Thursday, December 4, 2014

This post has no theme except: hey! time is passing.

A couple days ago I wrote this post about all the stuff I was going to do in November. Only it wasn't a couple days ago, it was a whole month, and now November has gone and done a disappearing act.

NaNoREADMo count: 1.5 books. Pathetic really.

Research: more productive. Except now the book in question has decided it's something else entirely. Typical.

Thanksgiving roundup

Miles driven: ~220
People seen: >40
Food consumed: lots, and then more lots (including an entire meal of desserts)
Illnesses acquired: 2 (one for me and one for the boy)
Fun: had

Also there was a very minor car accident (but don't worry, mom! it doesn't even count as a fender bender, and it was in no way whatsoever my fault).

Now we're home and diving straight into December and chaos and "tis the season." (A rather frigid dive, if you ask me. Too much rain.) Tis also the season, apparently, for teething. All four of my son's molars are coming in at once, and they are as brutal as everyone says. All those people who told me sleep gets better after the first year? A bunch of lying liars who lie, I'll tell you what.

But despite the absolute mess I have become after several nights of being awake from 3:30 to 5:30, or rather because of it, we get such comedic gems as this one last night:

My husband: Where's the baby monitor?

Me: *Heads to desk to fetch it. Sees phone.* Oh! Almost forgot to charge my phone. I've been forgetting everything today. Left my purse in the car when I went to CVS. Luckily there was nobody behind me in line so I could run and grab it. *Returns to husband.*

Him, with barely-contained exasperation: Um... the monitor?

Sooooo that's how things stand in the Lockwood house. Happy December, and if you're looking for a quick, humorous read, check out my agency sister's post from Monday. It was right up my alley.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Confessions of a Collector

So here I am, sitting at my keyboard, having a debate with myself. It goes a little like this:

Me; Do I really want to tell people that I, um... do that thing?

Myself: Sounds like time for a true confession.

Me: Now that's just silly. All sorts of people do it! That's like "confessing" to having a piece of chocolate after dinner.

The thing in question is World of Warcraft. Yes, I play. And yes, it is a tad embarrassing if only because it's the big behemoth of MMOs. While I loudly proclaim my love of gaming, I tend to keep a lid on my enthusiasm for WoW. It's not like one of those Korean games that you play "for the artwork" or whatever. It's a guilty pleasure--the sort people can get addicted to. As a friend of mine put it: "it's that awful ex you keep going back to."

Nevertheless, I play, and I have to admit I kind of love it, particularly right now. The latest expansion came out last week, and it's the most fun I've had playing the game since I started years ago. (With several long breaks between then and now (she hastily added).) What makes it so good?

Well, a lot of things, but in particular, for me, it's the collection aspect. World of Warcraft capitalizes on the human instinct to collect, in the past through pets, gear and achievements, and now through a new feature that allows the collection of "followers"--non-player characters who assist your character.

Though I wouldn't say I'm a hoarder, I do like to collect things, and sometimes those things are a bit strange. Books, ink stamps, key chains, crocheting yarn--those are all pretty normal. Toothbrushes, not so much. (Ostensibly they are for cleaning, but I'm not exactly the most meticulous of housekeepers, so really, there isn't much point to them.)

Anyway, in musing on these things, I got to thinking: can I tap into that instinct to collect in my writing?

Books delve into so many other human desires. We love to fall in love, thus Romance. We love self-description, thus the appeal of the Hogwarts Houses in Harry Potter or the magical Ajahs in Wheel of Time.

Surely there are books that resonate with our passion for collecting. Isn't that a staple of fantasy, to go on a journey searching for various items to complete a quest? The signs in The Dark is Rising come to mind.

And yet, I can't think of any books that give me the satisfaction of collecting vicariously through the characters. I'm wondering why that is. Have I not been reading the right books? Or is that feeling just too difficult to get across on the page?

What do you think?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Strange Beast Called November

It's November, everyone! That lovely month of good food and festive feeling and not quite hating winter's guts yet.

Who is doing NaNoWriMo? Who is wishing they were doing NaNoWriMo? Who is lamenting that NaNoWriMo even exists? (I see you, Patrice.)

Personally I've just finished editing a final-ish draft of a new book, and I'm not quite ready to write the next one, in a month or otherwise. So no NaNo for me. Instead I find myself in the challenging but optimistic position of not knowing which of many tasks to take on first.

Exhibit A: Reading!

If I'm not writing a book this month, maybe I should take some time to read a few extra books. I started off strong with Maggie Stiefvater's The Dream Thieves (which was just as good as I was hoping), and now I've gone and picked up four more books at the library today. Three are by authors I already know and love (including Clariel by Garth Nix!!!). The other was an impulse grab. If I do nothing but read, maybe I can get through all of them before they're due in two weeks. But that's not likely because of...

Exhibit B: Research!

I absolutely have a new book in mind to get started on writing, but the trouble is, there are a lot of historical elements that need investigation. What do 17th century Holland and 1920s Appalachia have in common? Well I'm not spilling the beans on the answer yet, so I'll have to leave you in suspense. If you do have an answer of your own though, leave it in the comments. I'd love to hear it!

Exhibit C: *mumble mumble*

[Super secret project here.]

And if that weren't enough, there is, after all, a holiday at the end of the month. Happy November!

Friday, October 24, 2014

A Writer Mom's Guide to Housekeeping

So I have this friend who is a wonderful housekeeper. She has three kids of her own and is nanny to a fourth, and she is great at balancing motherhood and cleaning.

Today on our baby group page she posted this handy little cleaning chart:


Now I'm not such a great housekeeper. I maintain that I am a writer and a creative, and therefore I have other priorities, but sometimes that's more excuse than reality.

The real truth, in all its laughably awful glory, is that I generally go by this simple flow chart:

There. Now you know. And if you never want to come to my house again, I understand.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Adventures in Food Land

I used to be the sort of person who would walk past the kitchen aisle of a store and have no interest in it. My tastes have always been a bit like my personality: plain and unassuming. I grew up a very picky eater of the "less is more" mentality when it came to flavor.

Turns out, though, that there was hope even for me of developing a passion for food. Some food, at least. Well, two types of food: Italian and desserts. And where there's passion, there's suddenly an interest in related gadgetry. (Doesn't hurt that kitchen toys are now so cute and colorful.) Which in turn means that the percentage of food prep items on my wish list has steadily increased over the past few years.

Luckily for me, my family has been known to indulge me from time to time. For my birthday a few months ago I got a bunch of nifty kitchen toys, and I've slowly been putting them to good use.

Experiment #1: Pasta

My father-in-law's family gave me a wonderful book recently that has been the source of much culinary delight in my household. It is Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan. Her basil and garlic tomato sauce is so easy and soooooo delicious. I tried it out with store-bought pasta at first, and I thought the result was the most amazing thing I'd ever tasted.

But then! Oh, but then. My dad's family gave me a pasta maker for my birthday, and I used it (on my birthday, in fact) to make a batch of spaghetti. (I had a bit of help from visiting friends.) Paired with the sauce, the pasta was beyond incredible. It was a revelation! I was completely enraptured.

Me, super excited about using my shiny new toy.

Experiment #2: Truffles

Chocolate-making has been an interest of mine for even longer. I started off with marshmallow fudge bonbons, as described here. Slowly I've progressed through peppermint fondant candies, along with orange and almond flavored. (I collected a double boiler and candy thermometer along the way, gifts from my mother-in-law.) So I was pretty psyched when my dad and step-mother also gave me The Art of the Chocolatier by Ewald Notter.

I picked up a few molding trays and set to work on one of the simpler recipes in the book: chocolate truffles. Here's a shot of the assortment I made for my church's annual tailgate:

Personally, I liked the extra dark chocolate the best.

Bonus: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

For my son's birthday I made a lion cake with cupcakes for the mane.

In hindsight, buying a whole bag of Twizzlers
just for the mouth and whiskers was a bit much.

When I was finished I had a bunch of frosting left over since I had used two different types of frosting. Seeing as I tend to let things go to waste in my fridge more often than I would like, I decided maybe this time I would find a use for that frosting.

What goes with brown and orange frosting? Why, pumpkin and chocolate chips, of course! So I searched online for a good pumpkin cupcakes recipe. I found this one (and added the chocolate chips at the end). The resulting cupcakes were suuuuuuper fluffy. In fact, they were a bit difficult to frost since they came apart so easily! But I finished off the frosting at least...

Not the prettiest frosting job ever, but they tasted just fine!

How about you folks? Any recent culinary adventures?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Paper Magician Blog Tour

You may have heard that the book chooses the writer. Whether stated whimsically ("no one else can write the book in your heart") or matter-of-factly ("you have unique passion and experience to write the books you write"), there is universal agreement on the general concept.

Today we're going to test that theory.

I have the pleasure of welcoming Charlie N. Holmberg to the blog for today's post. Her recently released debut, The Paper Magician, has been doing very well already. If you haven't read it yet, you're behind the times!

Here's what the book is about:

Ceony Twill arrives at the cottage of Magician Emery Thane with a broken heart. Having graduated at the top of her class from the Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined, Ceony is assigned an apprenticeship in paper magic despite her dreams of bespelling metal. And once she’s bonded to paper, that will be her only magic…forever.

Yet the spells Ceony learns under the strange yet kind Thane turn out to be more marvelous than she could have ever imagined—animating paper creatures, bringing stories to life via ghostly images, even reading fortunes. But as she discovers these wonders, Ceony also learns of the extraordinary dangers of forbidden magic.

An Excisioner—a practitioner of dark, flesh magic—invades the cottage and rips Thane’s heart from his chest. To save her teacher’s life, Ceony must face the evil magician and embark on an unbelievable adventure that will take her into the chambers of Thane’s still-beating heart—and reveal the very soul of the man.

Now if this book was your idea, how would you set about writing it? Where would you start? What would the book be like?

This is how I might write it:

   It was a dark and stormy night. Ceony Twill raced along rain-slicked cobbled streets, her paper mache machete held close to her chest. If it got soaked, it wouldn't be able to hack through anything. Already the glue was starting to run down her elaborate (but sensible!) bodice.
   Hers wasn't the most glamorous of jobs, but somebody had to keep the Chicago streets free of eldritch mobsters. Wealthy heiress by day, magic-wielding hunter by night, Ceony was no stranger to the darker side of the city. She hadn't chosen this life; it chose her.
   Like most graduates of Tagis Praff, the secret school of magic, she used to think that paper magic was for show and whimsy. Now she knew better; the proof was in her hands. Nothing was as sharp as paper, and already tonight her machete had hunted one dark Excisioner. The blood mage's final words still echoed in her mind...

What do you think, Charlie? Have I completely mangled your opening paragraphs?

Charlie: Whoah... I'm already picturing a cliche leather-clad ginger on the cover of this one. XD And a paper machete? Even without rain that would be useless! XD

While this makes Ceony sound Bad-A, she, unfortunately, isn't. Especially on the first page of the book, she lacks skills, hates paper, and is hardly a "monster hunter," even if monsters existed (short of zombie seagulls, of course.)

Let's add more sunlight with a touch of dark and more whine. We'll keep the sensible bodice:

   For the past five years, Ceony had wanted to be a Smelter.
   However, while most graduates of the Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined got to choose what material they dedicated their craft to, Ceony had been assigned. “Not enough Folders,” Magician Aviosky had explained in her office.
   Less than a week had passed since Ceony had heard this, and she still felt the tears that had stung the back of her eyes. “Paper is a wonderful medium,” Mg. Aviosky had continued, “and one that’s lost credit in recent years. With only twelve acting magicians left in that discipline, we have no choice but to direct a portion of our apprentices that way. I’m sorry.”
   So was Ceony. Her heart had broken at those words, and now, standing before the gate of Magician Emery Thane’s lair, she wished it had stopped beating altogether.

Well, there it is. I think we have our proof. I was absolutely not the right writer for that book, but Charlie most definitely was. My version was silly and cliche. Charlie's has heart. (Quite literally, actually. It has quite a lot to do with one heart in particular.) She has created a clever magic system and likable characters, and the book is a pleasure to read.

Thanks for joining us, Charlie, and congratulations on such a strong debut!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Blog Tour: Paul Shortt with Memory War

If you've been around here long enough, you may remember Paul Shortt from his blog tours for Locked Within and Silent Oath. The final book of the trilogy, Memory War, has just been released, and Paul's here to talk about one of the key underlying mechanics for the series: reincarnation. Here's what he has to say about why he chose to go that direction for these books:

Reincarnation - The Ultimate Afterlife?

A major element of The Memory Wars is reincarnation. When I set out to write the first book, I knew I wanted to try something different with it. Typically, reincarnation is the purview of prophecies, the Chosen One, or fated lovers. I didn't want any of that.

No, in the world of The Memory Wars, reincarnation is as common as magic spells and vampires. It's just one more aspect of life. Granted, it comes with ideological conflict between those who view death and rebirth as the natural cycle, and those who fear that only a person's memories survive the process, and the vital essence of who they once were is lost forever.

To the former, the reborn and their conclaves, reincarnation is the chance to live a full life again. The chance to find lost friends, to experience new things. But of course, with that comes another lifetime suffering through the challenges and pain of a typical person's life. And that's to say nothing of the kinds of problems faced by more adventurous reborn like Nathan Shepherd.

So why would I call reincarnation the "ultimate" afterlife?

Let's consider how the afterlife is often represented in fiction. Two examples which spring to mind are Supernatural and Toy Story 3.

In Supernatural, Heaven is depicted as a place where each soul gets to relive their happiest memories. That seems nice, but there's definitely a finite number of happy memories to be experienced, depending on how happy someone's life was. And then there's the fact that most people who die seem to be unaware that they're in Heaven. It's more like a dream, where they don't realise it isn't real. In a sense, when good people die, most of them don't even know that they're being rewarded. But even for those who do, and for the rare few who manage to create a Heaven that's more than just a memory, they know it's not real. It's an illusion. Eternity being granted everything you could desire might sound nice, but eternity is a long time...

It might seem strange to bring a children's movie into this, but at its heart, Toy Story 3 is about death. It features several different stages of the afterlife, from the idea of limbo (the attic), purgatory or Hell (the daycare centre as we first find it), oblivion (the furnace), and finally the last two, Heaven (the daycare centre once Lotso has been removed) and reincarnation (when Woody and the others are left with Bonnie). We even see the potential for immortality (Woody's hope to go with Andy to college). Now, while Heaven is depicted as being pretty great, and everyone is happy and content, the happiest ending comes for the toys who are reincarnated. Even Woody gives up his chance at immortality, because it's not as fulfilling as getting to really live again. The toys have been through the worst, and they receive the greatest reward, experiencing active and fulfilling lives. Even the way some toys recall their previous owners echoes how the reborn in The Memory Wars remember their past lives.

Why would Heaven, ostensibly the greatest reward anyone can receive, always be tinged with a little bit of murk? I think the answer is simple.

Life is not all good or all bad. It is struggle and reward, together. Good things mean so much more to us when we've earned them, when we feel we deserve them. In order to do that, we have to overcome obstacles and challenges. While Heaven is amazing, life is better. And only reincarnation offers another chance at life. The secret is to make each life worth living.

This is something that Nathan Shepherd is forced to consider in Memory War. As his enemies amass their forces, he wonders why he should keep fighting, when there will always be someone else to fight, and even when he dies, he'll come back, just like his enemies, and the fight will begin all over again. Sometimes, the fight isn't about winning, it's about making sure the dark knows there will always be someone to stand against it.

About Memory War:

War is coming to New York. Nathan Shepherd's growing band of followers is dedicated to protecting the city, but they now face their greatest threat.

Athamar returns, plunging the city into chaos. Uniting the forces of darkness against Nathan and his allies, Athamar strives to discover a secret hidden for thousands of years. A secret lost to Nathan's memories. Something so dangerous, even the gods themselves fear it.

Nathan and Elena were once the greatest of heroes, champions against evil. Now, haunted by Nathan's past-life betrayal, they must work together and brave the pain of long-buried lifetimes. Somewhere, locked within their former incarnations, lies the key to stopping Athamar, an enemy who has hunted them from one incarnation to the next.

As the city burns and innocents suffer, as heroes fall and hope dies, Nathan and Elena face their final battle, a battle where legends will be reborn.

About Paul:

A child at heart who turned to writing and roleplaying games when there simply weren’t enough action figures to play out the stories he wanted, Paul Anthony Shortt has been writing all his life.

Growing up surrounded by music, film and theatre gave him a deep love of all forms of storytelling, each teaching him something new he could use. When not playing with the people in his head, he enjoys cooking and regular meet-ups with his gaming group.

He lives in Ireland with his wife Jen and their dogs, Pepper and Jasper. Their first child, Conor William Henry Shortt, was born on July 11th, 2011. He passed away three days later, but brought love and joy into their lives and those of their friends.

The following year, Jen gave birth to twins, Amy and Erica. Their fourth child, Olivia, was born in January, 2014.

Connect with Paul on Facebook and Twitter, or on his blog.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Three Act Structure and the Saga of the Glasses

I got new glasses last week. (Last week? Really? Seems like I've had them forever already.) I'm not sure what I think of them yet. I like seeing the world clearly again, but they don't look quite as cool. According to (*ahem*) "a certain member of my household" (*ahem*) they are the mom jeans of glasses. But then, my last pair was a super spiffy frameless kind that just didn't hold up with a toddler in the house. What do you think?

If you follow me on Twitter, you may already be privy to the saga of the glasses. It was told in three parts, on three different days, It occurred to me that, silly as it was, it was an excellent model of three act structure.

Act 1: Set Up

This is our introduction. We have a protagonist (me! *waves*) and an inciting incident (acquiring new glasses). We also have a small obstacle introduced with the inciting incident that must be overcome (adjusting to the depth perception).

[Apparently this was from the astigmatism, and was it ever strange! I drove home with the old, broken glasses because I couldn't bear to look long distance for more than an instant.]

Act 2: Confrontation

As you can see, the first obstacle was overcome. But right on the heels of victory came a new, more difficult challenge: the glasses didn't fit! (Seriously, it was so annoying to have them falling off my face every time I bent my head more than 20 degrees.)

I tried to look up options for fixing them myself. Thus I came to the midpoint of my saga: the realization that I could not fix them on my own, and that if I tried I would likely break them(!).

I called the office where I'd gotten the glasses, but they were not open. Disaster upon disaster! What would I do?

Act 3: Resolution

Fortunately, the office opened again at a convenient time the following day. I drove over as soon as they opened, and they quickly assisted me. All was well.

I guess three act structure really does exist in the real world!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Three Random Things

It's been one of those weeks. The boy has strep. Hubby and I have been a bit sick too. So instead of a thoughtful blog post, you get a "three random things" post.

1. I'm currently reading The Golem and the Jinni and it is such a wonderful book. Love the writing, love the history and the research that went into it. It's a rich, beautiful experience.

2. I've started using HabitRPG. Let me know if you're on there. I haven't formed a party or done much of anything yet except gain levels.

3. I've got new glasses to pick up this afternoon! I'm so excited about this. The old ones finally broke beyond repair. (Note that this is not the first time they have broken.) Seeing as I needed a new prescription anyway, this is probably not a terrible thing. Can't wait to see what the world really looks like again!

Have a wonderful week, everyone. And happy new school year to those just starting back this week!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Ten Books

Ten books that "have stayed with you the longest or have changed you in some way." My friend Eileen tagged me for this on Facebook, and I'm not having an easy time of it picking my ten.

It's sort of like asking me to tell my life story in ten sentences. Birth, marriage, the birth of my son--these are obvious choices. But do I go with my first job or the first time I traveled out of the country? What about that time I danced until my toenails fell off and then kept dancing anyway, or the year I went to the international science fair? You know, come to think of it, birth is kind of an obvious addition to the list... maybe I could get away with cutting it.

That's how I feel picking out ten books, so if I fudge it in a few places, please forgive me.

1. The Lord of the Rings & The Chronicles of Narnia

Why? These are the equivalent of "birth" in the analogy above. I'll never forget my dad reading the Battle of Helm's Deep and shouting "KHAZAD AI-MENU" at the top of his voice. Or how, after my mom read Narnia to me, I pretended my bathroom door could take me there. (The swirls in the wood of the door looked a little like a face.)

These are the books that made me a reader, and while they seem so obvious I wish I could cut them to make more room, I wouldn't really be here without them.

2. Harry Potter

Why? I never fell in love with a fictional world as much as I did with the wizard world. It was a revelation. I wanted to live there. Barring that, I wanted to create other worlds that made people feel the way Harry Potter made me feel. These are the books that made me a writer.

3. Ender's Game

Why? The psychology of it really resonated with me. My first real attempts at writing were very derivative of this book.

4. Watership Down

Why? It's one of the few books that gets better every time I read it. The characters stay with me. (And, I admit, the creepy warren does too.)

5. Howl's Moving Castle

Why? It's the only book I've re-read immediately after reading. I've read a lot of books that made me sad or made me laugh or even a combination of the two. But I never read one as whimsical as this. It fit the mood of my life so perfectly that I wanted to stay in it longer. Plus, Sophie's magic is precisely the sort I always wished for whenever someone asked me what my superpower would be, were I lucky enough to have one.

6. The Sparrow

Why? Perhaps it was because the main character was a linguist, and at the time I was studying linguistics. Perhaps it was the mix of horror and compassion at the end of the book. It hooked me, and then it tasered me in the feels.

7. The Merlin Trilogy

Why? Great series, but there's one particular scene that stands out to me. It digs into the relationship between the two central characters, and with a single sentence BOOM! emotional fallout.

8. Elsewhere

Why? It's one of the few books that actually has a recognizable influence on how I live. Sure, every book changes the mind in some way, but this one made me conscious of the change. It helped me to look at areas of my life where I'm wasting my time and think more critically about them. Also, it had the most bittersweet ending...

9. The Book Thief & Code Name Verity

Why? If you've read them, I don't need to tell you. If you haven't read them, I can't tell you.

10. Un Lun Dun

Why? Because it is funny and clever and doesn't take itself too seriously.

Aaaaand now I want to go back and read all of these again. Oops.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Penny for Your Virus?

How much would you pay for a virus?

Before you answer that, no, in this scenario you are not the villain of a Mission: Impossible flick.

If, instead, you are a 17th century Dutch investor, you might be willing to pay the equivalent of ten years' income. Ten years of hard work just to buy...


Yep, that's a tulip.

Back in the 1630s, in a phenomenon known as Tulip Mania, tulip prices in the Netherlands soared to unstable heights. The most expensive tulips were like the one pictured above: striped instead of solid.

And what caused those stripes? A virus! The "tulip breaking virus" specifically, which, in addition to the stripes, causes the tulip to weaken. Weak = rare. Rare = valuable. And there you have it--a virus worth loads of money.

Now I get that tulips are beautiful. Personally I like the solid colors better, especially the yellow ones.

gratuitous yellow tulips

But regardless of color or design, tulips are my favorite flowers. I mean, just look at these. Such vibrant colors! Still, I would never pay thousands of dollars for one bulb.

But then... I'm not a 17th century Dutch investor, am I?


[This post brought to you by: "Eeeeeee, tulips!" aka: "I have a shiny new book idea, but I can't work on it yet, so here's some research thinly disguised as a blog post."]

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Matter of Degree

I write books.

(No, really? You don't say!)

But that wasn't always the plan. When I started out in college I had no idea what I wanted to do. I studied a whole bunch of math because I was good at it, and when the major I was hoping for fell through, the easiest alternative was to fall back on a math major. I didn't realize I wanted to be a writer until my senior year.

Sometimes I wonder: if I had known then what I know now, what would I have chosen to study?

So, just for fun, here's a (not very well thought out) guide to majoring in "I want to be a fantasy writer."

1. Take lots of English classes. Don't bother taking too many English classes. Unless they sound really interesting, like Beowulf. (Have I ever mentioned I've considered adopting a really ugly cat and naming it Grendel?) Instead, read a lot of fantasy in whatever free time you get.

2. Caveat: take lots of Linguistics. I only really understood English after I studied lots of other languages. (And I do love diagramming sentences. *sigh*)

3. Throw in a good bit of Anthropology. Roll a die to see which courses you get--you can hardly go wrong.

3a. Take an Anthropology of Music class. Music is a kind of magic, right? Decide you would rather be a musician. Drop everything, take piano lessons and become a composer.

3b. Take an Anthropology of Food class. (After all, people love reading long descriptions of every single meal your characters eat, down to the minute details of preparation.) Realize you'll probably be cooking for the rest of your life, so you might as well be good at it. Enroll in culinary school instead.

4. Take a Mythology class for inspiration. Add in some Military Science if you plan to have any warfare in your books.

5. Choose a track: Contemporary, Historical or Other-world Fantasy

5a. Contemporary. Take some introductory Biology, Chemistry and Astronomy. You can't break science with magic until you know how it works!

5b. Historical. Take a bunch of Medieval Studies classes. Come to the conclusion that there are enough Medieval Fantasy stories in the world, and that it was a rather brutish time period anyway. Take several History courses from multiple eras all over the world instead. You'll probably not hit on the one era you end up wanting to write about, but at least you'll know how to do research!

5c. Other-world. Take Economics. Geology. Political Science. Religion. A bit more Anthropology for good measure. Fight the disappointment that slowly dawns on you as you realize no world you design will ever be quite as real as the real world.

6. Add in some Psychology if you still have room for it.

7. Succumb to burn-out. Remember that you used to be so good at math. Wonder if you still might be able to make a career out of it somehow...

In retrospect, maybe my studies, unconventional as they were for a writer, set me along precisely the right path in the end.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Gleeful Destruction

Something happened to me this past week. I became the mother of a one-year-old. It just sort of happened, which I suppose is how these things work, but I'm still a little stunned. All of a sudden BOOM! One.

I mean, I'm used to a big boss fight before a level up. You gear up and gear up and then fight for your life to earn that level. I know, I earned this badge with every diaper changed and grubby hand cleaned. Still, this particular level up was a bit anti-climactic.

Though that might have been due to the fact that our entire household came down with the cold of doom a day before the birthday. We had to postpone his party and spent the day taking turns passed out on the couch. Maybe I'll feel a little less off-kilter once we're finally all well enough to celebrate properly.

It's been quite the year, and I've done my share of reminiscing this week. Babies change so much in the first year. They're constantly learning--how to walk, how to talk, how to get away with everything under the sun... It's kind of funny the order that they learn things in, though. You'd think "Ow, that hurt. Maybe I should be more careful next time," would be a pretty nifty lesson to have in hand, but apparently it's less important than "I can stick my toes in my mouth!"

Another lesson that has yet to be learned: that things can't always be fixed when they're broken. There's no concept of permanent damage. My son recently picked a flower to play with, and then a few minutes later he tried to return it to its stalk. He was pretty unfazed by the fact that it didn't work. After all, there's a lot he doesn't have the dexterity for yet, and most of the time after a few tries he gets bored and does something else.

One of the results of this knowledge gap is that there's nothing to impede his joy of destruction. Those of us who do know better can't escape a warning going off in our minds before we pick the flower, or put the paper through the shredder, or smash a glass on the concrete. We know that what we're doing can't be undone. And that's a good thing! Can you imagine going through life without that hesitation?

And yet, I think there's something to be learned from the gleeful destruction of a child. My son simply loves knocking down towers of blocks. He approaches his task with abandon and gives it his all. He really goes for the total destruction.

I should be more like that with my work. I mean, obviously not when doing the dishes or driving around doing errands. But my writing could use a little more destruction. I hesitate too much before committing to chaos. The same hesitation that protects me in real life hampers me in my drafts.

But what if I can't put it back the way it was!

That's the beauty of writing, though. It can always be rewritten. So why not try, just to see what happens? Turn up the chaos, see where it goes. Future drafts can always dial down the destruction.

So that's one of my goals this year (you know, in addition to keeping the boy alive all year). Do you have any new writing goals lately?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Real Teens of 2014: Wondergirl

[Real Teens of 2014 is a blog series with interviews of middle and high schoolers. Interview questions are chosen by the interviewee from a list, and answers are presented unedited.]

Code Name: Wondergirl

Pick one of these and turn it into an accessory. How would you wear it? 
-a sippy cup 
-a toy car 
-a hula hoop 
-a lamp shade 
-pipe cleaners

If I had to wear a toy car I'd get two of them and wear them on my feet so I could stake around.

You have to fight at troll. Would you rather have a... 
-vacuum cleaner 
-or squirt gun 
and why?

If I had to fight a troll I'd use a flashlight to shine it in his eyes and blind him while I run by or push him off the bridge.

What's the worst/best thing you've ever tasted or smelled?

Worst thing I ever tasted was when I chewed a fish oil thing I ever tasted was home made dinner after being soo incredibly hungry, tired and cold for many hours.

If you could pick one subject and know everything there is to know about it, what would you pick?

If I could know everything about one subject I'd pick math.


New fashion statement alert for the roller rinks out there: roller skates should now be made to look like cars.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Real Teens of 2014: Wallflower

[Real Teens of 2014 is a blog series with interviews of middle and high schoolers. Interview questions are chosen by the interviewee from a list, and answers are presented unedited.]

Code name: Wallflower

Favorite book: The Giver by Lois Lowry

Who do you most admire and why?

There are two people I currently admire, Misha Collins and Bo Burnham. I admire both because they use their status in society to make a difference in the world, whether it is directly or indirectly. For example, Misha, who plays Castiel in Supernatural, tries to get his "minions" or his fans to make random acts of kindness and slowly change the world. In addition, there's Bo, a musical comedian, who compose songs that calls out social issues other artists are afraid to speak out against. He is able to make his songs entertaining and funny which makes it more difficult for some people to truly get his message because they don't try to understand his lyrics, they just listen for the beat.

What's one thing you wish everyone in the world understood?

It is okay to be different. Our differences is what allows us to thrive as a whole. One's weakness is another's strength. If everyone in the world could understand this, we would probably have a better world.

Describe an "average" teen. How are you different?

Honestly, I don't think I'm in the position to describe the "average" teenager. I don't think anyone is. My average is guaranteed to be different from someone else's average. However, I do like this question because I have always felt different from the average teen. In my opinion, the average teen has a plethora of friends, some that they don't even like. They go to parties/ hangout on weekends. They skip classes, try drugs, and smoke. Basically, they are extroverted people and desire the company of others. That is where I differ from them, I would describe myself as an introvert. I don't mind the company of others, if I like them, but I also don't wish for it, most of the time. I am fine with being alone and just thinking. I prefer the dark with music playing, that's where my peace is.

What's the best gift you have given or received?

My friend Kalyn, got me Bo Burnham's book Egghead for my birthday this year because it's the only thing I really wanted this year. She visited multiple bookstores to find it and I think that's extremely sweet. The book itself is FANTASTIC, it's not only filled with funny poems but there are profound and thought provoking poems there too. I couldn't have asked for a better birthday present.


Great stuff! Thanks so much, Wallflower!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Y (Why?) A

Confession: I write far too many posts that I never end up publishing. Happened again last night.

me: *type type type type type*
husband: So... are we going to go watch that season finale, or...
me: Fifteen more minutes!
husband: *sighs and waits patiently*
--fifteen minutes later--
me: *reads over what I've written* *realizes it's utterly dull and far too introspective* *throws it out*

Ok, so I didn't really throw it out, but I'm not hitting the "publish" button either. Even though that button is a pretty, inviting orange color. Hello, pretty button! Let's be friends, but not too good friends, because people don't need to read every word I put down. Only the good ones.

What's that? I'm rambling? You want me to get to the point already?

Yeah, yeah, I'm getting to it.


[To be honest, I prefer the term "teen" to "young adult." But never "teenager," because that sounds so out of touch.]

Why do I write YA?

I didn't really like being a teen myself. Middle school was a bad experience for me in a lot of ways. High school was better, but I was glad when it was over. (This is, in essence, what I spent five paragraphs on last night and eventually discarded.) So why would I want to revisit the teen years, even in books?

The simplest answer is because teens are so worth it.

I've been doing this series of Real Teens interviews this month, and we've had a lot of fun with them. Answers range from candid to silly to thoughtful. These are some really great people, and I love seeing the world from their perspective.

On the whole teens tend to get a bad rap for being careless, thoughtless and self-obsessed. Not the most flattering or the most accurate view.

Teens care, and they care a lot. The problem isn't with being careless but with having too many things to care about: the well-being of their families, the emotional highs and lows of their friends, the needs of their communities, the state of their country, the tragedies of the world. The world is smaller now because of technology, but it's also bigger than it's ever been because now we're aware of so much more. Hunger, natural disasters, terminal illness, cruelty... how do we care for it all? As adults we've generally mastered the art of caring about what we can productively influence and letting the rest fade out of our awareness. But teens haven't, and they're still burdened by the weight of all these cares.

They aren't thoughtless, either. Again, they have too many thoughts. Who wouldn't be a bit absentminded with a heart full of commitments? They are pulled in every direction, and still somehow manage to stay whole.

And as for self-obsession, there's good reason for it. They're at the tipping point between having all their needs met and needing to meet all their needs on their own. How they are going to do that and fulfill their need for meaning in life are big questions that need answers, answers that don't always come easily.

That's why I love writing books for them. They still have a genuine heart for cares we adults often ignore. Their heads can be everywhere at once and still manage to stay on their shoulders. And they are brimming with potential that both entices and terrifies them.

So as we wrap up the Real Teens series with a few more interviews, keep those things in mind. Enjoy the silliness, but look past it too. See the intensity of life that these teens live. It's pretty extraordinary.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Real Teens of 2014: The Joker

[Real Teens of 2014 is a blog series with interviews of middle and high schoolers. Interview questions are chosen by the interviewee from a list, and answers are presented unedited.]

Code name: Can I be a villain? I want to be The Joker. If not, Violet from The Incredibles.

Favorite book: I don't think I have a single favorite book... I love anything that teaches me or completely envelopes me into the story. Blue Like Jazz is definitely high on my list because it does both.

Tell us something that isn't true.

Contrary to popular belief, pigs will never fly.

If you had the power to fix one thing that you see wrong with the world, what would it be? How would you fix it?

I want to end world hunger. Haha yeah, I know. The answer is extremely cliché. But only on the surface. It breaks my heart to know that so many people do not have access to food. Good food. Nourishing food. I feel a desperate need to help them. How can they have a true chance at anything if they cannot eat? If I had the money, I would start a bakery and café called BREAD (Bible Reveals Every Answer Daily). It would be awesome. I would have two kitchens so everything that is gluten free would truly be 100% gluten free. We would sell to the public. But we'd also reach out to the hungry, homeless, and unemployed. We would work closely with many of the area's shelters and churches. We personally would be a food pantry for those in need. On a regular basis- perhaps once a month- we would have special events that would benefit the people we're helping in someway. No, BREAD wouldn't change the world. But it would change some lives. It would leave a legacy that would hopefully carry on and spread.

What should be the number one priority of the human race?

God. C.S. Lewis once said "one must keep on pointing out that Christianity is a statement which, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The one thing it cannot be is moderately important." It is important to remember that Christianity is the only religion in which we are not striving to become perfect versions of ourselves. We are striving to completely surrender ourselves to a perfect God and allow Christ to live through us.

What personality does each color of the rainbow have?

Colors don't have personalities, but feelings and personalities have colors. In the same way that a square is a rectangle, but a rectangle is not a square. Shade is extremely important. So… red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet...

Red can be anger, blood lust, frustration, addiction, warning, warm, bright, comforting, inviting, exciting, and wrong. So red is angry at the world. Red wants to like people, but has a hard time keeping them around too long because of it's anger issue. Red also struggles with spiritual warfare. Red can also be extremely classy.

Orange can be happy, annoying, extremely exciting, warning, "look at me!", sweet, hyper, also calm… Orange has many personalities, I think. Because traffic cone orange and neon orange is annoying and a plea for attention. However, soft orange and the gold orange in sunsets is calm, sweet, loving, relaxing... It's like a summer evening by the lake watching the world go by. It's a summer evening in the lagoon with the lights strung up in the trees and the fireflies dancing around with life and music, but still peace and a slow pace. (I know we're discussing rainbows, but Orange is extremely flexible and a little all over the place because it's so hyper.)

Yellow is bright, happy, hopeful, exciting, and joyful. Yellow is like the light at the end of the tunnel in a long- and even a short- winter. Yellow is like a promise that the sun will come back. It will be warm again someday, even if that day is not today. Yellow is like an adventure through a meadow. Yellow is the dance of the fireflies through the tree branches. Yellow is caring, always asking "why are you sad? The sun is not far away." The sun can be both figurative and literal. Yellow can also be jealous at times, but not very often.

Green. Green is extremely exciting, happy, comforting, fresh, equivalent to a shot of caffeine... Just to name a few. Green is warm. Even though green is everywhere, it is humble. Often times green goes to make other things stand out. Green stands out on it's own, of course, because it is independent. It simply cares for other colors and doesn't mind being their background guy. Green is also extremely open minded. The human eye can perceive green more than any color. And for only one color, there are seemingly endless amounts of shades. Green can be spontaneous.

Blue is interesting. It can be happy, bright, bursting with energy and joy, calm, and athletic. It can also be depressed, hurt, broken, confused, angry, lost, struggling, tired, and cold. I think Blue has seasonal depression because how it is depends on what it's mixed with: light or dark, white or black, day or night. Blue isn't bad, although it has sometimes convinced itself it is. Blue is beautiful and quite enjoyable. It just doesn't see itself the way others do. It's is nervous around others and tends to lack self confidence. Blue is extremely timid and shy until its barriers are broken. After that, blue almost always has something charming, witty, or funny to say. Blue is very sweet.

Violet is interesting. Violet is dark, mysterious, deep, insightful, extremely intelligent, quiet, introverted, and can be very grouchy. Sometimes violet's grouchiness is simply an act to keep others away. Violet has very high standards and only associates with those who meet it's standards. Violet is the atmosphere of writing in a coffee shop on a rainy day. Violet is rarely shares it's secrets. When it does, it never shares the whole story. Violet is extremely independent and relies on no one. 

It is important to to note that each color has more things tied them. They are not limited.


There you have it! The definitive treatise on color personalities. And I hope you do start BREAD one day. Thank you, Joker!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Real Teens of 2014: Giraffe Guy

[Real Teens of 2014 is a blog series with interviews of middle and high schoolers. Interview questions are chosen by the interviewee from a list, and answers are presented unedited.]

Code Name: Giraffe Guy

Favorite Book: Lord of the Rings

What is your superpower?

If I can imagine it then I can will it into reality.

If you could be one age forever, what age would you choose and why?

25 because it's a nice perfect number, I'm still considered 'young', my hair will not have fallen out, my mind will not have begun to defect, and I will have stopped growing.

If you could turn into an animal, which would you become and why?

(fantasy) Dragon, because they're super cool, amazing, awesome, can breath fire, have great armor, can fly, and don't die easily. (reality) Eagle, because they can fly, have great vision, and are protected by the government.

If you were the only person on earth who did not have to sleep, what would you do with all the extra time?

I would read. I can travel the world and learn almost anything without having to go anywhere at all.


Love it. The "protected by the government line" cracks me up every time. Every. Time. Thank you, Giraffe Guy!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Real Teens of 2014: Little Mermaid

[Real Teens of 2014 is a blog series with interviews of middle and high schoolers. Interview questions are chosen by the interviewee from a list, and answers are presented unedited.]

Code name: Little Mermaid

What's one thing you would NEVER do?

I would NEVER tell anyone "no one likes you". Joking or in seriousness.

What is your fatal flaw?

My fatal flaw is my lack of self control. I over eat and babble when feeling emotional.

And by babble, I say things I shouldn't say, I'm needy.

How do you eat your Oreos?

I eat my Oreos in milk. I'll eat them with a glass of milk, or I will put them in my mug and dig them out with a spoon. Unless they're the fudge covered ones.

What character trait do you find most appealing in another person?

I find it appealing when someone is politely honest. Meaning, when you speak you're real. If you aren't doing well you don't say you're doing well just to make life simpler. You're real about your thoughts, feelings, and the way you communicate and present yourself. Real, without being rude. A trait I would describe as respectfully and politely honest. Respect is one of the best gives anyone can give me. Respect means I am worth enough to not be overlooked or teased.  


Great answers! Now I want some milky Oreos... Thank you for starting us off, Little Mermaid!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Real Teens of 2014

Happy July!

I'm so excited to announce my blog series for this month. Over the next few weeks I'll be hosting several teens here on the blog through a series of interviews. Each of them was given a list of questions and picked four to answer, and their answers so far have been a lot of fun.

But I still have space for more! If you are in middle or high school or just graduated high school this year and you would like to answer a few (mostly silly) questions, let me know! I'd love to have you participate.

The first interview goes up on Thursday. Get excited!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Bloooooog Pooooooost

Thought process of the afternoon:

Hey, I should write a blog post. It's that time of the week.

What do I write about? Hm...

Oh, I see some green yarn on my desk. I wonder if there's anything interesting in that. It's been there forever. Ever since... let's see... probably about a year ago. I had this grand plan, see. I was going to be all DIY and make some ties to hold back the curtains in the nursery that would match the colors in the room. I even finished one of them. And now it's been months. The other one is never going to happen. So much for trying to save money doing it myself.

I wonder if there's some analogy in that to make into a fun post.

Oh look, there's something else on my desk that never got finished. I'm seeing a trend.

Wow, my desk is really not a good place for trying to come up with ideas. There are way too many things around here that need to get done.

Didn't I just sort through all those papers last week? How have they already multiplied??? I am never going to clean all this up!

Whatever. If I ignore them, maybe I can be productive.

Right. Blog post. Maybe if I just start writing...

Oh, huh. I'm already at the end of my thoughts and I still have no idea what to write about. Guess it's a good thing I have a series all planned out for next month!

This post doesn't really feel finished. Oh well. Evidence would suggest that if I don't post it now, it'll never get finished.


Friday, June 20, 2014

Shell Games: a Graduation Post

One night last week while I was making dinner I heard some adorable commentary coming from the living room, where my husband was playing with our son. I looked in on them and discovered my husband had been hiding an orange ping-pong ball under identical plastic cups and shuffling them around, concealing the location of the ball. In essence: a shell game. Either by skill or by some fluke, the Boy kept guessing the location correctly. A con artist in the making?

Well no, probably not. I played the same game with him myself the following day, and I tricked him more often than not.

That is how these things work, after all. Con artists lure their victims in with an easy game they are guaranteed to win, then when the stakes get high, the game gets tough. The victims are left scratching their heads and wondering how the prize ever got under the wrong shell.

I was thinking about shell games again today because of graduation. All the high school seniors in our town graduated this past weekend. (And congratulations to all of you!) There were parties and diplomas and, let's not forget, graduation speeches.

Back when I graduated high school I had the honor of giving a speech. I don't remember what I said, only that I used the numbers of our graduation year to say four different things about our class. At the time I thought I was being epically inspiring, but I suspect I was epically boring instead. Regardless, the goal was inspiration, because hey, that's what everyone expects. Generally graduation speeches all come down to one thing:


Folks, this is The Big One. All that talk about dreams, about becoming who you are meant to be, about doing all you can do? That's what this is. Here, have a definition if you aren't convinced.

But here's where the shell game thing comes into play. I think sometimes self-actualization can be like that con artists' game. "Do what you love, and love what you do." It's such an easy formula. It's something to feel good about. It's a promise that if we just figure out who we are and what we enjoy, life will be a piece of cake. We get lured in because self-actualization seems so easy.

Only it isn't.

A lot of inspirational messages would have you believe that your self-actualization is right here, just under this little shell, so easy to get to. But often times in life you can follow those simple steps to your dream, peak under the shell, and then find that the dream was actually under a different shell instead.

Everything worth doing in life has challenges. Maybe you love what you're doing because it's never been difficult for you. Well, one day you're going to find that what you're doing suddenly isn't so easy. Will you still love it then? Have you found a dream that you want to pursue despite the challenges?

Maybe you love what you're doing because it's fun. That's great! But there are a lot of other fun things out there too. Are you going to become crippled with indecision when you have to make a choice between two great options?

The shell game of self-actualization is difficult. You might think you're following the dream, only to find yourself ten years down the road in this situation:


So how do you get where you're trying to go? Well, Neil Gaiman has some really great advice in his graduation speech from 2012. The bit about the mountain is particularly good (starting at 3:40). He says to think of your goal as a mountain, and every step of the way ask yourself, "Is this taking me closer to the mountain?"

But what if you have a whole lot of mountains? What if you've been hearing all your life that you can do anything, that the world is your oyster, that if you apply yourself, nothing can stand in your way, and now you have so many options in front of you that you have absolutely no idea which to choose (and a sinking suspicion that maybe you aren't as qualified as all those pep talks said you were)?

My advice? Just start somewhere. Go be productive. (Mike Rowe has a lot of good stuff to say about going out, learning a skill and getting to work, by the way. I really appreciate his message and admire him for getting it out there.) In my experience, I'm much more capable of choosing a path if I'm doing something than if I'm sitting around waiting for inspiration.

Once you've made a choice, don't let fear distract you. There are a lot of fears--fear of failure, fear that there's something better somewhere else (the grass, as they say, is always greener...), even fear of success. But remember that shell game we've been talking about? Distraction is how the con artist cheats. If you really want the prize, you can't let fear pull your attention away.

But above all, remember this: self-actualization isn't everything. It's great, don't get me wrong. But you can take all the "all about me" quizzes in the world and pursue your big dream until you finally catch it, and you still will only have seen a tiny portion of life. Work hard. Cultivate memories. Live intentionally.

And if the shell game tricks you and you find yourself miles from where you want to be, find a new goal and start again.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Three Big First Novels

If you think writing is lonely, you're doing it wrong.

I used to think I was happy sitting in my little three foot square of desk space, all on my own, not interacting with other writers. I was so very mistaken. My critique group (which deserves a post of its very own one of these days) was my first introduction to the wonderful literary community. ArmadilloCon was the next. And finally, a little behind the curve, perhaps, I jumped into social media and discovered so many lovely people who made writing become not a bit lonely at all.

You know the wonderful thing about friends? They're happy when good things happen to you, and vice versa. Well, a lot of big, exciting things are happening for my writer friends lately, and I'm ecstatic for all of them. Three in particular have their very first books coming out later this year or next, and I just love sharing in their joy. Each of these books is a dream come true for its author.


I met Marshall at ArmadilloCon several years ago when we were two of the many unagented hopefuls, aspiring to have our names in print one day. He was the first to cross over to "the other side of the table" from workshop student to teacher. He's the kind of person who represents everything I love about the writing community--the determination, the can-do attitude, the generous encouragement to other writers--so I'm delighted that he finally has a book coming out next year!


Charlie is one of my newest writer friends. Our agent put me in touch with her, and I've really enjoyed talking to her and watching as she prepares for her first book release. I'm sooooo excited about this book, you guys! It sounds absolutely amazing, and I am really looking forward to September 1st when it finally comes out. It's totally my kind of book. Seriously, go read about it--you'll be hooked too!


I am a big fan of Stacey. I met her through Pitch Wars a while back and immediately clicked with her over a bunch of random things. She's an incredible critiquer and really opened my eyes to some big issues with my writing. She told me about her book when we met--I loved the idea of course--and I was so happy to hear when it found a publisher.

Each of these three people is an inspiration to me. I will be reading all three of these books as soon as they are available, and I hope that you will consider doing the same.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Writing Process Blog Hop

So I got pressed into service invited to participate in this blog hop by Marshall, whose own post is here. I am all for being handed a topic to blog on, so here goes!

1. What am I working on?

Currently working on a book about the Curator of Earth (a lofty title for one of the lowest positions in the Museum of Worlds) and the human girl who is helping him figure out why magical curses keep popping up all over the place.

2. How does my work differ from other works in the same genre?

In the case of my new WIP, I think one of the major differences is that the main characters are in a boy-girl friendship that doesn't involve any romance. I know that's unusual for YA and may even be a bit of a risk, but I think it's important to allow boys and girls just to be friends sometimes.

It's also a very whimsical adventure story, whereas I think a lot of YA books now strive for "dark" or "edgy."

3. Why do I write what I write?

To read what I want to read!

Sometimes I get ideas from dreams, but a lot of my ideas are driven by what I find myself wishing I could read. When I came up with The Never Silent, I thought of all my favorite elements of fantasy and fiction and combined them into one book.

Currently I'm in a very lighthearted phase of life, so my WIP is much more humorous and fun-loving.

Alternate answer: To make other people feel the way my favorite authors have made me feel after reading their books.

4. How does my writing process work?

My Big Idea for each book usually involves one or two key scenes or elements. This is my daydreaming (or sometimes even night dreaming) phase. I start with a spark.

Then comes research. Sometimes this is a massive time-suck. And then other times there's almost nothing to research at all.

Plot always comes next. I outline before I start writing anything, keeping my focus on story structure. The scenes I've been imagining find homes within the outline, and then I build up the rest to give the story a complete beginning, middle and end.

Next is character and voice. For The Never Silent this was a long process since I had to do a lot of research on the language. With my new WIP I'm still figuring out the voice as I work through the first draft.

And then, finally, comes the writing! Usually my first draft is very short. I put in the bare bones on the first draft, then by the final draft I've often got twice the word count I started out with.


That's it! Thanks, Marshall, for passing it my way!

And now I will tag Charlie, my agency sister, to work on if she gets a chance between baby and moving. (And best of luck on the move, Charlie!)

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Baby Firsts and Photo Ops

According to my phone specs, I have 64GB of memory on my phone. At the moment, about 75% of that is full of baby pictures. Just pictures. Not even videos, because I systematically go through and back those up on my computer (with a duplicate backup on a remote drive) in order to make more room.

According to various sources who supposedly know these things (ie my mother), it's easy to keep on top of photos with the first child. Much harder when you have two.

If that's the case then clearly I'm failing. Only about the first two months of my son's life have made it past my phone into an album.

There are just so many firsts to photograph, you know? Baby's first laugh, baby's first swing ride, baby's first Christmas, baby's first finger foods (followed quickly by baby's first how-did-he-get-food-there???) and on and on and on.

We have some more firsts coming up soon. Baby's first haircut. (Hopefully not for a while longer yet, if I get my way, because it's just so cute when it curls up around his ear.) Baby's first birthday...

That's going to be a huge one. I always thought one-year-olds were too young to need birthdays, but after a year that seems to have been both the longest and shortest of my life, I'm pretty desperate to mark the occasion, even if the baby never remembers it.

Some of the other babies in my son's playgroup have already had their first birthdays, and I'm watching oh-so-closely to see what they all do. I didn't have these other moms in my life while I was pregnant (moms-to-be at that point, I guess) and so I only had baby showers. Which is apparently Doing It Wrong since I never had a gender reveal cake or anything. I didn't even hand decorate my own onesies! *gasp*

But now I know all about birthday party themes and professional birthday portraits and smash cakes. Which I had never heard of, but apparently they are the *other* cake you make so that the baby can play in it and put it all in his hair and shove handfuls of cake in his mouth without ruining the cake for all the guests. Yes, this is a thing.

It all sounds so ridiculous, and yet we do it anyway because two words: Photo Op!

So that we can *snap* *snap* *snap* eight dozen more pictures to sit on the phone, and then on the computer along with every other "baby's first" in our collection.

And why all that trouble? So that at baby's first wedding we can put them all in a slideshow so everyone can coo over how cute baby used to be?

No. No, we do it because we are moms, and as desperate as we are to mark occasions, we're even more desperate to treasure all the little moments.

We do it because the one thing everybody always tells us is "Enjoy these times, because they don't last long." So we take as many pictures as we can, because sometimes that's the only way we know how to capture the beautiful instants that are there and then gone so soon.

If I'm lucky, sometimes I'll have a moment in the evening to write down a memory of a special moment or a funny thing that my son did. I love going back and rereading the moments I've captured so far.

But I don't often get time for that. Sometimes all I can do is whip out the phone and capture a photo or a video.

So yes, I probably will do something ridiculous for my son's birthday, and my husband will probably shake his head and wonder what in the world has possessed me to celebrate a birthday the baby will never even remember. I will do it for me and for my memories.

And I will treasure every moment.

Until he cries, which he's bound to do if I overtax him with tons of birthday stuff he never even asked for. Maybe it's a good thing he'll never remember it...