Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Year in Review. (Original title is... SO not original.)

I guess December 31st is a day for reflection, but

Moved into my new office, with my lovely new furniture.
Played a lot of Rock Band (in the first part of the year)
I voted in the Democratic primary for the first time in my life. (I've voted democrat before, but never in the primary.)
Prom Dates From Hell came out in paperback.
Wrote a new book. Then wrote it again in the revision process.
Went on an actual vacation.
MY Starbucks closed. And I have not gelled with any of the other three within 3 miles of my house.
When to San Francisco for the RWA Conference, where I was a finalist for the RITA award.
Hell Week came out in August.
Cleaned my office and found lots of stuff. Photographic proof of cleaning.
Did lots of random stuff in October.
Let Twitter do a LOT of my posting for me! Yay for microblogging!

Also, judging by my tags, I watched a lot of movies and did a lot of quizzes and memes

It was kind of fun to review my year via the blog!  On the whole, it was a very mixed year.  Lots of shake up, some real crappy things, but some exciting things, too, that give me hope that 2009 will be a time of change.  

Monday, December 29, 2008

"Infinite" word choices

My C.S. Lewis quote of the day:
"Don't use words too big for the subject. Don't say "infinitely" when you mean "very"; otherwise you'll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.

I'm trying to decide if this is good writing advice, good philosophical advice, or both. As writers, we choose our words carefully, eschew vague words like 'very' 'just' 'some', etc. Theoretically, 'infinitely' would be a better choice than 'very.' But only, I guess, if you mean infinite. (Of course, we're also taught to ban "ly" words, so maybe it's a moot point. However, I take this as a suggestion rather than a rule. Actually, I take just about everything in "how to write" books as suggestions, though you have to learn the 'rules' before you can break them.)

There are two things at work here. One is, is it really infinite? There's this thing you run into writing fantasy, where you have to be careful using words metaphorically. I just finished reading a book where one non-human creature kills another by snapping her neck. There was a pretty good description of what happened next: Her body turned to jelly and slid to the ground, the weight pulling her head from [the executioner's] hands. Then next chapter, someone mentioned finding the body, and I was like: what? Didn't it turn to jelly? I'd thought that was a pretty convenient way to keep humans from discovering the non-human things in their world. I had to go back and read again, and realize it was figurative. Hee!

Then there's the issue of the 'bigness' of the word. I do find myself running into this problem where sometimes if I choose too big a word early (in the effort to be evocative and whatever), then I leave myself with nowhere to go. I think that's one of the challenges with being a novelist, is that you're not just choosing the right word for that sentence or one fictional moment. The most perfectly crafted sentence doesn't exist in a vacuum. It has to fit with all your other sentences. In fact, the MORE perfect it is, the more it's going to stick in the reader's brain, the more you have to be careful not to repeat it.

When writing Hell Week, I came up with this awesome turn of phrase. It was so awesome, I knew I could only use it once, and I wanted to use it at the PERFECT moment. So I set it aside. And then never put it in. Doh! Fortunately I had opportunity to use it in Highway to Hell, so it didn't go to waste.

The whole word choice thing struck me today, because I'm at the point in the revision process on The Splendor Falls where I'm trying to find those turns of phrase, and fit them into the whole picture. It IS rather like painting, and making sure each daub of paint contributes to the aesthetic whole. But then the metaphor breaks down, because writing has to be good close up as well as far away.

And my family wonders why I whine and angst over every word choice!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Happy Everything!

Happy Hanukkah, Y'all! And Happy Yule. It's cold outside, and actually feels like Midwinter!

Oh yeah. And Happy Birthday to me!

Having a holiday birthday is always a mixed blessing. The combo Xmas/Birthday presents can be good and bad. I never got to bring cupcakes and whatever to school, because we were always out for the break. On the other hand I've never had to go to school on my birthday. :-D It's true that the day always got lost in all the hustle and bustle. But with all the candles and decorations and cheer, it's like the whole world is celebrating your birth.

So, raise a glass of egg nog for me, you guys. :)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Yuletide Ruminations

Christmas Quiz/Meme/Questions/Dodge for having to actually think of a topic. :)

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?
I love wrapping in paper, but gift bags are so quick and easy and reusable. I tell myself the reusable part is the real reason I use them, but mostly it's because I'm "wrapping" things at the last minute. When I do wrap in paper, I like to use plain (recycled) paper and decorate it myself.

2. Real tree or Artificial?
I grew up with an artificial tree. One of those really fake pipe cleaner looking ones. When I had my own house, we got a real tree for years, and I loved it, but not the mess. Now we have an artificial one--pre-lit, even--and I put out real greenery on the mantle and such.

3. When do you put up the tree?
On or as close to Saint Nicholas Day (December 6) as possible. (Being Dutch, my family always celebrated St. Nicholas Day, which was awesome, because it was like having a mini Christmas before the fact. My brother and I would put out our shoes and in the morning we'd have chocolate. Mmmmm.)

4. When do you take the tree down?
Epiphany. Well, theoretically, Epiphany. Usually we take down the decorations and around about the end of January Mr. RCM gets around to putting the tree in the attic. (This was 99% of the reason I went with a fake tree. I was tired of vacuuming up pine needles on Valentine's Day.)

It does make me sad to see trees out by the curb on Dec. 26. (Once, I even saw someone put theirs out on the 25th!) I guess it's too ingrained in me that Christmas is the START of Christmas, and it goes for 12 days. But in America, Christmas starts with Thanksgiving (or Halloween, lately), and ends as soon as presents are opened. (I just deleted a freaking dissertation about how American Christmas has little or nothing to do with actually celebrating the Nativity.)

5. Do you like Egg Nog?
I love it. With and without alcohol.

6. Favorite gift received as a child?
I loved just about everything. Usually I got Barbie stuff, and it was hard to go wrong with that. One year I got a Barbe mobile home, which was awesome, because it made a pretty great space ship (the Battlestar Galactica or the Millennium Falcon, depending on my mood).

7. Hardest person to buy for?
My in-laws.

8. Easiest person to buy for?
My mom. My BFFs.

9. Do you have a nativity scene?
We used to, but my dog (Trini) ate Balthazar, and it was never the same after that.

10. Mail or email Christmas cards?
Mail. Unfortuantely, it looks like I'm going to miss the boat on those (again) this year.

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?
Well, a gift is a gift. :)

12. Favorite Christmas Movie?
Ironically, given my fear and loathing for the jolly old housebreaker elf, I love Santa Claus is Coming To Town, the 1970's Claymation movie, where Fred Astaire voices the mailman telling the Santa Claus origin story. I love the songs, I love the Burgermeister Meisterburger, and I love the subversiveness of it--It's a godly story, wrapped up in a secular red suit.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas?
I'll let you know when I do.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?
Among family, no. But I have passed on a nice present that didn't suit me to someone I knew would love it.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?

16. Lights on the tree?
Oh yes, definitely. See above re: pre-lit. Best Idea Ever.

17. Favorite Christmas song?
Too hard to narrow it down. I'm always hearing one and going Oh I LOVE that song. I do thing there should be a rule that no one can sing "White Christmas" but Bing Crosby, just as no one should ever sign "Blue Christmas" but the King.

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home?
All my family lives within an hour of me! (We used to travel up here for Christmas, and while I like being close to the folks, there's a certain excitement in travelling. Stress and excitement.)

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer?
Yes, but I have to sing it to remember them. "You know Dasher and Dancer..." etc.

20. Angel on the tree top or a star?
We have a pointy tree topper thing right now, but we've had stars and angels before.

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning?
We did big family presents at Oma's (my grandmother's house) on Christmas Eve, and mom and dad presents on Christmas Morning. Now we do our "in house" presents (from each other and.. um.. the dogs) when we come home from the late Christmas Eve service. It's after midnight, so it counts. :)

22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year?
Rampant consumerism. Greed. In other words: Santa Claus.

23. Favorite ornament theme or color?
Red and white.

24. Favorite for Christmas dinner?
Turkey and dressing and cranberry.

25. What do you want for Christmas this year?
World peace. And for the hooligans across the street to move the junker that's been parked opposite my driveway for the last two weeks.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Internet is Weird

There's a delightful reader's group in Dallas that was kind enough to invite me to their Holiday Tea this weekend. I had a wonderful time. (Oh my gosh, delicious scones and clotted cream. Worth the drive in themselves, but the company was lovely as well.) But it's funny, because I'm so use to readers with a lot of Internet savvy. YA readers, SFF readers... Well, I can't even really limit that, because there are Romance-centric blogs like Dear Author and Smart Bitches Love Trashy Books as well.

Anyway. Several people at my table didn't know what Twitter was, and I can't completely blame them. It's hard to explain to someone who doesn't basically live connected to the Internet, whether their phone or their computer. Personally, I love microblogging. Its perfect for those short random thoughts that you don't want to make a whole blog post about. I don't feel like i have to come up with a BIG IDEA to blog about. Piddly little ideas will do. Then periodically they're accumulated into a blog post, which is great. But I don't feel like I've Spammed my friends list with my often banal ramblings.

Mostly I LIKE reading people's random thoughts during the day. Except... I have one person on my following list who... Okay. Friday, when I woke up from my post Dramamine coma (I don't fly well), 22 of the 40 most recent posts were from one person. I wouldn't mind, really, except that it pushes everyone else off the page.

This Social Media Networking thing has made etiquette a very complicated thing. For instance, on MySpace I frequently get friend requests from people who are simply building a mailing list. I frequently get comments like this: "Happy Thanksgiving! Don't forget to go buy my book!" Even more annoying are the ones that pretend to know me. "Hi! Hope you're doing well since we last chatted. My new book comes out on Friday!" Grumble. If you're ever wondering why I don't make more use out of the bulletin and event features on MySpace, now you know why. I hate feeling spammed, so I'm hyper-sensitive about not doing it to other people. Which is stupid, because there ARE people (waving) who friend me because they've actually read and enjoyed my books!

Or possibly my banal ramblings on this blog. :)

(By the way. If you want to follow me on Twitter you can find me here.)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Girlfriends and Geekery

Cool stuff on the Internet. If you're shopping for a sff movie geek fan (like me) here's a list of suggestions: Holiday Guide 2008: Best Movie Fan Gifts. My favorites: The Hellboy II BPRD Messenger Bag (because I can never have enough bags) and the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade Action Figure set. (Because I'm totally pretending that crystal skull movie never was made.)

I'm here with my girlfriend. We gabbed into the night just like the old days, and it was awesome. C. and I go way back. Way back to a time of few responsibilities and lots of freedom to write fanfiction during boring classes, stay up all night playing roleplaying games cards, discussing how we would save the galaxy world, and have long, leisurely shopping trips scouring used bookstores and toy shops for books and action figures collectible figurines.

Now we have jobs and spouses and responsibilities, but we've remained friends all these years, through some pretty crazy things. My visit this week is kind of a Christmas present to us both, since we just don't have the luxury of getting together like we used to. (Now it's not the travel expense, it's the time!) Our interests have changed... Okay, not really, Now we discuss as-yet-unwritten books while getting manicures, and shop for action figures between window shopping for purses I can't really afford (see above, re: I can never have enough bags). Anyway, we've grown up in the unavoidable ways, but I treasure the fact that our friendship incorporates the new us as well as the old us. And there's nothing like someone who knows what a complete and absolute dork you can be, and loves you anyway.

Besides, we have to stay friends, because she knows where I've buried all the bodies.

What about you guys? Do you have a friendship that's transformed with time and (relative) maturity?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Travel Time

I'm off to the airport in the morning, going to visit a friend out of state. Early enough that I *really* should be in bed by now. But I've always been a last minute packer. Actually, it's not the packing, it's all the squaring away of stuff before I leave. Making sure I have the files I need so I can work from the laptop, making sure I have itineraries and directions, gate information for me and my drivers. Packing the right clothes for the forecast weather, all the medicines I could possibly need (because they don't have stores in Alabama), etc. etc.

It doesn't help that, since I'm only gone for a few days, I'm right on the borderline of whether to check a bag or not. My clothes all fit into a carry on suitcase, but I still need to bring my laptop and manuscript (as well as a bunch of books). I could carry a tote instead of a purse, but really, the suitcase is too heavy for me to wrestle into the overhead bin. (It's a leverage thing. I'm short, so I have to basically do a standing press, lift the thing all the way over my head, straight armed, to get it into the bin. Which I could do, if not for the aforementioned books.)

So anyway, I would check it without a thought if it weren't for the extra $15. Which pisses me off to pay to check a bag that if I wasn't a weakling, I could carry on with me. Grrrr.

I love to travel, but getting where you're going (unless it's part of the journey) is a pain.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Puppy Love

There was frost on the ground this morning. The dogs were like: what the HELL is this? We did not order iced tootsies. (Both of them are low to the ground, so they get chilled bellies, too. At least it makes them hurry.)

Lizzie has become a puppy barnacle. It's very cozy, but not very conducive to work. When she was tiny, she fit easily in my lap, even with the computer. Now I have to try and type with the laptop pushed out on my knees to the very end of arms length, because there's a dog taking up the space. She used to curl up in this perfect little ball, but now she sort of sprawls across my legs and over one arm. (I tried to get a picture of this with the MacBook camera, but it's impossible to do without showing my raggedy-ass sweatshirt, and I DO try and maintain some standards of professionalism in this journal.)

I would feel very loved and appreciated--that my dog wants to be in physical contact with me constantly--but she's not discriminating. Basically, if you produce body heat, she's on you as soon as you sit still. And if you're standing, she'll beg to be picked up. I know I shouldn't reward that behavior, but she does this little move where she shifts from foot to foot (to foot, to foot) as if the floor is too cold to bear. What can I do? Her cuteness is the boss of me!

I mean, could YOU resist this face:

Thursday, December 4, 2008

This is very sad. I've started several blog posts, only to run out of steam on them because they seemed so inane.

So I've decided to post about the most inane thing imaginable. TV. You know one of my favorite show on TV right now? Well, not right now, because it's on hiatus, but there was a Christmas episode on last Friday, which reminded me. Psych. It's on USA, and I love it so much (plus I see ads for it ad nauseum, because I watch a lot of USA and SciFi Channel, which cross advertise) I'm always surprised when people haven't seen in.

The premise is this slacker (James Roday) with a photographic, hyper-observant attention to detail fakes being a psychic so he can work with the police to solve crimes. Dule Hill is his sidekick, and the straight man of the duo. The comedic chemistry is perfect. The crimes are usually nothing too complex, but really it's about the dynamic duo's ridiculous investigative shenanagins. Quite possibly there are more intricately crafted things on TV, but what I love about Psych is that it invariably puts me in a good mood. There's a lot to be said for that.

It's sort of funny, though. The characters are supposed to be in their mid-twenties, I guess, but you can tell the writers are slightly older than that, because sometimes their pop culture references are little out of synch. Judging by Shawn's youthful obsessions, he would have been a kid in the 80's--an aware kid, I mean, more than a toddler.

Anyway. It starts back up in January (Friday nights), and when I looked up the website so I could link to it, I saw that the show is renewed for a fourth season. Yay! You can also watch full episodes online. (Wow. I'm pimping this show so thoroughly, you'd think I had stock in it or something.)

After my first new tv show frenzy, here are some of the other things I'm still watching: Fringe, House, Bones, Eli Stone (a new discovery for me), and the Mentalist, which ironically is like a serious version of Psych. (Ex-fake psychic helps the FBI solve crimes.)

What about you guys? What shows are you watching that no one else seems to know about?

Monday, December 1, 2008

One of the things I love about Thanksgiving weekend is the ability to lay around and do nothing (if I want) so that's what I did. Thursday I cooked an AWESOME dinner, watched the parade, then the Cowboys game, then the Texas/Texas A&M game. Friday my brother and his family came over and we watched movies (Speed Racer, Journey to the Center of the Earth) and played our annual marathon of Rock Band. (Mr. RCM had been practicing to get ready for the event, the rat.) Otherwise I read, watched movies, ate lots of leftovers.

Though yesterday I did go and meet Candy and Shannon at the bookstore for gossip and goals and girl time. It's funny that I talk about C&S like everyone should know them, like extensions of my own self. (Though locally, that's likely, because we travel in a pack to book signings, writer's group, RWA meetings, etc.) I was having dinner with my editor in San A. (At Mi Tierra, because it's just not a trip to San A without eating at Mi Ti's.) and I said: "Blah blah blah Candy and Shannon--oh, those are my friends/critique partners/support system--" and my editor said: "Yes, I know, because you always mention them like FIFTY TIMES." Well, maybe that last bit was just in subtext. But suffice to say, it's hard for me to have a conversation without at least referring to them.

One of the reasons why is that we meet regularly to keep each other on track with personal and professional goals. Sure, we shop together and go out to eat, and do all those those things. But we try to meet at least every few weeks (lately it's been more like once a month) to make our goals. This came out of Candy's Fast Draft class, which is a little like NaNoWriMo--you write your first draft really fast--but operates largely on accountability. You have a group, you announce your goals to the group, and every day you have to say whether you acheived that (or not).

Anyway. So Candy, Shannon and I do this yearly, monthly, and weekly. Every year at the RWA Conference (because that's where this started) we say our goals for the year: What we want to see happen, something we have limited control over (i.e., in July 2005 it was selling my first novel), and then what we're going to do to try to achieve that (i.e., five query letters out by Labor Day, etc.). I did, and it did, and the rest is history.

This year's goal was better management of my internet presence. MWF blog posts, figuring out Facebook, organizing my MySpace, etc. Well, I did pretty well with the blog posts for a few months, though I really fell off the wagon these last few months. Still indifferent with Facebook, though I've added some old theatre friends that I found through another old theatre friend (wave to Allison). MySpace... well, that's a full rant post on its own. (Short version: I LOVE when readers, schools and libraries find me on MySpace. I enjoy connecting with other writers. I don't enjoy the spam.)

ANyway. December's goal is the revision of The Splendor Falls. I got it back from my editor last week, and after reading through it, I've sort of fallen in love with that story all over again. You go through these phases with a book: first you're infatuated with it, then you dive into writing it, and then it becomes difficult, and you actually have to work at the relationship, then you're just glad to turn it in and not be embarrassed by it, and then you see it again after a brief absence, and you remember why you loved it in the first place.

So here's my little Zonku word meter for my December goal.

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
500 / 120,000

What about you guys? Other than the holiday stuff, what are you trying to accomplish before the end of 2008?