Saturday, August 4, 2012

Grocery Lessons

I made a late(ish) night trip to the grocery, and I learned a valuable lesson.  I haven't really been doing well in the 12x12 challenge, so here is my slightly tongue-in-cheek version of the lesson as this month's picture book. (My apologies to Laura Numeroff.)

If You Make a Late-Night Trip to the Grocery 

If you make a late-night trip to the grocery, you'll see blueberries. You'll notice they're on sale and want to buy them. When you buy them, the nice people at the grocery will put them on the top of the sack to make them convenient to reach.

When you get home, you'll carry all of the sacks at once into the dark kitchen. Since the kitchen is dark, you won't see the blueberries fall out of the sack. The clamshell that the blueberries are in will pop open, and the blueberries will roll all over the floor.

Since the kitchen is dark, you'll step in the blueberries that rolled all over the floor. Blueberries are very slippery. Slippery blueberries will squish under your feet and make you lose your balance. Falling doesn't hurt. Landing does.

When you get up off the floor, you will turn on the light and see blueberries (and squished blueberries) all over the floor. You'll want to sweep those up so no one else falls. Sweeping up blueberries is very much like herding cats.

Once you get the blueberries into a pile, you'll try to scoop them up. When you scoop them up, blueberries will roll all over the floor again.

I know, the ending needs work. Seriously, though, blueberries are slippery. Also, landing hurts.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Serial Monday - Supes Week 7

Last week's choice was much closer than usual. Usually there is one choice that wins by a landslide, but not this time. Does anyone have comments on why that might be?

Last Week's Choice:
What should Duke do?
Give Summer the journal.                    3 votes (37.5%)
Keep the journal and read more later.   5 votes (62.5%)

Week 6: Week 6
Week 5: Week 5
Week 4: Week 4
Week 3: Week 3
Week 2: Week 2
Week 1: Week 1

Supes - Week 7

Duke touched his bag. The flap was still closed. “No, I didn't see you leave anything. Want me to run back down and look?”

No, that's okay.” Summer bit her lip. “I must have left it in my locker. No big.”

I'm such a jerk. Duke busied himself with the stack of books Summer had given him. I'll give it back to her after I find out what's up with her and Lou.

Duke had just found a relevant case when the bell rang for second period. He wrote down the information then looked up at Summer.

Are we supposed to have this done by tomorrow?”

Summer shook her head. “Wednesday. We'll have tomorrow in class to finish it. You really don't pay attention in class at all, do you?”

Duke grinned at her. “I was distracted by my neighbor.” His grin widened at her blush. “Want to meet tonight to work on it more?”

Monday, April 16, 2012

Serial Monday - Supes Week 6

Two weeks and a new laptop later, and I am back in business! Thanks for being patient while I got everything straightened out with the laptops.

The poll from last time was:

What should Duke do?
Stop in the bathroom to read the journal   6 votes (85%)
Go to the library                                     1 vote   (14%)

Week 5: Week 5
Week 4: Week 4
Week 3: Week 3
Week 2: Week 2
Week 1: Week 1

Supes - Week 6

Dripping water echoed through the room. Walls, floor, sinks, and urinals were all stained the same sickly yellow. Duke wrinkled his nose.

He leaned up against a wall and pulled the journal out of his bag. Duke ignored the smell and the stains as he began to read. The first couple of pages were doodles, lots of hearts and flowers and intertwined initials. Duke skipped over to the first real entry.

            April 19

Nearly got run over by some crazy band chick today. She was sprinting down the hall toward the music room as I came out of Mr. Campbell's room. It was probably mean of me to send a gust of wind after her to blow the papers out of her hands, but seriously, she almost killed me.

Monday, March 26, 2012

On Hold

Until I can get some computer repairs, I'm going to have to put the blog on hold. Hopefully a visit to the Geek Squad (or its equivalent somewhere else) will get everything working again,and I'll be back at the end of the week.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Serial Monday - Supes Week 5

Last week I missed Serial Monday because I was fighting off an epic cold. I'm back to normal again, so Duke's back this week. This is a slightly shorter installment than last time, but I hope to make up for it next week.

Last week's poll:
What should Duke do next?
Talk to the girl now.                          4 (67%)
Wait until after class.                       2 (33%)

Week 4: Week 4
Week 3: Week 3
Week 2: Week 2
Week 1: Week 1

Supes - Week 5

Duke waited until Mrs. P. got a couple minutes into her lecture, then he turned to the girl beside him. “Didn’t I see you with Marie earlier?”

The girl glanced at him, rolled her eyes, and went back to her note taking.

Duke gave her a minute to finish the page, then he tried again. “So what’s this class all about?”

The girl sighed. “Pay attention and you’ll find out.” She turned the page in her notebook and made a point to look anywhere but at Duke.

Not exactly the warmest welcome he’d had all day, but it wasn’t the worst either.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Reference Book Rehash - Weeks 3, 4, and 5 (WGBfYA)

Author: Regina Brooks
Title: Writing Great Books for Young Adults

I’m a bit behind in my Reference Book Rehash – this is why I needed to have the rehash in the first place – so I’m combining weeks three, four, and five in this one post.

Chapter Three of Writing Great Books for Young Adults is a short chapter on character. Once again, Ms. Brooks runs through several exercises that evoke teenage emotions and help us choose which character is the best one for our story. By the end of the chapter we’ve got a main character who is three-dimensional and imbued with all those emotions we dredged up in the last chapter. The most important thing I took from the chapter was a reminder to always keep your character’s motivation in the front of your mind and to make sure he acts accordingly. That motivation should be clear to the reader so she’ll care about the character and not lose interest.

Now that we have the character in mind, the next two chapters deal with the plot of our story. Chapter Four deals with several different types of plots. Ms. Brooks lays out the structure of a plot, fleshing out Freytag’s pyramid. She works through it clearly, explaining the action at each step. I especially liked the descriptions of the different types of denouement – I’m a firm believer that the wrong ending can ruin a great story.

Chapter Five is all about building the plot of the story. It is so packed with information that a summary might be as long as the chapter itself. Ms. Brooks gives a rundown of plot faults and ten factors to help determine if the plot works. I’ll definitely be revisiting this chapter when I’m struggling with types of conflict or a plot that I just can’t figure out.

How do you build your plot? Does it revolve around your character’s motivation?

More Details
Week 1
Week 2

Monday, March 5, 2012

Serial Monday - Supes Week 4

Last week's poll:
What should Duke do next?
Go see Mrs. P. in Philosophy.                          1 (10%)
See if he can hear what's going on in this room. 9 (90%)

Last week: Week 3
Week 2: Week 2
Week 1: Week 1

Supes - Week 4

After a quick glance up and down the hall to be sure no one would catch him eavesdropping, Duke moved closer to the door. A clear, lilting soprano drew him forward. The pull was almost physical, a siren’s call. He didn’t stop until his toes bumped the door. It was all Duke could do to keep from yanking open the door to follow the voice. He forced himself to look in the narrow window instead.

A petite blonde stood in front of the teacher’s desk, twirling the end of one pigtail as she sang. The teacher’s eyes were buggy behind his glasses. He stared blankly at the girl, nodding like a bobblehead.

The corners of the girl’s mouth tipped up, but she kept singing. She stopped twirling her pigtail long enough to pick up a mug from the teacher’s desk. The teacher reached out with both hands, palms up as if in supplication.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Serial Monday - Supes - Week 3

We're getting a little late start to Serial Monday, but it is still Monday (barely). This week's installment is a bit longer (by request).

Last week's poll:

What should Duke do next?
Zap Lou to make him back off.  9 (25%)
Walk away.                           27 (75%)

Last week: Week 2
Week 1: Week 1
Rules: Serial Monday Rules

Supes - Week 3

Duke glanced over to be sure both cafeteria ladies were still in the kitchen. His hair stood up as the field around him grew. His power had never come this fast or strong.

Duke watched Lou through a haze. Lou reached out, hand cupped as if he’d choke Duke.

He’s not really hazy. The field’s blurring my vision.

Lou had to have some power if he was at Parker Memorial, but Duke didn’t know what it was – or if it would be enough to shield Lou from the worst of Duke’s power. The last guy Duke had zapped blacked out. With this much charge built up, the current running through someone might put him in the hospital.

I can’t do this.

Duke grabbed the metal tray ledge just as Lou’s hand would have penetrated the electric shell. Duke’s boots thunked on the floor when the field around him dissipated. The acrid smell of burning eggs wafted out of the service trays.

Duke blocked Lou’s hand. “Just back off, dude. I don’t know what your deal is, but I don’t want to hurt you.”

Lou glared at him, and Duke’s headache returned full-force. Duke’s vision narrowed to a pinprick.

Crap, I’m gonna pass out.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Supes - Week 2

Last week's poll:

What should Duke do next?
Get in line behind the weird guy. 15 votes (68%)
Sit with the overachieving girls.     7 votes (32%)

Last week's installment of the story: Supes - Week 1
Here are the rules: Serial Monday Rules

Supes - Week 2

That's one handy side effect!
Food first, then I’ll find a place to sit. 

Duke shoved his cafeteria code in his jeans pocket and walked over to the food line. The greasy kid turned to watch Duke approach. The closer Duke got, the more the kid glared. When Duke stepped up behind him in line, the kid bared his teeth and growled.

Does he think he’s a dog?

Duke rolled his eyes. No wonder everyone cleared out of the line when this guy was around. Duke made a point to ignore the kid and glanced over at the cafeteria ladies.

They both stood about a foot behind the service line. One looked from Duke to the other kid, then headed into the kitchen.

“I’ll just get more eggs.”

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Reference Book Rehash - Week 2 (WGBfYA)

Author: Regina Brooks
Title: Writing Great Books for Young Adults

This week I read chapter 2 in Writing Great Books for Young Adults by Regina Brooks. I'll admit I left it until the last minute - I read it Friday - but I got sucked in and read a couple of chapters before I made myself stop and focus just on chapter 2.

Ms. Brooks does a great job of guiding the reader through exercises that lead to story ideas. All of the exercises in this chapter dealt with remembering emotions from when you were a teenager and using those emotions to come up with story ideas. I was surprised to find that it was easy to call up all of those teenage emotions. The story ideas they conjured were fun, and I'll definitely be adding a couple of them to my list of works in progress.

I didn't expect to be able to call up those teenage, angsty emotions so easily, especially when I can't remember a lot of the day-to-day events that happened then. Here's an exercise for you: try to remember a strong emotion from when you were a teenager. Call up that emotion. Feel it. Now use that emotion and imagine what type of a character would feel that emotion. Who are they? What's the story behind the emotion? Jot down the story idea and see where it goes.

The exercises in chapter two were more specific than this, each focusing on a specific type of emotion. I was surprised at the different places my teenage emotions took me. I went from a 1950s high school girl to a prince in a fantasy kingdom to a newly freed slave on an alien world. Where do your emotions take you?

More Details
Week 1

Friday, February 17, 2012

I've Been Tagged

Kelly Hashway tagged me to answer some questions here, then come up with questions for other bloggers to answer. Here are my answers - and the list of people I want answers from. (Hint: You're one of them.)

The Tag rules:
1. You must post the rules!
2. Answer the questions and then create eleven new questions to ask the people you’ve tagged.
3. Tag eleven people and link to them.
4. Let them know you’ve tagged them.

Kelly's questions for me:
  1. If you could live in a fictional world, where would that be?
    I like the real world an awful lot, but if I had to pick, I'd say Eureka. I know, I picked a TV place, not a literary place, but I'm sticking with it.
  2. Do you read in noisy or quiet places?
    Yes. I read anywhere there are words.
  3. What was the first book you ever read?
    I don't remember the very first, but the first I remember is Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now!
  4. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, what would it be?
    I object to this question on grounds of cruelty. Only one book? Really?
  5. Favorite author?
    Right now I'd say Orson Scott Card because I just finished Pathfinder and loved it. Tomorrow I may have a different favorite.
  6. Do reviews influence your choice of reads?
    They don't influence whether I'll read something, but they do influence whether I buy it before I read part of it. If I'm unsure, I'll read a bit at the bookstore before I buy. If I get sucked in and don't want to put it down, I ignore the review and buy the book anyway.
  7. Fiction or Nonfiction?
    Usually fiction, but I love history and science books as well.
  8. Have you ever met your favorite author?
  9. Audio books or Paperbacks?
    Audiobooks are great for long car trips! Everyone gets to participate and be entertained. Otherwise, I like books any way I can get them- paperback, hardback, ebooks, I read them all.
  10. Classic or Modern Novels?
    Usually modern, but I am a sucker for Jane Austen. 
  11. Book Groups or Solitary Reading?
    I've only ever been involved in one book group, so I'll say solitary as a general rule.
My questions for others: I'm following Kelly's lead and cheating. I'll ask the same questions, but I'll add to number 4. If you can pick just one book, why would you pick it?

I've tagged: 
There are some people I didn't tag because I saw someone else already tagged you. Here's a bit more cheating: I would love to see answers to these questions from anyone not tagged - even the non-bloggers among you. Kate, D, Shauna, and anyone else out there - I would love to see what you think of these. If you want to answer in the comments, that'd be awesome.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Story 1 - Working Title: Supes

Duke Harrison chained his bike to the bike rack outside his new school. He sighed. Two other bikes in the rack, and a parking lot full of late model sports cars. It looked like this school wasn’t going to be much different than the last one his nomad father had dragged him to. 

Seven different high schools in two years was more than Duke could handle. About the time people got over his weird name, Duke would have to pack everything so they could go haring off to some new school three states away. They had to stay now, though.

Now that Duke’s powers had manifested he was deemed unsafe for normal high school, so Stanley Parker Memorial would be his home until he graduated. If his dad got itchy feet he’d either have to go off by himself or buy some foot powder. Duke didn’t really care which.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Serial Monday - Rules

I've been looking for a fun writing project to keep myself writing regularly, and a way to hold myself accountable, so I will meet the goals I set for myself. As a kid, I loved the books where the reader would choose which path to take and turn to the designated page for that part of the story. I think writing that type of a story will be a fun project, but I want to make it interactive so you readers can determine what's going to happen as we go.

Starting tomorrow, Mondays here will be Serial Mondays. Each week I will post a portion of a story that ends at a decision point for the character. I'll post a poll for readers to vote which choice the character should make. You'll have until Friday to vote (voting ends at 11:59 on Thursday evening) then I will write up the next week's installment, to be posted on Monday. Feel free to comment on the story - let us now why you think the vote should go your way. Even if you don't comment, please vote on which direction you'd like the story to take.

Please keep in mind that this is an unedited story. Though I will take each installment through more than one draft, I am writing and posting between Friday and Monday. There may be mistakes, but I will make every effort to keep them at a minimum, and correct them as they're noted.

The first story starts in the next post. (Which I will post on Monday.) There is a jump break in the story, so click on the link to read the rest, then vote for your choice! Have fun, and thanks for reading!

Fine Print: All comments must be good-natured, positive, and in good taste or I will remove them. I am the final (and only) arbiter of what is good-natured, positive and in good taste. All rights to the story remain with me, but feel free to post links back to this site.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Reference Book Rehash - Week 1 (WGBfYA)

Author: Regina Brooks
Title: Writing Great Books for Young Adults

This week I worked on the first chapter of Writing Great Books for Young Adults, by Regina Brooks. This chapter isn't an introduction, but it's along the same lines. No exercises, but it does lay down five rules for engaging young readers. The last two were very appropriate for me this week.

I've been thinking of writing a story, and the idea that kept coming to me was a combination of things that I haven't done before, and I haven't seen much like it on the YA shelves. Rule four tells us to write the manuscript before we worry about how it's going to do on the market. Write the story as it comes to you. I guess that answers my concerns about whether I should bother writing that story. Maybe something great will come out of it.

Chapter two is where the meat of the book starts, with exercises to work through, so I hope to have some great insights after next week's reading.

Have you heard any "rules" lately that struck a chord with you? Any words to live by that started bells ringing?

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Reference Overload - A New Plan

One of my favorite things to do when I visit the bookstore is to roam through the writing reference section. I don't always let myself buy anything, because, let's face it, reading about writing doesn't get any writing done. If I find something that looks really great, or if I'm feeling particularly like I need inspiration, I'll buy something. That's probably one out of every ten trips. That doesn't sound like a lot, only 10%. I really put in in perspective when I stopped by the bookstore today. Out of all the books they had on writing, there were maybe ten that looked like something I would like that I don't already have at home. That's not just me, is it?

I've read some of all of them, and all of some of them. Some I went through, highlighted, took notes, did the exercises, and used them to improve my craft. Why not all of them, I wondered? At one point, with each book, I felt like it was just the thing I needed to get through this passage or that story. I realize that there's no secret formula in any book to writing the perfect story and having it published. I think the exercise with these books is to use them to get my butt in the chair and write - because we all know that practice is the only way to get better at anything. It also won't hurt to have some advice along the way, or to try something new.

So, starting this week, I am going through my writers' reference books, one chapter a week. I'll post an update after the week is up to see what I've learned (and to hold me accountable). Since I've been working on a YA novel, I'm going to start with Writing Great Books for Young Adults, by Regina Brooks.

If you have the book, feel free to work along with me and post your revelations in the comments for that week. I'll work through each chapter, one chapter a week (excluding introductions, prefaces, etc.). For this book, that will be 12 weeks. If you don't have the book, or don't want to work along, please feel free to come chime in on whatever post and comments there are for the week.

Note: The book link above will take you to the store section of, the publisher of Writing Great Books for Young Adults. Clicking on the book cover at the right will do the same.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

It's In!

The application I was putting off is submitted. I made it three days before my February 1 deadline (and over a month before their March 1 deadline). All that's left to do now is wait for good news. I can do that. In the meantime, I have a story and a picture book draft that need to be finished by tonight. I'd better get cracking.

Here's something to celebrate with:

How do you like your butterbeer?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Random Thoughts

Friday afternoon is apparently not the time to try to focus on any one thing for long. My mind has been flitting around today like an indecisive butterfly in a flower garden. (And coming up with bad similes, it seems.) So far the topics have been:

Sustainable Farming - I watched FRESH today. It's a 70 minute documentary about farming practices and the differences in industrial farming versus organic farming. There was a lot of information in the video, and it made me think twice about what I buy at the grocery and what I put on my plate. It also gave me some ideas for possible futuristic/SF situations to build stories out of. Double bonus!

New Year Celebrations - A close friend I haven't seen in a few weeks is coming to visit today, and we're going to do our new year's celebration today. It seems fitting that we waited until after the year of the dragon began (even if it was unintentional) because we're both dragons. Maybe I need to polish up that dragon PB I wrote last year - this is the year for it.

Story Stall - I have a couple of short stories I've been working on, and a novel I need to be working on and they're all at a standstill. I've been letting myself get distracted by random things, but my mind keeps coming back to these stories and what I need to do to fix them.
One story wants to be in verse, one wants more plot, and the novel wants research. I may have to resort to going somewhere without wifi to keep myself from getting distracted. Reading about writing is not actually writing.

What's on your mind? Is your Friday more focused than mine?

NB: To watch the FRESH movie for free at the link provided, I think you have to sign up for their newsletter.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

How to (Re)train Your Ego

I have come to the unfortunate realization that my procrastination is rooted in fear. I'm sure this is unsurprising to anyone other than me, but I've always given myself other reasons for it. What does it say about my character that I would rather believe myself lazy than afraid to do something?

I've always thought I wasn't afraid to do things, and, for the most part, that is true. I'm not afraid to try something new and not do well at it. After all, I've never done it before, so I can't be expected to be perfect right off the bat. Things I think I am good at, though, are another story.

If I put off writing a story until the deadline for submissions has passed, I tell myself I was busy. No big deal, there's always next time, right? Besides, I was crazy busy with the start of the semester. (Or end of the semester, or grading those tests, or...) My ego is protecting itself, I guess. If I have a deadline that is a firm deadline - say I'm taking a class and a project is due on a certain day - I may procrastinate, but I will make sure I have it done and turned in by the due date. I may not be a second before it, but I don't want to get a bad grade, so I get it done.

I need to retrain my ego to recognize the things I want to do as things I have to do. Firm deadlines seem to work for me, but they have to be deadlines to someone other than myself. To fix the problem, I am going to try setting firm, external deadlines. Here's hoping accountability will trump procrastination.

I have an application to a prestigious workshop that I want to finish before the deadline passes. I have the critiques on my sample pieces, I just need to polish the work and fill out the application. Here's my firm deadline: I will have it finished and submitted by February 1.

What about you? Do you procrastinate? Is it fear-based or is there another reason? What do you do about it?

Friday, January 13, 2012

A Little Inspiration

Sometimes inspiration comes from the most unexpected places. I read a friend's poetry blog today, and felt compelled to comment. This is one I normally read but don't comment on - the quality of the other contributors is a bit daunting. Today, though, the form was so fun that I had to chime in with my own attempt at the form. It was such fun that it got me in the mood to write today, and I haven't been in that mood for a while. My thanks to Sweet Marie and her Poetic Bloomings.

My attempt at a Rime Couée:

Quantum Blind

I thought that I would never find
A class that left my wit behind,
But now my ego’s in a bind.
Oh, Quantum, you’re no joke.
I hope your ways will fill my mind
Sometime before I croak.

Have you found inspiration in unexpected places recently?