The Finish Line

11/30/2010 12:12 PM
50,909 words

I could have validated a little earlier, I suppose, perhaps being second instead of third of my writing buddies to make it to goal. But I had my heroine in a tight spot (cue Ulysses Everett McGill: "Damn! We're in a tight spot!") and couldn't stop writing until she got safely out of it.

Now I can breathe. And so can she—for a little while.

Of those 50,909 words, approximately 30,600 are part of the current draft. It's something to start with, now that I can cut the scrapped parts into a separate document and delete stupid sentences instead of just striking them out. Won't that be a relief.

Today is supposed to be Tasty Tuesday. Let's see... if I want to celebrate, what should I make? Maybe the guiltless, faultless family chocolate chip cookie recipe. Oh, and Farmer's City Wife wants fudge recipes, so if you have one, do go share it with her.


Time and Effort

Pushing off, so to speak, from Mr. Pond's post on oranges and grass... because we're still not arguing

Click to view full-size. My entire life resembles this graph...

Twenty-seven hours and forty-nine minutes of NaNoWriMo remain to me. I have 1,651 words left to write. Not being a marathoner myself, I can't say for sure, but my guess is that when you get to the last mile, you're pretty confident you'll make it. You might want to die one step beyond the finish line, but you will. get. there. Or else.

It's definitely true of this great November write-a-thon. And I might even work on my novel a little further tonight. Maybe I'll try for the win on the early side. A little certainty makes life easier.

Honestly... I'm ready to be finished. If September and October hadn't been a revision marathon, November might not have been so exhausting, but the thought of writing without a deadline sounds lovely right about now.

Says Mr. Pond:

I do run.

The first few months were miserable. You can’t breathe, for one thing. You can’t really run very far without having to walk, for another. Physically, you have a sensation like the musical experience of listening to someone almost play the violin. Even when it starts getting easier, it doesn’t really.

Now I love running. Not the thrill of having run, or being able to call myself a runner, but the act of running itself.... Because this—not that—is the joy of running. The freedom and rhythm of body, breath, and movement. The ability to move effortlessly for even part of the time, the lightness of pace and rhythm. The subtle teasing sense when walking that you could start running if you wanted. The fluidity of movement.

Of course, he goes on to say, running still has its painful life-hating moments of pushing yourself farther or faster than you thought you could go. Those, however, are moments. And he compares all that to writing. The words come painfully, especially at first. With time and practice, you experience things like ease of motion, freedom, the joy of the work.

Couldn't have said it better myself. As a writer, I live for those times of sheer absorption in the beauty of good phrasing, of powerful scenes, of words that fit and flow together till they vanish—like the clear, clean glass of a window—into the vision they are put in place to convey.

Times like that happen more in the daily run than in the marathon. Now is the time to grit my teeth and put the remaining strength of every muscle into finishing strong. Come December 1, I can pause for breath, take a day or two off, and go back to the routine jog along the bay.

For now, I have twenty-six hours and thirty-three minutes to get in those other sixteen hundred-odd words. I'm off to work on it.


Happy Thanksgiving!

This isn't the post I had planned, but I've still got 1100 words to write for NaNoWriMo today (9,379 words to goal), a full evening starting in minutes, and it might be nice to have some time to just relax and be thankful. :) So: Happy Thanksgiving! Scheduled posting returns Monday.


Tasty Tuesday... sort of

Tasty TuesdayThis being Thanksgiving week, I tried to think of something from the holiday table to post for a Tasty Tuesday recipe. The only problem: My specialty, as it were—the thing I am asked to bring to both my parents' and Lou's every Thanksgiving (and usually every Christmas, too)—is green bean casserole. And you can find the recipe for that on the can of fried onions.

A couple of tips, though: Add a little soy sauce, if the recipe doesn't already call for it. I used French's onions last time, and I don't think their recipe did. Durkee's might. (I have no preference between brand of onions, if you're wondering.) But definitely add it. Maybe 1 or 1 1/2 teaspoons per recipe. I never measure.

Also, I suggest going easy on the milk. I guarantee I don't come near the 2/3 cup recommended. Mushroom soup has a good strong flavor when not over-diluted.

Farmer's City Wife hasn't put up the usual host post yet, and Lou and I are about to brave the snow and get out for the evening, so I'll post this as is. And yes, I know green bean casserole is the easiest thing in the world to make and has starred in some incredibly annoying commercials, but honestly, the family spread would be a little lonely without it. I love that stuff.


On Pushing through Bricks

Mr. Pond wrote an encouraging post last week titled on giving up, or not, in which he discussed the life-or-death line between a story that is hard to write and a story that hurts to write. It's an all-important distinction, and one I've even had to take into account in this November madhouse that is National Novel Writing Month.

This is sort of a response, but not really a debate, so I won't call it blogalectic. I'll just recommend his post, particularly if you're the writing type, or the running type, or just someone who has to persevere at something. Knowing when to go on and when to stop matters.

Right now I'm procrastinating on my novel by writing a blog-post. A Monday blog for which I have made zero preparation isn't more fun to write than a novel; it just seemed easier. Much as I need to stay caught up and get ahead, right now I feel like I'd make more progress trying to push my way through a brick wall than trying to write 1,667 words of this fiction.

Not that I'm complaining, mind you. There's a big difference between the me of last Monday and the me of today. The hard work at last feels like worthwhile hard work. I've got story I can move forward with. I might be pushing brick walls, but at least I'm braced against solid ground.

Writing gets romanticized as wild artistic inspiration, but anyone who writes seriously knows the crazy amount of effort that goes into making a flight of fancy appear smooth and artistic. Ever seen a world-class figure skater pull off a triple axel? Three and one-half revolutions, waltz jump into loop position, left forward outside edge to right backward outside edge, and they land on one foot with their arms gracefully outstretched. Ever tried to pull off even a single axel? I have, and without the added hazards of skates or ice. Suffice it to say that it is nowhere near as easy as it looks.

Writing professionally, writing for publication, attempting to write a book worthy of being read and re-read and loved—this involves the kind of disciplined effort that makes it possible for one human to gracefully perform a feat that the average human could wind up in traction for even trying.

Sometimes I wonder why I claim to love writing, since it is far more work than fun. But then, some people love gardening, and that is also not fun. Some people love running, and that is downright miserable. And I've known a handful of people who loved mountain-climbing, which experienced Alpinist Wojciech Kurtyka has called "the art of suffering."

Anyone who loves something that involves this much struggle and effort just needs to be stubborn. Fortunately, that's one of my stronger traits. (Also one of my greatest weaknesses, but that's a different blog-post. :P) In perseverance we imitate the dandelion, which is possibly the most stubborn living thing in all of nature. Dandelions can get through bricks (or concrete sidewalks, anyway). A little pressure from underneath, in just the right place; the mortar cracks, the brick heaves up a little, and out comes the flower on the other side.

Of course, then the flower is still a dandelion. But hey, all analogies break down somewhere, right? Okay, I think I'm getting loopy. NaNoWriMo will do that to you. Back to work now.


Snitches and Snatchers and other stories

Much as I should be cleaning house at this moment--my mind is all hopped up on Harry Potter right now. I just saw the first Deathly Hallows movie, and the review I just posted at The Hog's Head was only a start of my responses. I didn't talk about Dobby's death, or Bill and Fleur's wedding (which I thought lovely, being the sort of girl who would photoshop images of a griffin, cross and lily together for the front cover of her own wedding program), or the Silver Doe scene, or the Ministry of Magic... already I'm thinking "How did I leave all that out?"

Well, I needed to get it up. And there just wasn't enough time or space. But maybe I'll get to it later, in the comments or over here. I'm strongly tempted to see the movie again.

* * *

My Minerva McGonagall costume is no longer in existence, but I wore my Gryffindor badge, made by my friend Rachael in 2008 for the Deathly Hallows midnight release party, and brought with me a plastic Quidditch Harry Potter. The latter was a gift from my friend Heather, who saw the movie with me today; she got it off a string of Snitch-chasing Harry Potter Christmas lights. Completely. Awesome.

* * *

This week's big news: I rebooted my NaNoWriMo novel. I'm not cutting back my word count, but I typed in a string of asterisks and started over at Chapter One. I already feel better about it. I'm taking it slower, and sometimes I even edit. Haha. Take that, crappy paragraphs.

* * *

Writer's link of the week: Be professional, says James Scott Bell. I try—I really do. Does it kill your chances if you have lousy fashion sense? :P

* * *

Music of the week: Lou and I are learning the Dies irae. We're loving it.

* * *

Funny of the week: Girls, be grateful if you did not have parents like this. The most awful celebration idea ever... It's not funny exactly, but I did laugh till I cried.

Also from cakewrecks.blogspot.com: a Potter post in keeping with the spirit of Deathly Hallows release day. I will link it on The Hog's Head shortly as well. It's brilliant.

* * *

Now I'm going to clean my house. Happy weekend, everybody! And if you're going to the Harry Potter movie, have fun. :D


Thursday Book Questions: Part 10

Five questions a week. Eleven weeks. Post your answers in the comments (or on your own blog if you prefer, just link back in the comments) and I'll do the same thing.

Last week we covered how long we'd gone without reading (not very, with a few exceptions for things like giving birth and having West Nile virus), books we could not/would not finish (everybody had something different, but reasons usually included disgust and/or boredom. And new commenter Masha told me to give Lolita another try), distractions (we all have them), and movie adaptations, for which our responses were so diverse that you'll have to go and read them.

To my amusement, just days after I read Farmer's City Wife's comment about dreadful Jane Eyre adaptations—and oh, are Jane Eyre adaptations ever dreadful—I read on Dr. Amy Sturgis' blog that a new one is being made. I watched the trailer, and supposedly they are playing up the Gothic elements of the story instead of just focusing on the romance. Which means that I am going to have to see it. Maybe I'll hate it, but I go as if compelled to the Harry Potter movies, and might as well do the same for Jane Eyre. Less than 24 hours till I see Deathly Hallows! :D

46. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time?
(answer here)
47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?
(answer here)
48. What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through?
(answer here)
49. Do you like to keep your books organized?
(answer here)
50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them?
(answer here)


Currently Reading: Shift

"Are you sure this is a good idea?" I asked Win when we were out of earshot.

He stopped and turned to me, his face only half illuminated by the light spilling from the garage into the small parking lot. "It's more than a good idea," he began, "it's necessary. As your best friend, it's my job to make sure you take advantage of an opportunity like this. You will never again see the inside of a jail cell, Eagle," he said solemnly. "We both know that it's likely I may once again spend a night in the slammerrich men's sons are obligated to get at least a DUI or something. My dad would probably be disappointed if I didn't. But I won't allow you to let your moment pass you by."

Author: Jennifer Bradbury

Synopsis: College freshman Chris Collins didn't expect to be greeted in his dorm by an FBI agent wanting information on his best friend, Win. But then, he didn't expect Win to split near the end of their recent cross-country bike ride, either. Agent Ward would like to know where Win went, and Win's father would like to know even more. Chris isn't sure he cares, but when he realizes he might be able to find out, he has important decisions to make—secretly, and in a hurry.

Notes: Wow. A reasonably clean YA tale from a male first-person perspective.

My favorite thing about this book: The characters of Chris and Win, especially by the end. I liked their personalities and their development, and while I felt like I had a pretty good idea of the basic answer to the mystery involved, that didn't matter because the characters and their relationship were much more interesting.

Also interesting to me: Chris's bike trip goes through Concrete, Washington, which I know. Then it takes a side jump up the Chuckanut Drive, which I've driven. It winds up in Anacortes, where I lived for over ten years and briefly met Jennifer Bradbury.

The book was paced like a mystery novel, with jumps back and forth between timelines. The overall feel, however, was more of an easygoing summer adventure story. I liked that, too. There were a few points where my suspension of disbelief was challenged a little bit—some of the FBI agent's conversation, for instance--but everything about the bike trip was interesting and believable.

Between good humor, some intriguing thoughts, and wanting to know for sure what happened to Win, I basically read this in one sitting. Chapters 26 and 27 were my favorites. But I can't say why without spoilers.

I'm pleased to see that the author has a new novel, Wrapped, coming out in May. Hmm...

Recommendation: Read Shift on a quiet afternoon or evening, and dream of summer.


Tasty Tuesday: Zucchini... something

Tasty Tuesday
Technically speaking, I probably should have done this during zucchini season. But I made it the other day, having found a sale at the grocery, and it's just good.

My family always called this zucchini glop. Hopefully that doesn't sound too awful—I'm sure any of you can think of a better name for it. They say that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet; zucchini glop by any other name is a tasty use for the proliferating vegetable. You can only make so much zucchini bread. Here's what to do with the extra squash.

If you have any suggestions for a better name, please leave me a comment. :D

Zucchini _______

About 3 medium or 5 small zucchini
1 small/medium onion
Olive oil
2-3 slices bread, cut into crouton-sized pieces
1-2 cups grated Monterey jack cheese

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat olive oil in a skillet and cook zucchini and onion until al dente.

Sprinkle cheese over zucchini and top with bread pieces.

Bake 15-20 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and bread is toasted golden brown.

Serve. It's a great side for chicken dishes.



The mark directly between and equidistant from two points on a line.

What you get when you cross the Atlantic with the Titanic.

Where we are in NaNoWriMo.

Current word count: 25,031

I considered making today's post a direct response to Mr. Pond's On Caring Too Deeply, but right now it's getting awfully difficult to stare at a computer screen and type. Besides, his post was very good and I didn't really disagree with it. And it's hard to think of creative new ways to celebrate NaNoWriMo when the program is totally kicking my rear—even if I am staying caught up on word count.

I'm starting to feel as if I care too deeply about finishing without a better reason than "I hate giving up." Last year at this point in the novel, there was action. Captures. Attacks. Fear. Emotional twists. This year, they're cooking. And talking.

I'm even bored.

Perhaps it was a mistake to speed-write a sequel to a novel I've had time to revise. Or perhaps I've just got the halfway blues. In the Halfway video, over at the NaNo site, OLL staffer Lindsey says "If you've been thinking about quitting: Don't do it!"

Dang it, Lindsey, you read my mind.

The will to get through got me something innately revisable last year—something that held enough beauty to be worth salvaging. If I want that again—and I do—it will mean a lot of extra effort. It means I need to not just write, but put some real time into structuring the novel.

I'm the one who signed up for this sport. So be it, then.


Daisies Standing Guard and other stories

Current word count: 20,268

"I'm at twenty thousand words and I'm feeling awesome/man, I should make writing my career
My main characters have chemistry, my setting is believable/think I'm gonna win this year" *

How I wish that were the case.

Last year I never once considered quitting NaNoWriMo. This year, I've written twenty thousand words that are almost entirely wrong—bad prose, wrong emotional progressions, inane scenes. The story in my head, what shards of it exist, is not what keeps coming out on paper.

I've considered stopping, even though I've been ahead on word count for almost the entire time, and the tingling in my right hand and pain running from elbow to palm are pushing me that direction. The only thing keeping me going is that every couple of days I hit on something that I do actually want to use in the final draft.

Well—that and the fact that I hate giving up.

But as I crossed the 20,000-word mark this morning, I found a little joy in it. I started a new chapter yesterday, and the 1700 words it contains are, for the most part, not crap. One more small encouragement to continue.

* * *

Apart from writing novels at top speed, November means a return to winter weather around here. Much to my amazement, I know people who actually wanted this to happen. Since we didn't get summer weather till the second week in July this year, I would have been just fine not having winter weather till January.

...but we did have such a beautiful sunrise this morning. And sometimes I've even been able to see the stars.

* * *

Yes, the stars. The Pleiades are up this time of year, bright and beautiful. Next on the to-find list: Aldebaran, which should be close by, and the shape of Taurus. Aquila and the Swan have moved to the west during my most-common stargazing hours, and Cassiopeia is nearly overhead. I've never been able to really trace Pegasus—it's hard in town if the constellations aren't composed of very bright stars, which problem has also held me back on Aquarius and Perseus. Oh well. I do what I can.

* * *

Music of the week: This one's for all of you Hunger Games fans. I've got to say, mixed as my feelings were about that series—as a lyricist myself, I loved Collins' folk songs. I might not have imagined Rue's lullaby in a minor key, and the recording here isn't the best, but ultimately, this is beautiful.

* * *

Writer's link of the week: John Green's NaNoWriMo pep talk. Favorite quote:

"Here’s my answer to the very real existential crisis that grips me midway through everything I’ve ever tried to do: I think stories help us fight the nihilistic urges that constantly threaten to consume us."

* * *

Funny of the week: The Oatmeal on How to Pet a Kitty. Not quite as funny as the printer one, which I've already linked some months back, but equally true.

* * *

I'm off to clean house. Happy weekend, everybody.

* Lyric from The NaNoWriMo Song by Kristina Horner and Luke Conard.


Thursday Book Questions: Part 9

Five questions a week. Eleven weeks. Post your answers in the comments (or on your own blog if you prefer, just link back in the comments) and I'll do the same thing.

Last week, we talked favorite fictional characters, and very few of us could pick just one. Austen, Tolkien, Lewis and Rowling created the majority of the ones listed, but we had several mentions of Anne of Green Gables and one resounding, unchallenged vote for Jean Valjean. Many of us talked of Snape in the "Favorite villain" category, though we had to debate somewhat over whether he counts as a villain; others noted Fagin, Fyodor Karamazov, and the president from Fr. Elijah. We also talked about our library habits and what sort of books we take on vacation (usually light ones—physically and mentally speaking.)

This week's questions:

41. The longest I’ve gone without reading.
(answer here)
42. Name a book that you could/would not finish.
(answer here)
43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?
(answer here)
44. Favorite film adaptation of a novel?
(answer here)
45. Most disappointing film adaptation?
(answer here)

Now we get to my favorite part: reading your answers. :)


Currently Reading: ah... oops.

No Currently Reading review post today, owing to the fact that I haven't read anything new since Shadow of the Hegemon. But I did walk today from writers' group over to the library, where I picked up Jennifer Bradbury's 2008 YA novel, Shift.

...yes, for those of you who wonder—that's the Jennifer Bradbury we knew some years back. The one who has also won a game of Jeopardy. A mutual friend told me she'd had a book published. I'm thoroughly excited to read it.

Notes coming next week. I've also reserved some other books and am working on tracking down more new YA fiction (especially fantasy), so hopefully this feature won't have to skip another week for awhile. :)


Tasty Tuesday: Chili

Tasty Tuesday
I'm starting to have to think to come up with recipes, a problem that is exacerbated by starting off the day behind on NaNoWriMo. But I'm ahead now, thanks to a burst of something that resembled inspiration and a comparatively free day, and as it was also a cold day, I thought I'd share one of our easy winter recipes.

Everybody does chili a little differently. It does not get more basic than this. People talk of thirty-minute meals; this is one of the very few that I can actually prepare in that short of a time.


1-2 lbs ground beef
1 red pepper
1 small can tomato paste
1 large or two small cans diced or chopped or crushed tomatoes
2 cans kidney beans
Garlic powder
Chili powder
Optional: a little onion and/or fresh garlic

Brown the ground beef. Dice the red pepper, throw it in with the beef and cook a little longer (also add onion and fresh garlic here, if you're using those.)

Add the tomato paste and stir in. Then add all the other canned goods. Stir.

Give it a good sprinkle of garlic powder, unless you're using real garlic, and then a healthy amount of chili powder. I don't know how much I add--probably around a tablespoon. Season to taste.

Serve with grated cheddar cheese and/or saltines, sour cream, etc.


On Writing Crap

In response to Mr. Pond, Running and Writing

I walk. Running has never been my thing, unless you count the occasional wild, formless romp across open spaces that a combination of feeling unobserved and a good stiff wind inspires. That said, my sister-in-law Marie ran the Bellingham Bay marathon a few weeks ago, and watching her make that victory almost made me consider marathon training. Not quite—the family knee curse quickly overshadowed the idea—but almost.

Maybe I'm just the sort of person who is generally up for a little self-challenge. That personality attribute is the one and only reason I've rappelled off a cliff, intentionally swum a class III rapid, or gone down the speed slide at a water park. It is not the only reason I chose to do NaNoWriMo, but it certainly set me up to find the concept of writing a novel in a single month irresistible.

Mr. Pond takes philosophical issue with NaNoWriMo, though he does not discount that the program works for some of us. He has good reasons. To Mr. Pond, for whom the entire concept of writing revolves around beauty, the thought of writing "a crap draft" is unthinkable. The NaNoWriMo site says "Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that’s a good thing." "Writing a lot of crap is never a good thing," says Mr. Pond.

He and I have pretty strong agreements in the arenas of artistic philosophy. So why did he look at this free-for-all and say "I can't go along with that" when my immediate response was "I absolutely have to do this!"?

An important part of the debate process is defining your terms. The word crap is pretty arbitrary, and I think Mr. Pond and I took it to mean two different things.

What exactly is crap, in the figurative, NaNoWriMo sense? (Yes, I know you all know what it is literally.) Bad sentences? Plot holes? Inclusion of the Traveling Shovel of Death or other dares? Flat characters? Telling instead of showing? A sickly-sweet or garishly tragic ending? Clichés? All of the above?

My first NaNo novel had six of the eight possible problems listed above. And I knew those problems were coming into existence as I wrote. But something else happened around the failures: The outline I had carefully drawn, giving myself one bullet point for every day in November, slowly collapsed under the exploration of the original concept, leaving only the most basic framework on which I structured the concept itself. Characters revealed interesting things about themselves, things that didn't show up on their original dossiers. The unexpected crept in, the worlds proved to be worth exploring, and when I clocked in my final word count on November 29—57,500 words—I knew that I could take the heart of that story and revise it into something worth reading.

I've now written that book three and a half times, not at all to my surprise. It currently clocks in at 72,138 words. There are a few sentences that made it from the original draft all the way through, I believe; not many. There are a few scenes that are almost untouched except for a little polish on the wording. Those things carried over because they weren't crap. Oh, I wrote a lot of crap. But I wrote a lot. It wasn't nearly all bad.

Attempting to write fast freed me from caring too deeply about every sentence to progress. It gave me permission to mess up and just keep going, to not care that Chapter 5 wasn't polished before I went on to Chapter 6, to allow some plot points to remain ambiguous or to fall out of use entirely. More, it gave me a need to finish that was stronger than my need to overthink everything. I can't express how much I needed that. Maybe I really only needed to do it once, to open my mind to the process necessary for creating a complete first draft. I hadn't written one since I was nineteen.

After all, we all have to start somewhere. No one begins by writing beautifully, and first drafts of novels are almost never very readable. There's a lot of bad art made in the process of learning to create the good.

Ultimately, I don't think Mr. Pond and I disagree that much about the value of NaNoWriMo itself; his comments on his own post clarified his position for me. The one line in his piece that I can't confidently agree with is the statement that writing a lot of crap is never a good thing. I guess that depends on what he means by crap.

But as for this:
I write because I’ve thought long and hard about writing, about the pain and life-hating and sweat stains that accompany the determination to actually Be A Real Writer. I write because I value craft and language and clarity and style, for the beauty of words and the love of sound. I write because quality matters, beauty and wonder and joy matter, even in spite of an age that tells us there’s 3,456,789,462 hits on any given query, that success lies in numbers, and a majority can’t be wrong.
That I agree with, wholeheartedly.


Old Glories and Hallelujahs and other stories

First sentence: November 1, 12:00 noon, at my parents'.

* * *

Current word count: 10,827
Today's goal: 8,335

NaNoWriMo started off with a bang and a half. First, I got ahead right away. That beats last year, when it took me an all-nighter on a plane to catch up.

Second, thanks to 170-odd-thousand enthusiastic participants, of which I was one, the site was either painfully slow or down for the first four days solid. Props to OLL for having the cutest over-capacity message ever. And props to the brave NaNo server guy, who has been working long past normal hours to get things running. The site works much better today.

As for word count: It's nice to be ahead of schedule, but it feels a little like cheating. Since I don't have a full-time job, I just have a lot more time to write than most Wrimos. My one handicap this year is creative exhaustion; that last revision really drained me. It doesn't even things out, but it has certainly increased the challenge of getting my daily 1667.

* * *

I had forgotten what dull scenes and incomprehensible sentences I can create during NaNoWriMo. Sometimes the only way to keep going is to remind myself: No one will read this draft. No one, I say. Believe me—you don't want to.

But just like last year, I'm discovering the story in ways I, being a lousy planner, could never do with just an outline. More on that Monday, if I can get my thoughts together in time.

* * *

Last year at this time, I was spending my last hours in Rome. The six of us who went—Lou and I, his parents, Mike and Kay—had a reunion this past Saturday. We went through a bunch of our pictures, ate pizza and pasta and gelato and drank cappucini and Italian wine.

I started typing up some of the memories, but it got too long too fast. Mercy. I feel like there's still at least three or four blog-posts on that trip, waiting to get loose from my head.

* * *

In other news, Maia jumped in the shower this morning. Strange cat.

* * *

Writer's link of the week: The future belongs to the best editors. I consider myself a pretty decent editor, and I'd still take the class he describes. Thanks for the link, @michaelhyatt.

* * *

Music of the week: This made me cry. The idea of a random act of culture is pretty cool in its own right, but this piece is so much more than culture—this is sacred and transcendental.

If I could have gotten past tears enough to hit all those Fs and Gs, I would have wanted to join in on the last few lines. That's all I know my part for... but one of my secret little dreams is to sing the whole song with a choir someday.

* * *

Funny of the week: Farmer's City Wife on How Not to Flirt. I laughed and laughed. It sounded so familiar.

* * *

To my fellow Wrimos reading this: Good luck! (And I missed you at write-in this week.)

To all of you: Happy weekend!


Thursday Book Questions: Part 8

Five questions a week. Eleven weeks. Post your answers in the comments (or on your own blog if you prefer, just link back in the comments) and I'll do the same thing.

Last week's questions were more directed at personal taste than some weeks' have been. Favorite poet? There weren't a lot of duplicates. I'm a bit shocked that I forgot to say Shakespeare or King David, though I don't regret mentioning MacDonald.

We also had a variety of thoughts on the ways and means of giving negative reviews. Latin got the most votes for language we'd like to be able to read in, and George and I had a brief discussion on the merits of Sindarin versus Quenya. Lastly, the world holds so many books that are intimidating for so many different reasons (as Eric noted) that it was a lot of fun to read everyone's answers on those questions.

This week's questions:

36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time?
(answer here)
37. How often have you returned a book to the library unread?
(answer here)
38. Favorite fictional character?
(answer here)
39. Favorite fictional villain?
(answer here)
40. What books are you most likely to bring on vacation?
(answer here)

Come one, come all with answers! I do love reading them.


Currently Reading: Shadow of the Hegemon

"Oh, spare me your delusions," said Peter. "You're a little boy in hiding."

"I'm a general who's between armies," said Bean. "If I weren't, you wouldn't be talking to me."

"And you want an army so you can go rescue Petra," said Peter.

"So she's alive?"

"How would I know?"

"I don't know how you'd know. But you know more than you're telling me, and if you don't give me what you have, you arrogant oomay, I'm done with you, I'll leave you here playing your little net games, and go find somebody who's not afraid to come out of Mama's house and take some risks."

Author: Orson Scott Card

Synopsis: The members of Ender's jeesh--his core army, the group that helped him defeat the Formics--have been kidnapped; all except Bean, who narrowly escaped a bombshell. Suspecting that his old psychopathic enemy, Achilles, is behind the kidnappings and attempted murder, Bean goes into hiding. While on the run, he deduces that Achilles is building a dangerous political career by means of genius and charisma. Achilles has also taken brilliant jeesh member Petra Arkanian, Bean's friend, as a slave strategist. For Bean to have even a chance at rescuing Petra, he must team up with Ender's brother Peter, get into global politics, and prepare to put his own life on the line.

Notes: One of my favorite things about Orson Scott Card's work is his linguistic depth. Everything about that fascinates me, from the Battle School slang (jeesh, oomay) to the smatterings of Hindi and Portuguese, to Petra's recognition of the fake Turk soldiers by their accent on the Russian loan words. Card's characters come from all over the world, and the primary ones are all academic prodigies, so the language support helps a lot with my buy-in.

Card's characters are also very lifelike. I had a pretty impressive nightmare about serial killers after reading several chapters before bed; Achilles absolutely terrified me. On the other hand, it was fun to get to know Petra better, interesting to meet an older and perhaps barely less sadistic Peter, and Bean's development is such that I keep winding up hopeful for him.

This particular novel was less emotionally moving for me than Speaker or Ender's Shadow, more action-oriented and somewhat more painful. It also did not have the heartrendingly beautiful, satisfying ending of either of those. Of course, after both of those I was afraid to go further with the series; long stretches of happiness don't make for compelling reading, and it seemed to me that Ender and Bean had both been through enough. But now I have to keep going.

Which, obviously, I would have done anyway. So many stories nowadays are obviously designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator; it's incredibly refreshing to read something intelligent, something thick with meaning. I've never found a novel that beats the Ender books for that.

Recommendation: It's hard to imagine myself not recommending something written by Orson Scott Card. This is a good book. My only qualification: Read it in broad daylight if you're susceptible to psychological creepiness.


Your NaNoWriMo Care Package

[Day 1, and the NaNoWriMo site is so slammed with participants and excitement that it crashed! Here are some off-site things to help you procrastinate.]

If we lived in a perfect world, this post would hand you a bag of chocolate and your favorite brand of coffee. But since I can't transmit that via the internet, here is my best attempt at getting you (and me) a collection of necessities and comforts for the NaNoWriMo experience, all in one place. Enjoy, and best of luck with your 50K words!

1. The NaNoWriMo Song

If this doesn't get you jazzed to write, I don't know what will. Take it away, Kristina and Luke...

2. An answer to the question Why?

The reason given by the Office of Letters and Light staff is the standard "Because you can't revise a blank page." True. In addition to their perfectly good reason, I submit that you can revise the heck out of the first 25 pages of a planned novel, but that still doesn't really count as writing a book. And that is more my problem.

NaNoWriMo is like having Linus Larrabee staring me in the face, after shooting up a television with a pistol, saying "You're a grown man, David. Finish something."

(P.S. No, my name's not David, and I'm not a man. The above simile is brought to you by the movie Sabrina, and contains a direct quote.)

3. A reference for where your word count should be, approximately, on any given day of the month

Courtesy of my husband:

November 1: 1667
November 2: 3334
November 3: 5001
November 4: 6668
November 5: 8335
November 6: 10002
November 7: 11669
November 8: 13336
November 9: 15003
November 10: 16670
November 11: 18337
November 12: 20004
November 13: 21671
November 14: 23338
November 15: 25005
November 16: 26672
November 17: 28339
November 18: 30006
November 19: 31673
November 20: 33340
November 21: 35007
November 22: 36674
November 23: 38341
November 24: 40008
November 25: 41675
November 26: 43342
November 27: 45009
November 28: 46676
November 29: 48343
November 30: 50000

4. Exercises and tips for avoiding carpal tunnel syndrome

Courtesy of TheHealthPages.com: Carpal Tunnel wrist exercises and tips for the workplace

5. Something to show that person who loves you when they complain that they never see you in November

A Grammar's list of the difficulties involved in dating a writer. Number 16 is my favorite... but be forewarned, there's strong language. :)

6. A writing buddy

I like buddies, so if you need or want one, feel free to add me. :) I'll do my best to add you back (leave me a comment if I don't; I probably just missed the notification.)

7. A little bit of NaNoWriMo boot camp. It's not too late...

Courtesy of Nathan Bransford, Literary Agent:

Choosing the Right Idea

Goals and Obstacles (i.e., giving them to your protagonist)

Editing as You Go

8. An excuse to give the doubters (including the little voice in your head)

There's a real value in the simple act of challenging yourself. That is worthwhile even if you don't come up with something that makes it to the bestseller list (even after proper revision). It is worthwhile even if being a writer isn't your lifelong goal. It is worthwhile even if you don't make 50,000—and let's face it, not all of us can every November. Sometimes life gets in the way. But pushing yourself to do things that seem difficult or impossible can build your strength to do better things in life.

9. Best wishes

You have mine! Now go write your book. :)