Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Future of Books

I just listened in on an O'Reilly Media web seminar (webinar?) on the future of publishing digitally. All I can say is, I'm flat on the floor, panting for breath, and wondering how my life has crossed into this insane publishing world. I mean, I started writing with pen and ink (and now and then, pencil!) on paper, which I would then painstakingly type up on a manual typewriter, using carbon paper so I'd have a copy. Lord help me with correcting typos. The day Wite-Out was invented, I wanted to kiss the woman's feet who came up with the formula. (Her son was one of the Monkees, I understand. But I digress.)

Now the newest thing is constantly changing content, so the latest information is constantly streaming onto the page. Videos. Animation. Web links. Highlight a character's name, and her bio pops up in a separate box with all the relevant info so you can remember who she is. Videos inserted in text. Read a paragraph about the Battle of Hastings, and you can see a quick reenactment on video! Oh my stars. I'm ready to run for the hills, where I will live without running water, electricity, or gas generators.

Okay, I take back the last sentence. After Hurricane Isabelle struck, we had no power, no hot water, no laundry, we had to boil water to drink, and NO ICE for ten days. Primitve living does not agree with me. Especially when there's no power to plug in the laptop and iPad.

Part of me is scared silly of all these new applications ready to juice up the plain text page. Another part of me says, hey, it's just like redesigning the Mustang. They made it better, hotter, faster, and sure enough, safer. Roll with it. Get the lingo down. Once that hurdle is behind me, I can see all kinds of possibilites for authors on the Web.

I will not be a stick in the mud, I promise.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Back in the Saddle again...

Now that I'm off my high horse, (see prior posting "Messy"), I have to confess I came home from the apartment search and scrubbed every inch of our several bathrooms from top to bottom, with bleach! All it did was make my eyes sting and satisfy my compulsion to make something really, really clean. Guess that was enough, because today The WIP is top of the list.

Which is a good thing. The cat is happy I'm back at my desk because it means my lap awaits for several hours, and I'm happy, too. Sometimes it's hard to pick up the threads you've steadily been weaving, and other times, that step away provides clarity. As in, what in the name of all that's sacred was I thinking when I wrote that??? When that happens, I'm grateful because it means I don't have even bigger snarls to pick through. Stop that puppy in its tracks!

Reading aloud is the greatest advice I can give a new writer. First, you see the typos more clearly. (Or not, in my case.) Next, you hear the awkward phrasing. Third, little mistakes jump out. Did I make his eyes blue in the last chapter, and now they're brown? Yikes. For me, I am reading as a reader by the third or so run-through. Am I still interested in this story, these characters? If not, why not?

Time to get the fingers on the keyboard. My bleach-pruned, poor little fingers.

Saturday, June 25, 2011


We've been apartment hunting for our newly minted architect, who has a job! Yes, a job, in this economy. While she's out of town, we've been checking out some places with a realtor. All I can say is, does no one clean up their homes? It was all I could do to to not grab the vacuum cleaner, duster, and start making beds.

I am not a clean freak, I swear. General living mess doesn't get my knickers in a twist. But good gracious, who taught these people how to keep house? I'm not talkimg a few dishes in the sink. Is this general lack of respect for the home environment indicative of our society? Do we just not care on a general basis? Is home not where our hearts are anymore?

I'm probably over-reacting. I keep telling myself that. But I don't think so.

America, clean up, starting at home. There, I've shown my bossy-pants side. Why? Because Mama said so.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Finding Time

Despite a soaking rain the other night, the garden is once again looking like my dry skin in winter. Minus the hairy legs. (Who shaves her legs in the winter? I mean, really . . .) I'll water today, since rain isn't on the TV radar, but I can't complain too much. Last winter,I was clinging to memories of long, hot days for dear life.

I'm peeping over the edge of my iPad to see my shiny pink toe nails. We girls have a tradition in our house, the toes get painted for sandal wear at the start of summer, then all bets are off. Back to work time hits when the sandals are shoved into their boxes. The real problem for me is, the WIP needs work now. And the distractions are, to be understated, crazy.

How to keep focused as a writer when outside forces, family, gardens, etc., grab your painted toes and drag you down the equivalent of a primrose path? Heaven knows, I'm no expert. I've come to realize that life is messy, we do the best we can, and pray that we get as much crammed into it as possible. I don't intend on making my exit in a quiet manner. I'll probably be complaining "I have too much to do to put up with this nonsense."

The book needs a higher place on the priority list. I don't want to look back and wonder why I left so many half-finished manuscripts.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Monuments to the Dead and Injustice

Found this on Yahoo - it's the stele for a gladiator from the Black Sea region of Turkey who ended up dead as the result of the "cunning and treachery" of the referee, the summa radis, I believe is the term. Not only is it remarkably clear and unscarred by 1800 years of natural elements, but it also tells a story. The dead gladiator defeated his opponent and stepping back, waited for the verdict from the crowd as to the fate of the other fighter. However, evidently the ref ruled that the man on his butt lost his footing, so he got his weapons back, the fight started over, and the stele marks what was a bad deal for the first winner of the fight. He lost the second go-round.

This monument to injustice survived 1800 years. Do we know anything else about these men? No. Still, doesn't the story resonate even today? Bad calls in sports still happen, but lives aren't lost as a result. Maybe champtionships are lost, and that's a bummer, but a tragedy? Maybe for diehard fans.

Still, think about the bad call in battle, one that costs men their lives. (Pickett's Charge, anyone?) The wrong decision from a biased judge. (*caveat, none of the ones I know.*). The deliberate falsification of evidence. Malfeasance by elected officials that impacts a whole community. We can all think of injustices that happen on a small, local level in this world. Yet will anyone know those story thousands of years from now?

This one lone stele commemorates a death that shouldn't have happened, calls the ref a liar to his face, and manages to engage us artistically as well. That's the sort of monument we don't see anymore.

On the other hand, what if the call was the right one, and the stele is sour grapes? We'll never know.

Friday, June 17, 2011

How does she look?

I normally eat my noon time sandwich on the patio, but it was looking ominous today. So I sat down to watch the episode of RUBY (love her) on DVR, and instead, I got How Do I Look? Why oh why do all the women on this show who are supposedly fashionistas look as frumpy, or worse than, the women in need of new wardrobes? Trashy is another good word. The whole point of the show is that looks and clothes define the person. Usually there's an emotional component to the "bad" dresser. Yuck. What a stretch. And talk about cruel! Some of the so-called friends are totally unfiltered.

The worst part is, the final product isn't so wonderful, at least the ones I've seen. Why do women allow themselves to be tortured like this? You don't see men going through the clothes grinder on TV. Judging others is almost a national past time, and it's not something wonderful.

Be who you are, now that's a show I'd watch. Be the best you want to be. And above all, be happy.

Dump the "friends" who tear you down, before you do anything else.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

New Web Site

I wanted something different, not the typical writer site. While I wasn't sure exactly what that entails, I knew what I didn't want. Fortunately for me, I know a creative type who happens to be good with computers as well. Guess holding her in my lap before she could talk while she played Sesame Street games on the PC has paid off. Yeppers, one of my offspring took the home page photo (real black and white film!), and the other spent hours writing code. Give it a look at and see what you think.

On another note, I read something that said second drafts, rewrites, are usually worse than the first draft. Since I depend on those rewrites to straighten out the most obvious messes I've gotten the book into, I must disagree. However, I do think it's easy to lose that first draft enthusiasm, the eager tumble of words, in over-polishing. It's a fine line, for sure. Second, third, or more drafts are my norm. A book is an ever-evolving creature.

Like all of us.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Getting it Right

Gardening is a whole lot like work at the beginning. I should know - I spent this afternoon (no humidity, yeah!) digging up scraggly pansies and replacing them. Couldn't find the exact shade of salmon vinca I wanted, made do with something else, and am still not satisfied. I'll work at finding what I want, and until I do, I won't give up.

It felt a whole lot like I was starting a new book. Searching for the exact opening sentence. The right words to make the book "sound" right. Going through racks and racks of plants, hunting and pecking for the precisely correct color. Openings are so important - they can make or break you. Just like a flower garden in the front yard sets the tone for the rest of the plantings.

As I drive down a two-laned road near my house, I marvel at those homeowners who have bedecked their roadsides with a jubilation of colorful plants. Riots of color. I get their pride, their color schemes, how hard they've worked to make that first glimpse of their properties just so. Other houses have bedraggled entrances, weeds sky high. The yards may be neatly trimmed, but that first impression is one of neglect and laissez faire. Too bad.

Those first three pages of a novel are, like the gardens I see near my house, crucial to how you'll perceive the rest of the story. Make them killer. Grab the readers' "eyes," and they'll keep going for the rest of the ride.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Goofing Off

The Saturday list was more than a page long. Life has intervened this week, and regular chores, plus those little add-ons that zap hours like melting ice cream in hundred degree heat, have been pushed aside. Even the garden can't lure me, not in this heat. All the stuff I hate about summer, the heat, the humidity, take the joy out of playing in the garden as well. So any excuse will do to avoid the mundane, unless it's dire.

Today we decided to play. An antique car show. Lunch out. Some frivolous shopping. Chinese for dinner. A thunderstorm that drenched us. All in all, a lovely day. It's hard to step out of the regular world and into a different one, but it's something that we need to do to restore our batteries.

Heroes must move from the ordinary into the extraordinary world. That's when the adventure begins, the story starts, and we hang on for the ride. Make it a good one.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Firebirds and Conflagrations

An elderly neighbor possesses a real treasure in her carport. Every day as I walk the hound past it, I wonder about the white Pontiac Firebird sitting on squishy tires, mildew marring its sides. The proud firebird on the hood is hidden under years of dirt. I know she drove it to work twenty years ago, but it hasn't moved since. Her vanity license plate, with her initials, is still in the bracket.

She's a sweet faced, white-haired little elderly lady who seldom leaves the house these days. I can't help but wonder at how she came to own this hot, fast car, and why. Did she start out on the local short track, driving Pontiacs? Or did she just always want to drive a car that made grown men drool? Although it's over twenty years old now, that Firebird still has "it."

Whatever the reason, I know my neighbor has a story that's probably more exciting than anything I have imagined. One day, I'll ask her.

On another note: We just saw the movie INCENDIES. All I can say is, wow. If you want fun, don't go. If you want to understand some of the recent history of Lebanon and delve into a heart breaker of a mystery, see it. Just make sure you're prepared for a tense, scary, tragic ride. I won't give away its ending, but you'll see it coming.

Just hold on tight.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

City of Ashes

Just finished reading Cassandra Clare's CITY OF ASHES. While it has some witty bits of dialogue, it is, at its heart, about teenagers whose parents have checked out on them. Clary's mother is in a self-induced coma, Jace's father abandoned him as a child, and then his adoptive mother hands him over to a sadistic, pathological official who proceeds to torture him. Yep, the adults in this book do not come off well. Oh, and a 300 year old warlock is in love with another teenager, Alec. Yewww. Didn't any editor pick up on the pedophilia? And didn't anyone give a hoot about the incestuous attraction between Clary and her brother, Jace? It's addressed, but not satisfactorily. Clary lusts after her sibling with totally adult feelings. Another big Yuck.

The dystopian world Clare has created is filled with demons and danger, and our teenage heroes are targets for the worst of both. I guess this book resonates with teenagers who feel they're alone in the world, fighting for their very survival. But it scares me that this series is a bestseller. What does it say about our society when kids grab onto story lines like pedophilia and incest and make them popular?

I remember reading Lloyd Alexander's award winning THE HIGH KING when it first came out umpteen million years ago, and thinking "what is this?" To feel better, the hero took a pill and voila, all better. A reflection of society? I fear so.

Can the same be said of Clare's series? I fear so even more.