Saturday, January 30, 2010

Good vs. Evil

I've got the classic plot of good vs. evil on the mind, for a couple of reasons. I just finished reading Dan Wells' I Am Not a Serial Killer, which lived up to the billing on its book jacket and was a "sickly disturbing, darkly-comic thriller." It is very well-written (or should I say Wells-written?) and I woke up still thinking about it this morning. Without giving details away, it was a good reminder that the battle of good vs. evil takes place within all of us, and it can be a struggle to keep the balance.

Another reason I've been pondering this is, Lost returns for its final season next week. (Sorry to bring up Lost again, but if you haven't figured it out by now, I'm a little obsessed by it. I promise not to discuss it here after today...or at least until the final episode airs.) ***Spoiler alert, if you haven't seen season five of Lost*** But, in last season's finale we met the oft-referenced Jacob (white shirt), who, up to that point, had been perceived as evil, and were introduced to a gentleman who is apparently his rival (black shirt), both fighting for control of the island. We learned that black shirt took possession of the deceased body of the noble, but odd, John Locke, leading us to wonder who the "good guy" in this scenario really is, and how their battle will affect the lives and destinies of our favorite Losties.

I love the good vs. evil plot, especially when a writer manages to make it not too straightforward and predictable. I've had an idea for a novel brewing in my head for a long time that uses this plot, with the angle of how we can be our own worst enemies. Reading I Am Not a Serial Killer has inspired me to move forward with it after I finish my current project. If anyone has recommendations of well-written, or lame, books of this nature, please share.

Friday, January 29, 2010

iRad will cause other ebook readers to Dwindle

So most of you have probably heard about the new iPad (what I have decided to affectionately call the iRad), announced by Steve Jobs this week in a press conference.

First a little background. I've been researching ebook readers for a year and a half now and have been let down completely (the Barnes & Noble Nook) or only marginally interested (Kindle and Sony Reader) in what the market has had to offer. So I've watched and waited.

Till now.

Apple's new iPad not only DOMINATES the ebook market now with a fully touchable, fully colored platform, but it also comes with a gazillion other major resources. First, on ebooks, though. Apple has opened an iBooks store, selling open, non-proprietary (i.e., Kindle ebooks) ePub format books. These books are instantly downloadable through 3G or wi-fi, and are viewable on a 9.7 by 7-ish inch screen (same size as Amazon's large DX version, which sells for about $400 compared to iPad's $499). Also, anyone who has purchased B&N or amazon books can read them on the iPad through the Kindle and B&N apps downloadable through Apple's Apps Store.

In addition to ebooks, the iPad has iWorks, with word processor, Powerpoint-like, and spreadsheet software that all works completely by touch and keyboard. There are also major iPad apps for photos, movies, art (illustration), maps/GPS, calendar, e-mail, web-browsing (with zooming), and music.

It's no wonder that Barnes & Noble rushed a buggy and unacceptably poor-quality product--the Nook--to the market before Christmas (not even delivering the product in time for preorders to be filled by Christmas--or even December, for that matter). They probably had hints of what was coming and wanted to dupe a few people into buying their product before the iPad tsunami hit the beach. Understandably so. It is certain that iPad will obliterate the Kindle, Nook, and Sony platforms, reducing them to the same status as a generic MP3 player when compared to the iPod.

To sum it all up, in my opinion the iPad is the biggest mobile functionality tool since the creation of laptops, and ironically it will possibly replace laptops in the near future for most common tasks.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Grand Opening

The other Inkers seem to have had experiences this week that lend to really great insight into life and writing. That's why I love 'em. They help me see what I should be doing and how.

I guess I will share the theme of my week and continue the trend. Grand openings.

It started on Saturday when I finally recieved inspiration for the opening pages of my 20th version of my work-in-progress.(I'll just let you wonder if I'm exaggerating the number of times I've rewritten this book.) Anyway I finally got a really relevant opening 5 pages hammered out over the weekend and then spent Monday deconstructing them with Deb. Thank goodness for the Zeppolli or we might never have survived that particular deconstruction. (For the uninitiated zeppolli can be found at Olive Garden on the dessert menu, make sure to ask for the vanilla creme heated as well as the chocolate.)

Anyway, Tuesday brought my creative writing class with DJ where we taught elementary students about opening pages...totally not planned ahead of time.
And then Kristen Nelson's blog Pub Rants have all been guessed it...opening pages. Go read what she has been saying about them because you rarely get a chance to delve this deeply into a fantastic agent's mind.

So if first impressions can never be made a second time (and you know that in publishing this is too true--once a manuscript is rejected it is rejected for life), page one then becomes the one and only shot to make your mark. I'm rewriting my first scene. I'll polish it and hone it, and, with the help of some very wise 10 and 11 year old readers, I'll shorten my first sentence so that when it goes out to publishers it will have a GRAND opening.

Remember...Cut to the chase. Bring the Action with a Purpose and Relevance to your story and pour on the Voice. May we all create Grand Openings!!!

Some of my favorite opening lines:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. KJB Genesis 1.1

It was my aunt who decided to give me to the dragon. Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George.

If music be the food of love, play on... Twelfth Night W. Shakespeare

The early summer sky was the color of cat vomit. Uglies by Scott Westerfield.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Last week I attended a festival for high school drama kids. A director
from Columbia University spoke (I didn't write down her name--for
shame for shame). She gave us 7 pieces of advice for life in the
Theatre. I challenge that they would all work in real life as well.
They are:

Follow the Pulse
Make a Mark
Create the World You Want
Finish your Sentence
Be Unreasonable
Bring Attention to What's Needed
Cultivate Attitude

Following the pulse is following your pulse! When you have a
"goosebump" moment, follow it and find your dream! Be filled with
love for your art!

Make a mark--leave an impression. Every first stroke on a canvas is a
mistake. Keep practicing and working to make it perfect.

Create the world you want--live your life and treat others so how you
want the world to be.

Finish your sentence. Be politically incorrect, don't be afraid to
say what you need to say.

Be unreasonable. This one I liked a lot. Logic and too much reason
can kill the theatre, I think it can kill writing too. Sometimes you
have to take a leap before you see your landing! Be unreasonable and

Bring attention: the quality of your attention determines others'
attention. In writing, some detail just don't matter, but some
details are crucial!

Cultivate an Attitude. Stand up straight and say what you are! I am
a writer! I am a great writer. Everyone say it with me: I am a
fabulous writer! (Or whatever you are working to become.)

I loved these ideas. So much of what we have to offer the world could
be better is we paid a little more attention, worked a little harder,
and lived without fear.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

After a few weeks of throw-away blogs, I've decided to actually sit down and write something worth reading today. For any of you who may not know this, I'm a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS for short), and in this church we are frequently asked to accept something referred to as a "calling", or a kind of service that we do for the church to help it function. It could be a teacher in the Sunday school, the organist, a counselor to the Bishop or the Bishop himself. I was recently asked to serve and in the interest of time, I will get to the point.

Which is this: Many of us have more than one responsibility to ourselves, our families, our workplace, not to mention our manuscripts. How do you keep it all straight? How do you keep all the pistons firing at the right timing? Because, let's face it, when one misfires the whole thing comes to a rather uninspiring halt.

Here's my advice (not that you were asking): Keep your perspective. If you have a belief in God, don't be afraid to ask for His advice and direction. If you don't, you still have an inward guide, a conscious that tells you what is right and wrong. Remember that success isn't always measured with a credit next to your name and that a little selflessness goes a long way. In the words of Conan O'Brien during his last night hosting "The Tonight Show" slightly paraphrased.... "But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen....."

Monday, January 25, 2010

Terminate Complaint

I received some advice over the weekend that I loved and thought I would share. This advice pertains to a very specific situation for me, but I think it can apply to everyone.

The advice was: check your guilt at the door.

Complainers exist. They will always find something to whine about. They are the people who get the small eggshell in an otherwise flawless batch of cookies, find fault with an incredible person, and work hard to point out every potential offense that could possibly occur, even dating back years. They are the Rapunzel who complains about Prince Charming hurting her head, even though they are on a white horse escaping from the wicked witch.

My friends, check your guilt at the door.

You can never please a complainer, don't even try. Like Gangrene, it will infect your optimism and decay your well-being. It is better to amputate a complainer than to allow the bacteria to affect your life.

Now I realize that complaining about a complainer might, in essence, make me appear to be a complainer, but please observe that I am selectively complaining. Or perhaps the first symptoms of complainer syndrome actually begin by complaining about a complainer?

Nah. I'm just offering this up as a public service announcement. I can't be a complainer. I'm a writer.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Celebrity Tomes

Recently, I was set off on another wave of hatred for the celeb author trend when I heard that Lauren Conrad, of the TV show, "The Hills" had a YA book coming out. I have never seen an episode of "The Hills", but I have seen clips of it on The Soup and cannot understand why anyone would choose to waste any minutes of their life watching it, unless, like The Soup, they are making fun of it.

I have always been skeptical about fiction books written by celebrities. It's probably because I'm a little bitter that because someone is a known actor or other famous being, they are able to get a publishing deal, whether they are really good writers or not. I understand it's an instant marketing plus, but still an insult to those of us who are passionate about writing.

However, to be fair, I know that there are some celebrities who are talented writers. For example, I have enjoyed several picture books written by Jamie Lee Curtis, with her illustrator Laura Cornell. We have at our house now her book titled "It's Hard to Be Five," which my son (who is almost five) has insisted be read at bedtime every night for the last two weeks. She is good at capturing the emotional mindset of young children, as well as injecting humor and a good rhythm and rhyme pattern in her writing.

Still, I will not be buying, nor even checking out from the library, L.C.'s book or many of the other "celebrity" tomes, unless they are well-reviewed or recommended - just on principle.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers

Registration is up today for the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers conference: Check it out.

Looks like it will be a multifaceted and interesting conference.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Schedule is Up!! LTUE 2010

So I didn't know what to blog about this week, mostly because I'm under deadline for the newsletter and that's a lot of deadline. BUT then inspiration hit in the form of the Life, the Universe & Everything conference schedule for the FREE writing conference in February at BYU!! It's gonna be so fun. See the schedule here.

And check out these totally awesome tidbits from the schedule:
Thursday Main speaker: James C. Christensen...enough said.
Friday afternoon Dan Wells is giving a workshop on his pacing and story structure program. PEOPLE! This is one hour of hard core writing organizational boot camp. Can't wait.
Friday main address: Marty Brenneis. I had no idea who he was, so I googled him. It turns out that if there has been a cool Sci-Fi or Fantasy movie in the last 20 years he has worked on it. You can find info on Marty Brenneis on IMDb.
Saturday Main speaker: Brandon Sanderson...enough said.
This year the conference planners seem to have chosen a major artist, filmmaker, and author for the three main addresses and let's face it that just rocks!

Awesome authors and Publishing folks planning to present:
The aMAZEing James Dashner, bright newbie Karen Hoover(debut author), the multi-talented author/editor Lisa Mangum, the Fable-istic Brandon Mull, the fantabulous Tristi Pinkston, the queen of romance Julie Wright, scary but likable Dan Wells, the extraordinary Stacy Whitman and many many more.

Here is the tiny disclaimer...all scheduling is tentative at this time. Still I can't wait.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Fire Safety

My husband is a firefighter. His department has had two fires recently, both starting in the kitchen. (This is really amazing--they usually have one fire a year--maybe they are set now for two years.)

Both fires destroyed the kitchens, but there was one major difference to the damage in the other rooms. One lady had learned to keep all the doors closed. In that house there was minimal smoke damage in the closed off rooms. The fire didn't have the air-flow it needed to spread quickly. The other house had all the doors open and the smoke damage was significant.

Now I know this has nothing to do with writing, but when you learn something important you want to share it. These two houses were vivid enough to my husband that we have started keeping all the doors closed. My son even going so far as to allow us to close his door all the way at night! That is new.

Be safe.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Busy Much?

Yes, I've had all week to think of something to blog about today, but I didn't. It's been one of those weeks (not to mention MONTHS) when the obligations as a wife and mother trump writing and blogging. So, thank you to Debbie who forgot to blog yesterday and posted this morning instead! Go ahead. Read the post below this one. And don't forget to give us your answers!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Would I rather...?

Author J. Scott Savage posted these fun "Would You Rather..." questions on his blog and I figured I would take a moment to answer.

Would you rather:

1) Get a huge advance on your next book but have it be shredded by the book critics, or make almost no money on the book (even after the awards were announced), but receive top awards?
Since I already have my "sugar daddy" I would rather write and make no money, but receive top awards. I definitely don't write for the money.

2) Write a book adored by millions of readers you don’t know, but despised by your friends and family, or write a book your friends and family love, but everyone else hates?
The only reasoning I could see if I wrote a book adored by millions and despised by my friends and family would be if I compromised my moral standards to cause those feelings in my family. If this was the case, I would prefer a book that everyone else hates.

3) Have your book made into a big budget film with lots of publicity and stars, that bombs, or not have your book made into a movie at all?
Bring on the movie that bombs. That's usually what happens when books are turned into movies anyway. Come on! Who wouldn't want their movie on the big screen even if it sucks?

4) Only be able to write in a genre you don’t enjoy but sells like crazy, or write what you love but always sell poorly.
Write what I love. Nuff said.

5) Get the agent of your dreams, knowing they are only lukewarm on your project, or a so-so agent who LOVES your manuscript?
An agent who loves my work. They'll probably do a better job selling it anyway.

6) Publish only one book, but have it be a classic, or publish dozens of mid-listers?
I'm okay with dozens of mid-listers. Then I'll always be doing what I love, even if I don't match up to Jane Austin or Henry David Thoreau.

7) Write books that are very slow reading, but extremely thought-provoking, or quick reads that make people laugh and cry?
To those who know me this might be a surprise answer (because boy, do I LOVE to make people laugh), but to those who know me BEST wouldn't be surprised to know I would rather write things that are thought-provoking.

8) Sign a contract that guarantees $75k a year for the next twenty years, or an all of nothing deal that has a 50/50 chance of paying out nothing or twenty million?
Yeah, adding $75,000 a year to my sugar daddy's income would be just fine.

9) Publish a book that in a genre that is all the rage right now, or one that breaks new ground?
Breaks new ground. No brainer.

10) Publish amazing books that everyone loves, but never read another book, or read the best books for the rest of your life, but never publish a thing?
I'm almost sad to answer that I would rather publish amazing books. It's really a question of what I'm more passionate about, and while both reading and writing rank high, I can supplement my need for a good story with movies. Nothing can substitute for writing.

So, those are my answers. Anyone else want to take a crack at it?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

And the winner is...

Tomorrow night is the Golden Globe Awards, which heralds the beginning of the entertainment industry's awards show season. Actors, directors, and writers from the world of movies and television will dress in their finest designer-donated apparel and practice looking happy for the other person if they don't win.

I'm a sucker for award shows. Even if I haven't seen hardly anything that is nominated (as is the case this year), I'm entertained by the spectacle of it all.

One thing I can't abide is a lame acceptance speech, especially when the person receiving the ward is a writer. If you're nominated, people, prepare a speech for crying out loud, and make it good!

Following is my criteria for a good acceptance speech:
  • It should be touching, humorous, or a little of both.

  • An affecting personal story (such as tales of rejection, hardship, humble beginnings, etc.) always helps.

  • Keep it brief. Don't make the band play you off.

  • Don't ramble off a long list of names to thank. BORING.

  • Don't say it was an honor just to be nominated.

  • Don't use the opportunity to make political statements. Attention: Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins.

Recently, Mariah Carey accepted an award at the Palm Springs Film Festival for a supporting role in the film "Precious", while admittedly quite drunk. You may view a clip via the following link:

Although this is definitely an example of what not to do, without moments like this, I suppose award shows wouldn't be nearly as entertaining.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Dies the Fire, S. M. Stirling

Dies the Fire, by S. M. Stirling, is the first book in a spinoff series from Stirling's Nantucket series, in which the island of Nantucket is transported back in time to the Bronze Age. However, Stirling makes a vast departure from the former series, starting this, the Emberverse series, in modern-day Idaho and Oregon with a (suspected) worldwide apocalyptic event: the failure of all electronic, steam engine, gun, internal combustion, and ordnance technology.

The story is two-pronged, primarily, focusing on two benevolent groups of survivors: the Bearkillers and the Clan Mackenzie. The Bearkillers, led by Mike Havel, are working their way west from an airplane crash site toward the Larssons' summer home and land, while the Mackenzies have settled in her family's cabin and land in Oregon. These two groups are mostly independent of each other for the majority of the novel, even though they have a common threat: the Portland Protection Agency, led by a cruel warlord who is taking advantage of the chaos to carve out as much of a claim as he can in post-apocalyptic United States.

Far and above all attributes of the novel, Stirling's plot is his strength. The plot is a long-term one, with chapters sometimes separated by weeks, sometimes by months. This comes across fine since the main promise to the reader is that Stirling will show how these survivors are coming along throughout the year after the Change (apocalypse). The characters are learning to survive with the remnants of civilization and their own ingenuity and pre-Change skills, and the author is good at making those strides in survival an interesting journey. He has enough of the starkness for a post-apocalyptic novel while still offering the faint glimmer of hope for humanity. Stirling also delivers on a dynamo triple-climax with multiple events happening one after another, cementing the path the series will take in the books to come: the war against the dastardly Protector in Portland. His battle scenes were riveting, and Stirling knows his stuff when it comes to strategy, improvised weaponry, and other aspects of warfare. Kudos for that.

The author makes it very clear that organized religion (especially branches of Christianity as we know it) is not welcome in his post-apocalyptic world. I was saddened that this agenda creeped in (and it was obviously written in as an agenda item--not too subtle satire as has been successfully done in other books). And I'm not referring to the Reverend Dixon satire. That was a actually tasteful archetype of the small-town preacher who isn't very tolerant of those out of the social other.

Character interaction came across as stilted often--in part because of dialogue and in part because of forced (and rather abrupt) situations hoisted upon characters. Characters would often, for example, use really heavy dialogue that sounded more like written language than spoken language. Dialogue was overly used as exposition (a la Crichton) instead of a natural tool to build relationships and expand the story. This was especially done with the Mackenzie clan and their Gaelic/Wiccan background. In the attempt to make each character unique, the phrases each character used became over the top--drawing attention to themselves because they weren't natural idioms or expressions people would use. And for hoisting situations on people, the male-female "romantic" interactions consisted of two people getting involved intimately before even really knowing each other. Sort of a "me man--you woman" caveman mentality. At the very best of times there is an inkling of true relationships between people, but that inkling dims quickly.

I very much like the idea that Stirling has: that without key technologies, humankind would of necessity have to revert to medieval systems in order to survive. However, in a lot of ways, the author tries to shove (with a sledgehammer) a square block into a round hole in ways that make the story less credible and that make it feel much less like your typical post-apocalyptic realist novel. At every turn, the characters turn to medieval tools, practices, and pop-culture references to survive. This trend coincides with the unrealistic convenience of randomly finding people with medieval skill sets. For example, Astrid Larsson, one of the minor characters in the Bearkillers group, happens to be a Tolkien nut and has practiced archery her whole life. Astrid's dad happens to be an engineer and just happens to know how to build a trebuchet. The Huttons, another major family in the group, happen to be horse wranglers and have blacksmithing skills. They happen to run into Pam Arnstein, sword master. Smith and Aylward, both expert bowyers. The Protector--a former feudal system professor gone megalomaniac. The list goes on. Stirling forces the survivors of this apocalypse into a medieval mold without allowing things to play out more naturally, where survivors would look to different models of living instead of only medieval feudal systems. I would have liked to see normal run-of-the-mill people trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world instead of making it a survival club for Dungeons & Dragons enthusiasts and filk singers only.

Back to Stirling's strengths. If you want a solid plot-based post-apocalyptic novel and don't care about a relatively consecutive timeline or natural dialogue and character development, then you will probably enjoy this novel. If you tend more toward focusing on characters, then this might not be the story for you. Dies the Fire has a lot of big ideas with a riveting survivalist plot to back them up and has a lot of intense moments. If you want the big ideas and the character development, check out The Road, by Cormac McCarthy (now a motion picture). But bear in mind that The Road doesn't have anything near the plot as Dies the Fire. It's just plain, simple survival without one single Wiccan or medieval warrior or trebuchet.

Dies the Fire, by S. M. Stirling. ROC. 2004. 574 pp. $7.99 (PB).

The Emberverse Series:

1. Dies the Fire
2. The Protector's War
3. A Meeting at Corvallis
(the subsequent books coming 22 years after the Change)
4. The Sunrise Lands
5. The Scourge of God
6. The Sword of the Lady
7. The High King of Montival (coming 2010)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

David and Goliath as a girl story!! What?

First things first, Happy Birtday to Me and Bree. That's right its a big week for birthdays. Bree Despain is having a great giveaway contest on her blog for her birthday. Click here to read about it. For my birthday I'm dragging all my friends out to lunch, then to Bree's signing in West Jordan, and then to Brandon Sanderson's signing in Eagle Mountain. It was soo nice of them to arrange all these great events the day of my B-Day party!!!

So now on to David and Goliath and the alternate ending. Last week I met an amazing corporate communications guru named Bill Graham. He is a master storyteller and presenter. One of the great things I got out of his class was the concept of Story. How to use it more effectively in all the aspects of my life. He said that after 7,000 hours of directing daytime television and tens of thousands of hours of watching competitve shows along with his experience in theater and reading, he has decided that there are only 2 kinds of story. Are you ready for this? Can you lump all the stories in the world into two categories? Well, Bill thinks you can and this photo is a hint of the categories.

He calls them: "Boy Story" and "Girl Story"

"What does a boy story have to have in order to be finished?" he asked.
An enthusiastic CEO shouted out, "Someone has to win."

"Not that important."
Bill had us all scratching our heads. If winning isn't that important then what does the story need to be finished?

"Someone must LOSE," came the reply with in a sad tone.
In a Boy Story, according to Bill Graham, there must be a loser. The superbowl would not be the same game if it ended with a tie. In fact, if it is tied at the end of the regular time period then the game goes into "sudden death." Football is a 'boy' game.
DO NOT GET ME WRONG! You don't have to be a boy to like a boy story. Anyone can like seeing a satifying 'sudden death' ending.

So then what is a Girl Story?
Well, in this case he related the story to a romance novel. What makes someone/anyone read Pride and Prejudice over and over again?
The answer is simple...hopeful anticipation. The breathtaking hope that all will turn out blissfully and both of the characters you love will win in the end. (You could say that there are no losers in this least where the main characters are concerned. The Mr. Collinses and Aunt Catherines of the world can lose all they want as long as Darcy and Elizabeth both get to win.)

To illustrate the point we used the biblical tale of David and Goliath.
In the original version it is clearly a boy story. Goliath loses and we all learn that the 'bigger they are the harder they fall.' Little vulnerable David, downs the giant Philistine and cuts off his head and saves all of Israel. Yeah, boy story.

Now if it were a girl story...
David would march up to Goliath and throw his slingshot to the ground and shout, "Look, Goliath, we Israelites might be small, but we have a lot to offer and if you would just stop and use that large head for a minute you'd see that we can both benefit from an alliance rather than killing each other." After lengthy debate, David and Goliath would shake hands and a trade agreement would be forged in the middle of what was intended to be a battlefield. Everyone goes home happy and prosperous. Yeah that's David and Goliath the girl story.

I loved the examples and had a blast thinking of stories to switch into the other category. Anyone read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies? It occurred to me that it might very well be an attempt to make a girl story into a fun boy story by making someone lose.

So what are you writing? Is it a 'boy story' or a 'girl story'?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Out of the Mouth of Babes

I have a 5 year old. And she is rather too smart for her own good.
My husband, a firefighter, recently started some college courses that
he is taking online. He explained to the kids that his school would
be on a website.

My 5 year old is obsessed with my husband. She wraps her legs around
him and forbids him to leave her side.

A few days ago he was leaving for work and saying goodbye to her in
her bed. She locked her arms around his neck and said he couldn't go.
He said he had to go. Then she said, "Can't you do your work on the

Visions of saving people and putting out fires virtually made me
giggle. The youth have such funny notions.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

One Word...

Avatar: The Last Airbender!!!! Wait a second...that's like one?... two?...four words? Does Airbender count since its not a real word? Oh well. It doesn't matter because its AWESOME!!!! I've been watching this kids' show for the past week and I'm completely enthralled. Of course, I've used the cover that I'm watching with the kids, but that excuse went out the window when I started watching the next episodes after the kids went to bed last night and the night before. :)

Essentially, its about four nations of people: the Air Nation, Water Nation, Earth Nation and Fire Nation. There's one person called the Avatar who is like a fictional version of the Dalai Lama (reincarnated into each Nation). He's supposed to keep balance between the Nations. Anyway, the cool part is the bending. Each Nation has people who have the gift of bending their specific element. The show incorporates martial arts movements which makes it even cooler in the sense that the people have to practice and train before they're any good at bending. Long story short, there are three seasons to the show, but a live action movie directed by M. Night Shyamalan is currently in production right now and will be in theaters July 2nd. Here's the link to the trailer.

I can't wait!

Monday, January 11, 2010

A New Phrase

Others might not suffer the same problem as I do, but I've noticed that I have a tendency to use the same words over and over again. In writing, I use the word "just" a lot.

"Just around the corner..."
"I just wanted you to know..."
"It's just biological warfare..."

In speaking, I often use the word "absolutely".

Donna: Did you have fun at the writers conference?
Me: Absolutely!

I've decided to mingle my two favorite words. At first I thought about "Absolutely just", but that sounds like some kind of Law and Order TV special. So my new phrase is "Just absolutely". The word just, meaning only or merely, combines with absolutely, which means completely and entirely. I think it works for every occasion.

Do I want to go to dinner tonight? Just absolutely!
Where's the gas station? Just absolutely around the corner.

With one simple change, I have increased my word count, although I might sound more like an idiot.

Oh well. I'm just absolutely kidding anyway :)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

As Seen On TV

I finally succumbed. After years of easy resistance to the endlessly advertised "As Seen on TV" items, from the Chia Pet to the ShamWow, I have in my possession, a Snuggie. Yeah, that's right, a Snuggie - you know, "The Blanket That Has Sleeves!"

Driven by my inability to acclimate to Utah's winter climate after almost eight years here, I found myself talking back to the TV. "Yes, I want to keep warm AND have my hands free!" In fact, it was the only item I asked my husband to get me for Christmas (along with admission to the LDS Storymakers conference in April).

So, does the Snuggie live up to its advertising? Yes, and no. The hands free aspect of it is wonderful, as I can sip my hot cocoa with my arms fully covered. However, for me to stay really warm I would need another three layers of thickness to the thing. It is way too cold here for a blanket that thin. I usually end up with the Snuggie on and an extra blanket over my lap.

The other night I was doing just that while watching Conan and he made a joke about people who were sitting at home in their Snuggies. I squirmed a little. Then Andy Richter (Conan's sidekick) said, "Yeah, I was gonna buy a Snuggie, then I realized I could just wear my robe backwards."

Thursday, January 7, 2010

There should be pictures!!

There should be pictures of me standing beside a cactus in shorts this week, while my fellow Inkers deal with the harsh UT winter. However, there are a few other things that should never be immortalized in pictures.

My first day in Arizona at my conference I met many wonderful people, let's say 50 or more and of those introductions about 20 included hand shakes and then not 5 minutes after the last meeting of the day I discovered through much anguish and unmentionable grossness that I had the stomach flu. OOOPs. Thank goodness I had frequently washed my hands during my travels that day. To my knowledge no one has come down with the ailment besides myself.

Highlights that should have been photographed are:
Athen's restaurant. Yummmmy authentic Greek cuisine. excellent!
Rock Lobster (An 80's band) with their black vinyl pants and thinning hair. Still really good music.
The Frog & Firkin (Yes it's a bar.) This photo would be captioned with, "Where's the Chocolate Sauce!" I don't know about AZ but in Utah all restaurants know that if you are going to serve a 'hot out of the oven' chocolate chip cookie with ice cream, there should ALSO be chocolate sauce on top. The 'Frog' apparently didn't get that message. No chocolate sauce even when requested. Boo.

Anyway. While there are no photos of my week so far. It's been an adventure and I will have plenty of new characters to write about and tons of new experiences to weave into my novel about a choc-o-holic and the reprecussions of not delivering the sauce with the cookie.

Tell about some of your latest adventures while traveling.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Low Voice

I love to sing. But I'm told repeatedly to stop singing. So I don't
sing too often. Mostly in the shower.

My husband is mostly tactful and rarely does he stop me from singing.
The only time he steps into shaky ground and asks me to stop is when I
use my "low voice".

Generally speaking he is a kind man, never saying a word about my
size, eating dinner creations that I myself avoid, and pretending to
love the scrapbook gifts I gave him for years before I realized he
hated them. But when I sing (or talk for that matter) in a false low
voice he cringes, he squirms, and he usually leaves the room.

I guess I now have a tool to get rid of him if need be.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Couple of Things...

My kids are back in school. Hooray!!!!!!

I just read Savage's blog this morning and he has a lot of good things to say about making time to write. Check it out here. For those of you who don't follow Savage's site, now is a good time to start. In much the same way that Dan Wells' site is informative and down to earth, Savage gives a lot of good insights into the ways of the publishing world, not to mention giving great positive messages along the way. So check him out when you can. :)

Here's to a great year ahead of us! Good luck everyone!

The Tart :)

Monday, January 4, 2010

Music To My Ears

Have you ever awakened with a song playing in your head? You didn't go to sleep singing and yet, in the morning, a tune teases at your brain. And sometimes it's even a song you hate.

Why is this? What happens between the time you lie down at night until you get up in the morning? Certainly you don't flip on the radio and have a listen.

Maybe our sleeping minds pick up on the radio waves. Or perhaps it's some mind control experiment, funded by the government, a form of subliminal messaging. One day we'll all wake up, and be servants to "The Man".

Who knows, but I think it's weird. I also think there's a story in there somewhere.

Saturday, January 2, 2010


One of the writing skills I am trying to improve while working on my novel is description. The challenge for me is, most of my experience with writing is news writing, where you're supposed to stick to the facts and not embellish (although many in the media today do not follow this ethic).

I have found this "just the facts, m'am" approach sneaking into my novel, which, in some ways, is a good thing because it can help with the pacing, but my concern is that I am not giving the reader enough imagery to immerse themselves in the story.

Example, I just wrote a scene where my main character was called in to the office of a big executive at her company. My first thought for the beginning of the scene went as follows:

Upon entering, I felt like I had left our office building and stepped into the penthouse suite of a five-star hotel. Two cherry wood desks, which I assumed belonged to the assistants, were positioned side-by-side along the right wall.

The scene continues with her walking over to the desks to wait for someone. My feeling was, I wanted to be concise and thought the 'penthouse suite of a five-star hotel' painted enough of a picture about what the office was like. Then, I decided to elaborate and it came out as follows:

Upon entering, I felt like I had left our office building and stepped into the penthouse suite of a five-star hotel. My feet sank into the lush, crème colored carpet as I walked forward into the entryway. Directly in front of me was a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows, showcasing views of the city. To my left, a couple of fancy quilted sofas were paired with two velvet wing-backed chairs to form a comfortable waiting area. On the right were two large cherry wood desks, positioned side-by-side near the wall. Around the corner from them was an alcove that I assumed housed Nan’s actual office space. A faint scent of vanilla hung in the air, as if someone had taken an atomizer and sprayed a few strategic doses here and there.

In Jack M. Bickham's "38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes" he suggests an exercise in note taking, making detailed notes about a person or thing you are observing, then practicing distilling the elaborate description down to lean and vivid copy. He says good description "thrives on brevity, directness, simplicity, concreteness, contrast- precise, specific nouns and strong verbs." He warns of the use of too many adjectives and adverbs.

So, I'm looking for opinions about the two versions of my description. Did I hit the mark better with the first or second?

Friday, January 1, 2010


So I've decided that glitter is the new anthrax, and that anything covered with glitter that's deposited in my mailbox with an innocuous-looking envelope needs a haz-mat suit. Seriously. Glitter never goes away and seems to stick to your skin like a tick. I wouldn't be surprised if glitter reproduced, as it always seems there's more accumulating than decreasing.

Word to the wise: if you get a glitter card in the mail, quickly run it out to your big, black trash can (don't put it in an inside trash can if you value the glitter-free status of your home). And remember, it's the thought that counts, so you appreciate the friend or family member who sent the card. They didn't really know that they were sending legal anthrax.