Thursday, June 24, 2010

Can We Panic Now?

Hey look: a blog post!

So here's an overview of the past week: a fun and informative book signing; more packing; ArmadilloCon preparation; music writing; and trying not to panic.

On Saturday I went to a book signing for Melissa Marr.  This is actually the second of her signings I've attended (so nice to live relatively near a fabulous author!), so I was looking forward to going.  She is a really wonderful, genuine person.  She's so personable, and gives the immediate impression that she truly cares about other people.  So not only is she a great writer, but she's a great human being as well.

Unfortunately the state of the highway on Saturday meant that it took an hour and a half to go 30 miles.  I had left a little early, but not early enough apparently, so I missed a little of the first bit of Q&A.  But the signing afterward more than made up for it!  I was at the end of the line and got to chat with Melissa for about 10-15 minutes.  She had some really excellent advice on querying, along with a list of agents and websites to check out.  Thank you, Melissa!

Also on the writing side, I've revised the first chapter of the WIP based on some recent critiques, and I last night I sent the revised version to the ArmadilloCon writers workshop.  I'm SO excited about the con.  Several of the other people in my critique group will be attending as well, and I can hardly wait to get together with them.

The WIP is going well overall.  The critiques on the first section have been really encouraging in addition to having some good advice.  I'm continuing to plug away toward the finish before doing any further revision, though.

As for the rest, I've completed a new piece of music for the two-stick shooter in production at GeeQ.  I'm pleased with it.  Hopefully I'll have some time to do a little more music in the coming weeks.

But of course, a lot of that will depend on how the packing goes.  The move is only a few weeks away!  The bookshelves and china cabinet are all packed up, and I can't believe how many boxes are filled just from doing that much.  Still a lot to do, and we won't even have time this weekend since we'll be out of town, so that'll leave most of the packing for the July 4th weekend.

What was that about not panicking?

Well, as you can see, life hurtles forward.  I've managed not to drop any balls yet, so hopefully that trend will continue.  All the best to all of you!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Birthdays and Moving and Blog Silence

I feel like I've been pureed.  Monday mornings are usually no fun, but this morning was particularly brutal.  I'd say I feel like I'm getting old, but I'm not anywhere near old, so really I just feel pathetic.

The hubby and I spent this weekend out of town celebrating my grandmother's 80th birthday.  I was really glad we were able to make it down and see lots of family and make ourselves useful so they didn't have to do all the set-up themselves.  It's been a while since we visited with that side of the family, so it was a good time.

But somehow I must have overdone.  Maybe it was the lack of sleep from the heavy rain while we were staying out in the camper.  Maybe it was the extreme heat yesterday that sapped my energy.  Maybe it was the repetitive motion strain I got in my shoulder from measuring out endless lengths of streamers for decorating.  (I kid not; it still feels bruised to the touch.)

I know... pretty pathetic, right?  I could barely keep my eyes open before bed last night, and this morning isn't much better.  Hard to believe I was pulling all-nighters just over five years ago.

Well anyway, it was still a good weekend, despite feeling partied-out this morning.  Congratulations to my grandmother on 80 good years.  And thanks to all the family for a great weekend.

In other news, I neglected the blog all last week because I've been making some great progress on the newest book.  I'm excited about how it's coming together.  I'm about a third of the way through, and I'm still feeling the energy of it.

My postings over the next month and a half will probably continue to be more sporadic.  We're moving next month, and that means lots of packing, packing, packing.  I'm really getting excited about the move, though.  Our new location will mean far less traffic and much easier access to a lot of great people and places.

So while all that's going on I may simply have too much to juggle to keep up regular posts.  I'll try not to be totally silent, though!

In the meantime, enjoy your summer!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Book Recommendation: Life of Pi

The first time I heard of Life of Pi I thought it had something to do with math like the book Flatland.  I was interested in reading it but never had the opportunity.  Then one day I noticed it in the bookstore and discovered that it was NOT in fact a math story but a survival story.  Feeling that I had read all the miraculous survival stories I cared to read, I lost interest.

Then this weekend while visiting my family I found it on my brother's bookshelf, and in a few spare moments while waiting to leave for church I started reading it.  I was immediately impressed with Yann Martel's writing.  The words stay out of the way just enough to allow me to focus on the content of what they're saying, but the language is also so skillfully weaved together that what I do notice is lovely.

But of course, what really drew me in was the story.  Pi Patel is intelligent, thoughtful and in love with the idea of faith.  His story walks the fine line between being completely unexpected and outside the realm of my own experience, and being entirely recognizable in its universality.  I learned so much—about the ocean, about animals, about the fight for life—and at the same time I went on an emotional journey that allowed me to connect deeply with circumstances I will hopefully never see myself.  Ultimately that is what a good story should do.

In the end the nagging question is “could I do what he did?”  Could you survive out in the ocean for 200+ days in a lifeboat with a 450-pound Bengal tiger?  I seriously doubt that many could.  But though that is the most obvious question, it isn't the only one.  Could you also keep your sanity?  Could you fight as hard as he did to stay alive, even without the tiger?  Could you (if you have faith) keep your faith, even see the timely occurrences that help keep you alive as miraculous gifts?

Life of Pi is a soul-searching kind of book.  But I don't think it would be nearly as effective without the skilled description throughout.  Granted some of that description makes sections rather graphic.  (If you are squeamish about animals killing one another painfully, well I won't say not to read the book because you still should, but do be forewarned.)  On the other hand the description truly helped me to connect with Pi.  I remember particularly stirring moments when Pi is afraid or jubilant; the description of both the mental and physical manifestations of those emotions had me riveted.

This is a book worth reading if you ever have the chance.  You'll be glad you took the journey.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


Last year I heard some excellent advice from Melissa Marr at a book signing she was holding.  She said to read something from every section of the bookstore, not just the section that is most obviously related to one's own writing genre.

This month that advice took me to the “inventions” section of the library.  I pulled out a giant book on ancient inventions by Peter James and Nick Thorpe which is conveniently called “Ancient Inventions.”  The book is all about the technologies, medical practices, agriculture, etc of ancient cultures around the world.

It's fascinating stuff!  Did you know that in the last few centuries BC the Hindus were perfecting rhinoplasty?  Or that the Incans built a suspension bridge of twisted plant fibers that lasted 500 years?  Or that the ancient Chinese already knew how to make magnetic compasses for navigation?  Or that anthropologists have found evidence that people in Baghdad created the first batteries millennia ago?  I am truly amazed.

And of course, all of this has got me thinking.  How might cultures develop differently on another world?  Earth's technological history is already written (at least to this point), but reading through this book I could easily imagine that history might have turned out differently had people used their inventions in slightly different ways.

Which leads me to wonder how I might design the cultures in a fictional world according to believable technological advancements that are nonetheless different from any recognizable period in earth's history.  So often the worlds we design are created out of genre paradigms.  Take epic fantasy, for example.  There is no written rule that other-world fantasy must occur in a medieval setting, and yet nearly every such fantasy follows that trend.

I think this is what makes Steampunk so interesting to some people: the whole concept is based on manipulating the technology of the Victorian age.  And yet the idea has been used so often now that even Steampunk has become set in its ways.

So what can we create that is completely unique?  Reading this book has given me a few ideas (and I'm only three chapters in!), but I'm sure doing even more research will lead in new directions.  How about a city in the jungle that has a vast system of cables and pulleys and wooden gears and operates on steam power?  Or what about a desert community that harnesses electricity for lights and distance communication but that has little else in the way of advanced technology.

I know I would love to read about cities like those.  Maybe other people would too.  What sort of cities would you want to see?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Memorial Weekend

Well I just finished up a whirlwind of a weekend.  I returned home last night, and I still don't think I've recovered, even after a good night's sleep.

But it sure was a good weekend!  It began Saturday morning with my sister-in-law's high school graduation.  Her school had a very nice ceremony, and her class was very small, so it didn't drag on.  We had a great lunch at Applebees afterward.

Sunday was the wedding of a dear friend of mine.  She was absolutely stunning!  The wedding was outside in the mountains, overlooking a valley and more mountains—very beautiful.  The day was rather hot and humid, but again, another lovely ceremony.  I'm so please for her and her new husband.  They are remarkable people.

And then yesterday was family time.  My dad and step-mother prepared a fantastic Memorial Day lunch.  Wow, was it good.  For dessert we did puzzles (we were all way too full for any more food).

Now I'm back home and back to worrying about all the little things that need to be done... as well as the big thing—packing for our move NEXT MONTH.  I can hardly believe it's already June.

But before all of that I want to take a moment (since I wasn't around my computer yesterday to do it then) to thank all of those who serve or have served in the military.  You give so much, and because of you we have so much.  Thank you.

Hope everyone had a wonderful weekend!  Now back to the grind...