Thursday, January 31, 2013

Thursday's Children - Knitting and Plotting

I love knitting. I'm not particularly good at it, but I do love it. I love the yarn, the patterns, the finished products, the needles and the sound of the needles. There's nothing more soothing and inspiring than the sounds of clicking needles - particularly the metal ones.

When I was a kid I used to fall asleep to the sound of my mom and/or my gram knitting. I'd usually let my mind wander and tell myself little stories as I drifted off. My gram is gone now, but I still get that drifty feeling whenever I hear my mom knit. Often if I have trouble with a plot, I'll bust out the knitting needles and work on a project while I think it through. The sound and the rhythmic motion are great for plotting. Granted, I only make slippers, scarves and blankets, but they serve their purpose warmth and plot-wise.

While I was writing this post, I happened to look down at the sweater I'm wearing and I realized that knitting really is like plotting. If you drop a stitch, you lose the pattern, much like if you drop a plot thread, you lose cohesion in your story.

Stories, like patterns, can be as intricate as you want. Obviously, the more complicated ones are going to require more time and effort, but any well crafted project is worth it. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a new book to write and that's going to require a bit of knitting first.

By the way, these pictures are all patterns from sweaters my amazing mom made for me. Without following a pattern because she's just that good.

Don't forget to check out the Blog Hop, and join in, too!

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Monday, January 28, 2013

Monday Musings - Genre Fiction vs. Literary Fiction

Genre fiction is often used as a derisive, dismissive term, and that annoys me. I don't have anything against literary fiction, I even read it from time to time, but unless I'm really in the mood for it, it's not my first choice. Mostly it's because there's enough crap going on in the world, and frankly when I sit down with a book, I want to fall into a new world and escape.

For me, genre fiction is the best way to do that. I don't mean to imply that genre fiction is nothing but feel-good fluff - it definitely isn't. But I know that I can count on a journey and an ending that's satisfying and won't leave me weeping - unless it's the good kind of crying.

I have a dear friend who almost exclusively reads literary fiction. She'd been bugging me to read a certain book. I thought it looked like a terrible idea, but she'd loved it and wanted to share it with me. So I made her a deal. I told her if she’d read the genre fiction of my choosing, I’d read the literary fiction of hers. Thus, the arrangement made in hell was born.

This is what happened:

Her: OMG. This is actually really good. Why didn’t I know this?

Me: ‘Cause you’re a fiction snob.

Her: Oh right. I forgot. So, is book two out yet?

Me: Yeah and book three. Four will be out later this year.

Her: Cool. I feel a trip to Barnes and Noble coming on.

Me: I thought you might.

Her: You don’t have to gloat.

Me: I’m not gloating...much.

Her: So, how are you liking your book?

Me: Meh...but, I’m not very far into it yet. It’s pretty cumbersome prose. Also, it’s depressing as hell.

Her: I know, right?

Me: Bitch.            

I bet you’re wondering if I finished that book, aren’t you? Oh, I finished it, all right. Every morose, depressing tear-jerking page. This is how it went for me.

Like a moron, I came to the end of this miserable book in the waiting room of a doctor’s office. So I’m reading, trying to be all discreet while wiping away my tears and blowing my nose, and I hear this little girl say:

“Daddy? Why dat yady cryin’?”

He glances up from his magazine, looks at me like I’m a freak and says, “I don’t know honey.”

So the little girl stares at me for a while, walks over and says, “Hey yady, why you cryin’?”

So I shut my book and say, “I’m reading this book, and it’s very sad.”

She wrinkled up her nose and said, “Then why you reading it?”

Good question, kid. I said, “Well, my friend read it and really liked and told me I needed to read it, too.”

She stared at me for a minute, put her hands on her hips and said, “Your friend is mean!”

So there you have it – out of the mouths of babes. Literary fiction is mean!

I know there's great literary fiction out there. I'm sure it's probably not all gut-wrenchingly sad. And I'm equally sure that, Margaret Atwood aside, I'll be reaching for genre fiction 99% of the time.

Kirsti, Tess and Lynn are all sharing their takes on literary vs. genre fiction. Click on their names to see what they have to say. :)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Thursday's Children - Artistic Inspiration

Today, my inspiration comes in the form of art - specifically Brian and Wendy Froud's art. You might be familiar with their work from movies like Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal and The Empire Strikes Back. Wendy created Yoda - well, the puppet portion of him, anyway. And Brian is responsible for the concept designs for the other two movies. He's also an amazing artist. I feel in love with his work when I was a kid and I first flipped through my Aunt Malita's Faeries book. When I was older, I started collecting his work and I never stopped.

He creates the kind of art I want to fall headlong into and never crawl out of again. Every time I look at one of his paintings or drawings, I see something new, something that was very nearly hidden and jumps out and startles me. When I see his art I feel a sense of wonder and magic. Of possibility and the promise of adventure. In a perfect world, I'd like to recreate those feelings in the stories I tell.

I had the chance to meet Brian and Wendy a few summers ago at a book signing in Traverse City, MI. They very graciously signed all the books and DVDs I'd lugged with me. I thought I'd share some

This picture, Toby and the Gobblins, hangs in my living room!

My collection. Yeah...I actually lugged all this into a bookstore. I was embarrassed, but it was totally worth it.  :D

Don't forget to check out the Blog Hop, and join in, too!

Here's the code for the Linky to put on your own post.

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Monday, January 21, 2013

Monday Musings - Self Interview

Tess Grant, Kirsti Jones and I are trying something new in an attempt to blog more regularly and we're calling it Monday Musings. Basically, we'll be posting about our own takes on a different topic each week.

This week, it's all about the self interview. And of course, if you have any other burning questions, please feel free to ask! And be sure to check out Tess' interview, here and Kirsti's interview, here! And Lynn's joining us, too! Her interview is here!

Here are the questions.

What do you like best about writing?
I love falling headfirst into a story and giving life to the people wandering around my head. And on a pragmatic note, I love working from home and having the flexibility to be home with my kids.

Do you have a day job aside from writing?
I do. I'm the executive editor for a small press where I  oversee three departments. But happily, I can do that from home.

What’s your favorite word?
Actually, it's more like a favorite phrase - "Once Upon a Time..."

What’s your least favorite word?
Phlegm. Ewww. Even typing it gives me a full body shudder.

What sound do you love?
Rain, waves crashing on the shore, thunder, big baby belly laughs and purring cats

What sound do you hate?
Overly loud motorcycles, my neighbors yelling, whining

What’s your favorite curse word?
Fuck. It's just so versatile and useful.

What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?
I often think that being a high school English teacher would be a great job.

What profession would you not like to do?
Pretty much anything involving math.

If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
Hey, great job with that whole mom thing - your kids turned out brilliantly!

What’s your favorite animal?
Cats! Followed closely by bats, foxes and squirrels.

Favorite color?
Browns and greens - I'm an earth tones girl.

Coffee or tea?
Both, please. But I do prefer tea.

City or country?
Definitely the country!

Star Wars or Star Trek?
Love them both, but Star Wars wins.

Buffy, Angel or Firefly?
Buffy and Firefly - I cannot choose.

Pirate or ninja?
Pirate! Seriously, like there's any question about that?

If you were a book, which book would you be?
I would be The Paper Bag Princess. If you can't slay the dragon, out think it and above all, always be yourself.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Thursday's Children - When I Realized Words Had Power

When I was 8, my parents got divorced (hang with me, people - I promise this isn't going to be a tale of writing my first story in a misguided effort to get my parents back together) and my mom went back to school and moved us to a trailer park near the college campus.

Our brand new, Champion trailer backed up to a heavily wooded ravine where my brother and I spent most of our time playing. The trailer park was filled with a lot of hippies, college students and hippie college students. For the most part, everybody was pretty friendly, particularly the stoners, and it wasn't a bad place to live. Our super-awesome babysitter, Suzanne, lived right next door and my mom's friend Pragati would come over and cook Indian food for us while my mom helped her study.

One night, Pragati brought over her boyfriend. He was a psych student who was interested in the effects of divorce on children and this dude (can't remember his name, but there was a major Tom Selleck mustache going on) wanted to know if I'd be interested in writing about my feelings. Well, I wasn't interested in writing about my feelings, but even at the tender age of 8, I had trouble saying "no" to people. The next day, Tom-Selleck-Mustache-Guy brought me my very first blue book - you know, the kind you use for essay tests in high school and college - and told me to write about my feelings and encouraged me to draw pictures if I wanted to. He went on ad nauseum about how it was okay to express my sadness and anger and how important it was to do that.

I sat outside under our picnic table, carefully wrote my name on the cover, then I drew pictures of all the animals, trees and flowers in the ravine where I would have rather have been playing. After I filled in every available space on the cover, I opened the booklet to the lined pages and tried to write about my feelings. After about five minutes, I realized I didn't want to write about my feelings. My feelings were fine. We were all happier after the split and it seemed stupid to pretend otherwise. I'm not saying that I didn't miss my dad, but even as a kid, I could see that the whole divorce thing was a good idea. But this guy expected me to be crushed, in fact, it seemed like he not only expected me to be crushed but wanted me to feel that way. Jerk. Who knows - maybe he was writing a thesis paper and I was his subject.

So, I took my pencil and wrote. I wrote a story about a beautiful witch who lived in the deep forest in a small, stone cottage. She had a lot of pets - cats, dogs, cows, horses, mice, unicorns, deer, foxes and bears. She held lovely magical tea parties for the local children (who apparently lived in the forest...) and grew flowers and pumpkins in her garden. Unfortunately, a man with a mustache came to the witch's little house in the woods and asked about her feelings. Her pet bears ate him.

Now, I'm not saying this is the moment when I knew I wanted to be a writer, but it was the moment I realized that written words made a difference. Tom-Selleck-Mustache-Guy went away and left me and my feelings alone. I knew then that there was power - a kind of magic - in stories, and I knew that I wanted to experience that kind of magic whether I was reading or writing it.

Please join the Thursday’s Children Blog Hop and tell us what inspires your writing!

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Monday, January 14, 2013

I Just Got a Nifty New Blog Award

The talented and fascinating Rhiann Wynn-Nolet just awarded me the One Lovely Blog Award! You should definitely take a peek at her blog and learn a little bit about her.

In the meanwhile, here are seven facts about me.

1.) My college job was working as a seamstress and makeup artist at the university theatre.

2.) I once had a poem critiqued (in public - eep!) by Allen Ginsberg.

3.) I used to run a small business out of my home making bridal dresses, veils and bridesmaids' dresses.

4.) I collect rocks. No really. They're all over the house. I bring them home from wherever I go and people bring them to me when they travel. One of my favorites is a piece of mortar from the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey a friend brought home to me.

5.) I was jealous of my little brother because he had an imaginary friend and I didn't. True story.

6.) I can knit - but only slippers.

7.) I collect fairy tale books - picture books, antique volumes, modern - you name it, I want it on my shelf.

Now, I'm tagging  a few awesome people for you to get to know better. Check them out!

Kirsti Jones

Tess Grant

Patricia Kiyono

Stephanie Michels

Lynn Dozema

If your name is on the list and you'd prefer not to participate, it's all good. :)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Thursday's Children - This One is for Tamara

I've been deep in the land of edits this week and I haven't had a lot of time for blogging or you know much anything but my kids and this book. But I remembered it was Thursday and it was time for a Thursday's Children post, and I really am trying to keep up with them.

Then I remembered that I promised Tamara that I'd do a post about my muse - or at least the physical representation of my muse. I actually have a more in depth post planned on the idea of muses, but that's writing for another week. 

Back in December, Tamara, fellow writer and Thursday's Children blogger blogged about muses and hers in particular - Agent Inkblot aka Inky. He's an adorable little guy and you can see him, here. So I thought I'd introduce you all to Bridgid.

Bridgid is a hand felted sculpture made for me by my very talented friend Jen. Bridgid and her fox sit on one of my bookshelves and I can always see her from where I work. She's not my muse in the sense that I feel this is where my stories come from but there's something a little magical about her that makes me smile and imagine the possibilities.

And now that I've introduced you to Bridgid, I'm heading back to the editing cave.

But first, here's the linky code if you'd like to participate in the Thursday's Children blog hop, too!

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Thursday, January 3, 2013

Thursday's Children - One of the Best Writing Teachers I've Ever Had

The Thursday's Children posts are all about things that inspire us. So I'd like to tell you about my friend Margaret. Margaret Yang is not only an awesome author and part of the writing duo M.H. Mead, she's also an amazing beta reader with insights galore. She's also a phenomenal teacher and she inspires the hell out of me. I've had the pleasure of participating in several of her workshops and I never fail to walk away without a wealth of knowledge and new understanding of my own work.

I don't know how you all feel about writing a synopsis, but I hate them. Dread them. Loathe them. Wish I never had to do it.

Yeah, I think that about covers it.

When I was whining about having to write a synopsis, she reminded me about a blog post she'd written - a synopsis how-to, if you will. And I'd like to share it with you in hopes that Margaret can inspire you, too.

Without further ado, here's the best synopsis help I've ever seen. I hope you find it as useful as I have!

(Note: Blogger seems to be misbehaving and not highlighting the links. But they do work. I put them below to make it a little easier to click on them.)

Synopsis How-To
Margaret's Blog  (lots of awesome reviews of writing books)
M.H. Mead's Website

Don't forget to check out the Blog Hop, and join in, too!

Here's the code to the Linky to put on your own post.

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