulder of the earth and hope to begin my climb soon.


It’s an odd neighborhood in which I live. Built at the height of the housing boom, it was among the first to go KAboom when the economy tanked. Must be interesting from the air — verdant yards with pools and swaying  palms checkerboarded with other yards that, for kindness’s sake, we call “replete with native flora.”

We fall among the natives.

Other than two half-barrels with blueberry bushes and one with a chrysanthemum, we get what nature gives us. This April, it’s given us graceful sea of yellow wildflowers. Lots of them. It was pretty, but it was also kind of suspicious. Nothing gifted so freely could be benevolent. Looked ’em up. Yep. Ragweed.

I’ve decided to invent an obscure form of allergy to the plant in order to explain my malaise of late. Forget sneezing.  Under the influence of ragweed, my brain has decided to act like it’s 3AM all day long. You know the nightmarish feeling. Today’s the worst.  Everything’s “stupid.” But I am afraid that a weed trimmer won’t help because I can’t invent an obscure version of the device that would match the power of my “allergy.”

I’m using too many quotes. See? Everything’s stupid. 😉

Changing the subject…

HEY! I totally called James Durbin’s song choice last week on American Idol. Out of all the songs released in the last eleven years, I went straight to the one he chose, Muse’s “Uprising.” Am I genius? Am I psychic? I had posted my guess on various discussion threads but was roundly ignored. So neener on them! Neener! (In order to be on a message board, one must be twelve or prepared to act twelve.)

My friend Sam introduced me to a word: phontrum. It’s a feeling of sympathetic embarrassment so intense, it causes one to squirm or, in severe cases, have to leave the room. It’s a useful word, especially when watching a movie or television.

I had a moment of fist pumping YES when I heard what James was singing (again, I’m twelve), and then I felt the fear. He was performing second — the death slot. (No matter what the producers say, the performer in the second slot is far more prone to elimination than anyone else, so they must schedule it that way intentionally after watching rehearsals.) Was he going to murder it? James is my favorite, and I probably have unreasonable hopes for each performance.

And then he comes out of smoke leading marching band drummers! PHONTRUM! Oh, the phontrum! We groaned, and I threw my arm over my eyes, unable to look. It turned out okay, although I had to watch it a few times before I could allow myself to enjoy it.

Today, (thanks ragweed) I am suffering phontrum about my own life. Don’t even get me started about the phontrum I feel about my novel. Remember, everything is stupid.

Anyway, just a random post to get me back in the habit. Hope you all have been doing well and are suffering no phontrum or obscure ragweed allergies.

Now Put Those Two Hands Together

11 Apr

Yesterday’s post was about The Hunger Games and my story board using Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat method.

Last night I found the two combined — a beat sheet created by analyzing The Hunger Games. Very useful and fun! But don’t look at it if you haven’t read the novel — spoilers (by necessity) abound.

P.S. — I asked Mr. Untitlement to read the first volume last night. He started it after 8:00 and could barely put it down, although he had a perfect excuse to do so — tired and wanting to relax with his beer. At one point, he muttered, “You’ve made it very difficult to go to bed.”

I fell asleep.

Around 11:30, I heard him drop the book and leave the room. He said, “I have to stop reading.” I thought it was because he was going to bed.  A short while later, however, the light clicked back on. He strode to the book and grabbed it, grimacing. Said, “I’ve calmed down now. I can read again.” He finished it at 1:30 then read my blog entries, Samantha’s review, and the Hunger Games beat sheet.

I love my husband. He’s better than a thousand Peetas.

May the Beats Be Ever in Your Favor

10 Apr

Jennifer Lawrence will play Katniss Everdeen in the upcoming film


A little embarrassed by my fangirl squeeing over Hunger Games last weekend.



I read the whole damn series again this week.

Josh Hutcherson as Peeta

In my defense, this time I was reading it with a critical eye, looking for technical elements — how she set up the plot, her sentence structure, et cetera. I’m still amazed at how well she grabs the reader and never lets go, not for an instant. There’s always a sense of peril. Safe times are found only in retrospect, in that, “Okay, I guess it really was okay after all,” kind of way. But you don’t believe it at the time because everything and everyone is suspect. Blake Snyder talks about how a character’s goals and stakes must be primal at their root — love, survival, hunger, protection, sex… It doesn’t get much more primal than this!

It took me until the second book to realize the story was written in present tense. Unbelievable. That’s usually something I notice in the first paragraph and have to grit my teeth to get past.  She executed it perfectly, I think, and it could not have suited the anxious, fast-paced immediacy of the story better.

On second reading, I was equally engrossed. Only in the third book did I start skimming. Exposition galore. Necessary, though, I suppose. We’re in a new place with new rules.

I do wish the last bits of the series were a little more fleshed out instead of summarized, but I guess it couldn’t go on forever.

M. Howalt — you asked in the comments last week what made the series compelling. My friend Samantha wrote an excellent post on the series here. Check it out. I agree with everything she says (and am clearly still fangirling because I got happy chills reading the title of her article, heh).


In my personal realm, I remain a foggy-headed, migraine-laden hermit. Gotta snap out of that somehow, someday.

But, hey, it hasn’t been a total waste. Besides falling in love with a series (which is such a great feeling), I also managed this:

My novel! All in one place! All the pieces! (Although some are vague [solves problem] or drawn in broad strokes.) Redoing  the major beats on red cards was a treat. I’m an office supply junkie and a visually-oriented person. The red cards make it feel concrete and prove to me that it’s not all an amorphous smear of a cloud. It has the bones! Look! Right there! 😉

Look at Act One — so many cards. Look at the second half of Act Two, so few cards. Not that big a deal, I think. The second half of Act Two is where I’ve drawn in broad strokes, labeling major elements. I think I pretty much  wrote the entire first act on the cards up there! Lots of details that don’t need to be there. I’m still figuring all of this out, though.

The pirate ship was already there, an unintentional metaphor for how my sons like to shoot cannons of distraction at me at all hours of the day.