24 December 2009

23 December 2009

Attack Plan & Wish List

Remember when I said that I'd do something writing related everyday this month, despite all the hustle and bustle? Well, I've logged 4 days of not doing any revising, but I am caught up on one of my courses.

Today I turn it around: red pen and course worksheets are out; I'll chip away those scales while I wait for the bread dough to rise.

On a lighter note ... Saw this on Writer Unboxed this morning. Made me smile. I think I'll print multiple copies of the graphic and stick it around the house. If not a reminder to the rest of the family, then to myself.

17 December 2009

Construction Done

Thanks for your patience. The construction phase is over ... for now.

About Me

I don't think you want to read my resume. Particularly since I last updated it back in 1999 and it deals with very technical issues. Instead, I'll give you the shortened version of how I came to pursue a writing career.

My technical career included positions as lab tech, graduate student, materials quality engineer and server systems quality & reliability engineer. I left the workforce in 2001 to focus on my family.

Which brings me to writing, the next stage of my career. I love reading books and figured I'd give it a shot and see if I could do it. And it seemed compatible with the way I want to be available for my children - being  available for the many school and after-school activities that kids have.

Leaving the workforce did not mean I left my interest in science, engineering and technology behind. I keep my finger on the pulse of innovation via the internet, newsletters, podcasts, websites and blogs. Additionally, as the mother of three fun and bright children I have plenty of practice answering questions about the world in which we live and how it works.

In 2008 I began reading craft books and started my first novel by participating in NaNoWriMo. At first I didn't know what to think of the writing process. Now, at the end of 2009 and two novels drafted, I can't stop thinking of what to write and how to improve my writing. It's all very exciting and fun.

Given my fetish for technology and science, my writing process utilizes various technologies like the internet, online courses, computers, my iPhone, books - both paper and electronic, and plain old paper and pens. Most of which I plan to muse about on the blog as well as my current WIP, books I've read, tools I use and how writing intersects with my everyday life.

And just in case you haven't detected a theme yet, science and technology feature prominently in my life and in my stories.

FAQ

Will use this space to post questions as they come up from readers. Until then, check out some old posts.

Thanks!

Pardon the dust

For the purposes of the new template I've chosen (isn't it cool?), I need to create a few posts as I can't figure out how to create pages for the new links above. So pardon the seemingly non-writing aspect of these next posts.

Thanks.

Contact Me

Email: AnneVelosa at gmail dot com
Twitter: AnneVelosa

eBooks, Gift Cards & B&N

Our bookshelves are bursting with books because the whole family loves books. So earlier this year I decided to purchase most of my books in the electronic version. And I'm glad I did ...
  • They take up less space - just some bytes on our hard drives.
  • They cost less - usually less than the paperback price.
  • They are easy to cart around - I keep mine on my iPhone or the Kindle. (Not all ebooks are compatible with the Kindle, like those purchased from Barnes and Noble.)
  • They can be purchased anytime and anywhere (when using the iPhone and Kindle.)
However, my ebook purchasing experience is limited as I've purchased ebooks mostly from Amazon. Generally, I'm satisfied with the overall experience. It was easy to set up the devices for document delivery and purchasing books is WAY to easy. I haven't received any Amazon gift cards, so I assume  they allow gift cards to be used toward ebook purchases. (I couldn't find anything on the website to indicate they didn't.)

As of a few days ago Barnes and Noble now allows users to use gift cards to purchase ebooks. I made my first B&N purchases today from a gift card and loaded them on my iPhone. (For those curious, I performed the experiment with L. Viehl's Darkyn Series #1, 2, and 3.)

My observations about the B&N experience:
    + easy to add gift cards to account
    + easy purchasing process
    + ebook wishlist is available to queue books for future purchases (added rest of Darkyn books)
    - needed credit card listed on account to unlock book on the iPhone
    - it took a while to view updated balance on gift card
    * books can be read at the computer (I don't intend on trying this feature out.)
Overall, a decent experience.

Most of our books, both paper and electronic, are purchased through Amazon because of the low price, ease and cost of delivery (we are Prime users). And I can't see a reason why to change.

And before anyone says that there are lots of other ebook sites and applications, I know. I have seven different ebook reading apps on my iPhone; I've downloaded lots of books from them too. However, most of my friends and family haven't heard of these sites or applications.

So, should I receive gift cards from B&N in the future, I'm glad to know I can use them to purchase ebooks for my iPhone. On the flip side, I can give gift certificates to my friends and family that are readers and they have a choice in format. (Even if they are DRM'd files, that's a post for another day.)

And now you know too.

08 December 2009

Plan of Attack for December

So I lived through November with NaNoWriMo, my own birthday and Thanksgiving dinner for 20 at our house. And now we are in the midst of December and all the activities of this glorious month: homemade cookies, new recipes, buying and wrapping presents, family visits, birthdays, parties, Christmas and New Year's Eve...

And two stories to revise/edit. Yes, revisions, with an S. I now have two beasts to slay. And, fortunately for me, I received an early Christmas present in the form of a new writing course to help with my first story.

But how am I going to keep on top of everything and maintain forward motion on my stories? I've got a plan...

1. Courses - Each manuscript corresponds to a writing course, so I'll be able to use the tools from my coursework to assess and modify each story. The weekly assignments will help me keep a schedule of sorts, if not a strict schedule. Fortunately each course is self-paced.

2. Hard copies - I'll be keeping actual paper copies of my manuscripts nearby with notebooks and a red pen to mark down notes. Yep, I'm using old school technology. Besides, it's safer to keep paper than my precious in a kitchen dusty with flour. (Don't worry, I'll still be using electrons and the "intertubes" to do research and coursework.)

3. Time - Schedule some time just for my writing/revising each day, even if it's just a few minutes here and there. I commit to performing at least one writing activity each day. Even if it's in between batches of cookies and wrapping presents, I'll find time to work on my revision.

4. Flexibility - This will be the hardest for me, but I'll just keep reminding myself that having fun and enjoying this holiday season will only help my writing, even if it gets pushed to the side from time to time. Besides, there is always January.

So, that in a nutshell, is how I plan to keep slaying those beasts I've created.

I'm off to imbibe a cup of eggnog and toast this plan of mine. I'll need those extra calories to keep the my sword at the ready.

30 November 2009

3 winners

We now have 3 NaNoWriMo winners in the household. My son left it until this morning before school to finish, but finish he did! I'll be interested to see if the two of them give it another go next year.

Regardless, I'm very proud of my little novelists!

28 November 2009

The Start of Roller Coaster Rides


Photo: Daveynin

I'm catching up on course work this weekend, stuff I put off until I finished my NaNoWriMo novel. One of the assignments is to write an agent query letter. Sounds easy, looks easy; then why do I hesitate? I'm not a procrastinator by nature, the complete opposite actually. Yet, here I sit writing this post instead of completing my 1st draft of that letter.

Writing the first sentence, which is something I already have from my course work, took twenty minutes to get down; something about needing it to be perfect. I get that written down then I realized I need to give the title of my story. Title, a real title, not just a file name. Another twenty minutes to brainstorm something. (I never realized how hard it is to come up with a title. It's just as well nothing cried out to me, I've heard about other authors' unpleasant experiences with changing titles.) Next comes theme, that was when I went to check my Google Reader and began this post.

Before someone thinks of chiding me for getting to far ahead of myself ... I know my novel is no where near ready to be sent out to anyone except to a few close friends and family members; I did just write my first draft in less than 30 days after all. And I know this assignment is for practice. Yet ...

There is something here that I'm letting myself get stopped by, but I don't know what. It could be any number of things, like fear of rejection or out of practice in formal communication. It's been years since I've produced anything resembling a proposal or had to tout my own accomplishments.

Maybe it's just this assignment brings home to me, like nothing else has, that I'm about to embark on a crazy roller coaster ride of getting a story published.

You know how it is, you stand in line for hours to get on the ride and then your next. A nervous energy has you on edge, and you can't wait for the ride to start. Once strapped in, the car begins that first climb, the longest and biggest of the whole ride; you're giddy with excitement and fear. Then you stop momentarily at the top and look around and see the big drop, the whole park beneath you, and you know there is no turning back. Just as the car inches over the hump, you thrust your hands in the air and hope the strap is on tight.

That's where I am right now with this letter. This letter represents that moment before you begin your drop. I wonder if I'll feel this way again when it comes time to actually send the letter. I hope so. I hope I feel this way each time I get ready to send out a new story.

I'll enjoy the giddy feeling a little longer while I let my brain percolate on Theme. Who knows, maybe something will gel for me and I'll have something cool to write in my letter.

25 November 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!


 However you celebrate the third Thursday of November, be it by baking and/or cooking, watching parades and football, fasting, eating 5000 calories in one meal, resting, working, spending time with family and friends, missing loved ones, reading, writing or just being, I wish you plentiful bounties in your endeavors always.

Photo by Radcliffe_Photos





17 November 2009

A Winner

You might remember that my 6 year old daughter decided to play along side me in NaNoWriMo this year. In the Young Writers Program participants pick their word count goal. My daughter picked 300 words in this month of November as her goal.

I am proud to say she beat that goal!! As it stands now, her story contains 320 words. And her story is not yet complete; she intends to write more!

Congratulations to my little one.

10 November 2009

An Outline that's Working

Friends and family know that I am usually very organized and prepared.

Take my purse for example ... 3 sets of earphones and a splitter for the kids, iPhone charger, band aids, antibacterial medicine, hand sanitizer, moisturizer, nail trimming kit, son's asthma inhaler, hair bands and clips, notebook, 2 pens and a pencil, sunglasses, wallet, keys, a folding brush/mirror combo, Leatherman with scissors and a wine opener ... and this list goes on.

My iPhone holds all my digital data, or least as much as I can cram on there ... contacts, calendar (with 5 different personal calendars), games, movies, music, books (yes, I read on my iPhone), podcasts, productivity apps, etc... this list too goes on.

Anways, I mention this because you'd think that I'd be a plotter, you know one of those that writes everything down in outline, prepared and structured.

Which is what I did last year when I started NaNoWriMo. The first few scenes followed the outline to a T. But then as I continued writing, I deviated from the outline to the point that my novel was completely different from my outline within only a few thousand words.

Imagine my disbelief that I couldn't follow a simple outline. Me, of all people! I had resigned myself to being a panster, writing by the seat of my pants. But maybe this creative thing called writing was much more fluid than I had anticipated and shouldn't be held down to an outline. While it may work for others, and it sorta worked last year, it just didn't feel right to consider myself a pantster.

I should've known: one data point does not make a trend.

Getting ready for this year's NaNoWriMo endeavor, I wrote another outline using the tools and tips from the writing course, HTTS. Using digital notecards, I outlined nearly every scene in the story with POV, setting, conflict, and twist.

I was sure all that pre-work would be for naught. After all, hadn't I already proven that I couldn't follow an outline?

I began my novel and was pleasantly surprised at how easily the words appeared on the screen. Before starting each scene, I'd review what I'd written for it and know exactly where to start. And most of the time, the resulting scene would match what I had planned.

Now, at 43% to my 50,000 words by the end of the month goal, I'm still on course with my outline. I've had to make a few minor teaks as I hadn't thought everything through before hand, and there has been lots of room for creativity within this outline. But, what I find a relief is that it's working.

A great thing for someone like me who likes structure. While this is just one more data point, so not a trend, I can confidently say this this feels right to me. I guess I'll know for sure with a few more novels, when I can hopefully see the trend. (But if you ask me, I'll just tell you I'm a plotter.)

05 November 2009

Evernote - Another tool

I love the cloud computing services: they make life so much simpler.

For instance, I use a service/application called Evernote,  copies are installed on the home Mac, my laptop and my iPhone. Since the data is in the cloud, I can also use their website to access my information if I find myself without my device.

I use it maintain lists: gifts, books, wishlists, writing tips, camera/photography tips, keeping photos for potential hairstyles. (Not grocery/shopping lists, that I do with Zenbe Lists.) When I make a change on any of my devices, it syncs and send changes to my local copy next time I log in. It requires an account, created via their website. Both free and paid versions are available. At the moment, I use the free version: I don't require the extra storage space. Yet.

But it also has additional functionality. Not only can I type my notes or ideas, I can record them. Last night after a painfully slow writing session, I finally crawled into bed ready to fall asleep instantly. Of course that was when story ideas came to mind. Rather than search for a pen and pencil and turn the light back on, I grabbed my iPhone (which I charge at the bedside at night - it's my morning alarm clock) and recorded a slurred message to myself and waited the few seconds it took to sync before shutting down. Then tonight, when I was finally able to get to my WIP, I checked my notes on my laptop and there it was, ready to be incorporated.

Evernote has other features which I've yet to explore, taking pictures (on the iPhone app). I recall seeing something about transcribing recorded notes. That would be cool, but I think you have to be a paid user.

How 'bout you? Do you use the reliable hand written sticky notes or something digital to record your notes? Let me know in  comments.

01 November 2009

First Day of NaNoWriMo

Today was a good day for the NaNoWriMo players/writers in our household.

My 8 year old son, at last count, had nearly 588 words typed into the computer. My 6 year old daughter used the time in the car to and from shopping with her dad to write out her first three chapters with pencil and paper. I'll type it up for her tomorrow and have a count, but I'd guess she's got close to 100 down. Poor thing, when she got home, she had a fever of 102F. Not sure how much more writing she'll get done in the next few days.

Me? I finished my day with 5,382 words, which accounts for the first five scenes of my story. Thanks to the hubby for picking up the slack today which let me get so many words down! A great start for sure. (And a good thing too, with a fever ailing one child, it's sure to affect the others, keeping me busy.)

I'm using techniques I learned in my writing course, How to Think Sideways. And I have to say, writing this novel is soooo much easier than last year's NaNoWriMo novel.  I suspect the pre-work done with the exercises from the course is the biggest contributer to the difference. It could just be that the second novel is easier. Who knows, but it's working.

And a quick note to fellow NaNoWriMo'ers out there: Good luck and keep those words flowing!

28 October 2009

It's the little things that make me smile

Listening to the kids belly laughing, relaxing at an empty beach in January with a warm bowl of clam chowder as the roaring waves massage the beach, getting lost in a fictional world that seems as real as the one where we live, hitting the dancefloor with my husband ... It these things that leave happy and content in life.

I also smile, if not get a little bit giddy, when I make contact with fellow writers and story lovers. I embarked on this writerly journey in a very non-conventional way and don't have a writing/crit group. So the encouraging and friendly comments from others are very welcome.

For instance ...

On Facebook I posted something about NaNoWriMo and I learned a friend from high school is also participating this year; we've Buddy'd up already and shared story overviews. From that discussion thread another high school friend, who shares a love of books, has volunteered to be a beta reader of sorts, and I've taken her up on her offer. Then I commented over at Learn to Write Fiction, Cheryl Corbin's blog, and now I have another NaNoWriMo Buddy and a new way to get some cool writing tips via her Tweets.

So despite not get much story writing accomplished today, I'm still smiling.

25 October 2009

Seven More Days

Only seven more days until
  • NaNoWriMo
  • a new story
  • a pause in editing first NaNoWriMo WIP
  • working with the kids on their NaNoWriMo
  • holiday planning (both Thanksgiving and Christmas at our house this year)
  • birthday collisions (10 birthdays just in the immediate family in November)
Gonna be a busy month, but I'm prepared for NaNoWriMo. My outline is made, character profiles are done, music playlist ready, Scrivener file waiting and the Muse has been tossing little details at me already.

If any of you are gonna play this year, my NaNoWriMo handle is AnneV, add me as your Buddy. And for those of you on Twitter, use the hash tag #NaNoWriMo to search and connect with NaNoWriMo's.

21 October 2009

I don't need no stinkin' backup. Wait, yeah I do.

This past weekend while cooking meatballs for the little one's 3rd birthday I was revising my WIP and had gotten some good stuff. I incorporated more of the love interest's issues, which will create more tension when my main character meets her mother-in-law. And I realized that there maybe something medically wrong with the mother-in-law causing her to be difficult; I'll see how that plays out.

Anyways, I was actually pleased with what I had gotten down. So imagine my distress when I finally get back to  my WIP this week and the computer is locked up with all the edits gone. Yep, gone. And when I restarted the computer, the recovered files had nothing of my edits. Nothing.

Fortunately I was able to recreate most of it, and I think it came out stronger than before. So maybe it was a good thing. All that extra work done before I remembered my Time Capsule backup, which I remembered as I was write this entry. So ...

Hold on while I enter my Time Capsule ... just a little bit longer ... Yay! The backup contains my edits, so now I can pick and chose for the betterment of the story. (My Muse is doing a jig, but is still upset with me.)

But back to this post --

This experience has me rethinking my backup strategy. Here are a few of my take-aways ...
  • I need to remember that I have the dang backup system and should check it before making extra work for myself. Another Duh moment!!
  • It's time to use the cloud more. I was lucky and only lost a few scenes worth of work. But who knows about next time. I've already had two backup drives die on me. I'll be using my Dropbox and iDisk more often now. Just got to make it automatic; maybe more SuperDuper is in order.
  • I really want a Drobo.
Hopefully this can serve as a warning to those of you who don't have a good strategy. Set yourself up before you lose something important.

As for me, here's to learning a lesson the hard way.

15 October 2009

The Precariousness of Writing Time - Fall Break '09

The kids are on Fall Break so my writing schedule dwindles.

See, having the kids at home instead of at school means that I have less time to write. It doesn't make sense, the two older ones are old enough that I could still sneak off to my office during my normal time when the little one goes to nap. I should still have my two hours in the afternoon to march along with my small army. But somehow, I find myself relegating that time to getting other things done.

Today, we picnic'd at a local park. By the time we came back, got the photos downloaded and tagged in the computer, dishwasher unloaded then loaded, telephone calls returned, parsnips grated, leeks rinsed and cut ... well you get the idea.

I didn't start commanding my army until after the hubby and I finished watching our time-shifted TV shows from the night before. That part routine at least.

And then, today I downloaded a new writing tool - a ebook/clinic on plot by Holly Lisle. Instead of writing in the snippets of time between tasks, I've been reading about plot. I'm very interested to see how my self-taught idea of plot stands up to Holly Lisle's wisdom, particularly since I'm revising process the first novel and prepping for NaNoWriMo. (Will let you know how I fared, after I've figured that out.)

So, I put writing in the backseat. See, I'm all for learning more about this craft called writing. And I wouldn't have traded the time listening to the little one say "Hi Duckie" to each duck she saw, kicking the soccer ball with the family, or picnicking in the shade of eucalyptus trees for one written word.

Who knows ... maybe some of the words I add to the WIP tonight will have been formed this afternoon in the sun. And if not tonight, then when the kids get back to school next week.

Besides, who knew precariousness could be a good thing?

11 October 2009

Thank Goodness for the Digital Dictionary/Thesaurus

I really don't know how they did it, those authors that had to look up thousands of words in paper thesauruses and dictionaries. You know ...  those big, chunky things that sit on a bookshelf.

What do I use if not those? My computer has a built-in dictionary and thesaurus. I keep the application window open non-stop on my primary writing machine. Always.

Not that I need to do so. Apple integrates the dictionary program into the OS so all I have to do is type my word into the computer search box, and voila, the search function finds the word in the dictionary. When I click on the search result, the Dictionary application shows me the definitions, word origin, thesaurus entries and even Wikipedia information. All in one place. And if I want to check another word, it's just a click away, making it fast and easy to pick the right word. Another plus: the paper version sits on the bookshelf not taking up valuable desk space, and is just an arm's reach away in case I do need it.

I've thought of using other thesaurus versions, like Visual Thesaurus with it's cool visual word family trees. But I can't justify the cost when I already have a pretty useful tool already built-in.

Visual Thesaurus is available on online, via subscription, as well as a desktop version. And of course there are several good online dictionaries and thesauruses to use out on the interwebs. Personally, I like the application to sit on my computer, just in case I have no internet access. But that's me.

So for those of you still thumbing through the paper copy, give the digital version a try. Maybe you'll see the benefits too. And a writer takes all the useful help he or she can find.

07 October 2009

NaNoWriMo 2009

Last year was my first foray into NaNoWriMo. As I've mentioned in other posts, I'm still revising the story I created last November. And even though I have a long slog ahead of me to complete a 1st revision, I'm geared to participate in NaNoWriMo 2009, which starts on 1 November.

A month of no editing, just putting words down on piece of paper, (or onto a computer screen). I think it'll be very enjoyable. 50,000 new words in 30 days. Fun and challenging. (Can you tell I'm not much into editing just now?)

And this year will be extra special. My two older children have signed up via the Young Writer's Program. The 8 year has signed up for 5,000 words, and the 6 year old for 300 words.

So come December, the Velosa Household 2009 Wordcount will be 55,300 + ! Here's to some some awesome writing to come.

If anyone is interested learning more or participating, just follow the links included in the post. I may be lurking on the Forums, look for me, AnneV.

02 October 2009

Battling the Beast

My army of 78 march along side me. The staccatto of the march drives me forward.

Progress has been slow but methodical. The yields of my efforts  barely discernable; leaving only small knicks on the beast's hide. I am wary and unsure, but determined to continue.

My army and I slash at everything in our path, searching for my elusive prey. Each stroke reshapes the landscape as we dodge and cut, cut and dodge. The fallout flies to the ground, cast aside by my savage hands, landing somewhere beyond my vision. The irregular rhythm pulses through my blood.

Turning the corner I spy the beast. Its horrendous face looms over me as it stalks me. The knowledge that I created this monster tears at my heart. Must I destroy it to redeem myself?

Before I can continue my charge and summon mercy it races away. And bound as I am, I follow. Thus the chase continue.

Slashing away, I move forward slowly. No matter my efforts, the beast is always a step ahead, always beyond my reach.

As I pursue my terrible creation, I am confronted by altogether different foes who steal me from my path, forcing me to wage a separate battle. Engaged in this other struggle, I am diverted from my purpose.

No matter; I clench my dire hope to my breast. The hope that I will continue my pursuit of the beast and I will be triumphant.

Yes, one day I will conquer this beast. The beast I call Revision of the First Novel.


Thanks to Tamlyn Leigh for the inspiration that led to this post.

30 September 2009

Banned Books

It's Banned Books Week, a week to remind us to read books that have been banned from certain libraries because some people found them objectionable. Here is a short list of books that have been banned in recent years.

How many of the books listed have your read? What books on the list would you miss?

Me? Enough to know that I'm glad that these books were not censored everywhere. The Harry Potter Series, come on - I don't know how many times I've reread those books.

Another book, The Bridge to Terabithia, I read for the first time last year. To me, it was a story about finding the magic of friendship, even if it is with someone unexpected. And how powerful and healing that magic becomes when shared with those around you; friendship can carry you through the valleys of life as well as at the mountain peaks. The story delivered a very moving message that broke my heart; I couldn't keep from bawling.

Just because you don't agree with the message of a book, doesn't mean that you have the right to keep others from reading it. Everyone has the right to access of media and to decide for themselves how they feel about it. Nor should others deny you your right and choice.

I've encouraged my son to read The Bridge to Terabithia and I encourage everyone else too. And when you're done with that book, I encourage you to pick another from the list.

25 September 2009

How much longer?

That's the question that I keep asking myself lately.

When I started the my first novel, during last year's NaNoWriMo, the extent of my recent creative writing had been a few writing exercises, none of which I would show to anyone but the hubby.  So imagine just jumping in to write a novel with nothing but a basic outline, excitement and determination. Excitement and determination got me through the month of November (meeting the goal of  50k words in one month) and working to finish the story (total length of 125k words) in February. As for the outline, well that had fallen by the wayside in the first week.


Since then I've read some more on the craft of writing ... author blogs, Flogging the Quill, and portions of Story. With this new info in my head, I went back to the ol' computer to begin the revision process, envisioning a few months worth of work.

After getting started, all I have to say is "Yikes!" While excitement and determination got me to the end of the first draft, it didn't do much for a well crafted story. I've encountered truly cringe-worthy passages, painful I tell you. And too many craft issues to list. So now I'm working on improving the story so it makes sense, is realistic, has tension & engages the reader.

It's taking much longer than I expected. My original estimate of a few months has followed the same path of the original outline: out the window.

How much longer until I'm finished? I have no idea. Well, let's look at it -- there is family to tend to, the holidays coming up,  another NaNoWriMo this November and countless other things that are bound to crop up. But I am committed to finishing it.

So the answer I give myself: as long as it takes.

20 September 2009

Why Writing?

Recently an old friend mentioned that he didn't know that I was interested in writing. His comment got me to thinking about why I write and how I got started.

I'm not one of those folks that knew from the time they could form a letter that they wanted to be a writer. Sure, I had written for the junior high school newspaper, even published in the Bear Essential Newspaper for Kids. And in high school I wrote essays and papers that received top marks. But I'd never really considered a career as a writer. At that time, I wanted to be a professional musician, until I realized that I would struggle to attain the level of fame to live a certain lifestyle.

I considered other well-paying professions, like being a doctor (too much school) or a lawyer (too many of them). Next on the my list was engineer, schooling wouldn't be too long, not many of them, and lots of fields from which to chose. So on I went, pursuing a Materials Science & Engineering career - finishing was a graduate degree. Only to get a job at Intel doing very little engineering but managing portions of the supply chain, then overseeing quality and reliability of server systems.

All my jobs required writing -  research papers, patent evaluations, a thesis, status reports, change management, customer communications, corrective actions, best known methods. After a technical career that lasted eleven years, you could say that I was proficient at writing those types of documents. Of course, none of them fictional and all written more than eight years ago before I left the corporate world to stay home with my family.

Some time ago I realized I needed something challenging and stimulating to do. Not that keeping up with my family and all the management issues that it requires isn't challenging. It just wasn't stimulating. I toyed with other ideas for a while. It was listening to D. Gabaldon's podcasts and reading R. Lippi's blog that got me thinking about writing and it wasn't until last year that I got serious about writing during NaNoWriMo.

It was something I could do something for myself but would let me be home with the kids and could be squeezed into my life without much issue. So I worked from a book, Writing Fiction, that helped remind me how to write. After all it had been eight years since writing something technical and near eighteen years since writing anything creative. During nap times, during weekends that didn't have much going on, I went to my writing corner and worked on writing exercises.

What I didn't expect was that writing is fun, addictive even. Starting with a "what if ...,"  seeing where it goes, imagining what is going to happen next, working to make it believeable all exciting and fulfilling. And since I can't read the last page of the story since it isn't written (my normal MO when reading books), I have to keep writing to see how it ends. And now that I'm taking this writing course, I'm getting tools to work with and figure out my style of writing, which makes writing all the more engaging.

It helps that my husband and kids are encouraging, accepting without argument when I go to my office to write. Although, I suspect they would rather I go write than I get riled if I don't get my writing time in.

So, that's a long winded bit about my interest in writing. Will I become a published author? That's certainly a possibility I'm working towards. I'll think of that step after I've got something worth selling. Until then, I'll enjoy the challenge of sneaking in writing time and developing something new.

18 September 2009

Too Cool

Remember that I asked for and received an eARC from Lynn Viehl? In return I agreed to write up my thoughts on Shadowlight and post it on the interwebs. That done, I sent an email to Ms. Viehl informing her of my post.

Hold on, I'm getting to the cool part.

She posted an entry listing several links in which people had said something about her story. And my site was one of them.

How cool is that? A prolific author with books on best-selling lists actually put a link to my newbie blog on her blog!

I'll tell you how cool -- Too cool.

13 September 2009

More on the Lightning Strike and the Unrealistic

Someone asked if lightning struck. Thankfully it did, since that particular idea has become the idea used in this week's HtTS assignment, albeit with some tweeks.

"Tweeks?" you ask. I changed the unlikely ID theft guys from priests to something else. Don't ask my how or why my mind came up with priests, but it did. But can you imagine your local priest as an internet-savvy thief? I just couldn't see myself writing it despite having dreamt up the whole thing.

Although ... no one would expect that twist. Hmmm, maybe I should reconsider ... nah.

As for actual writing/editing - action has been minimal this week due to life stuff. But I did get through that difficult scene I mentioned last week. The meeting between those two characters is now totally different from what I had been working on. The new version flowed out of the ol' fingertips into the keyboard. I think it was the unrealistic part that was tripping me up. Will go back and reread for flow, fill in the gaps before moving on, but I'm pleased with how it worked out.

07 September 2009

Believable?

I was listening to a Creative Screenwriting Podcast on my way to pick up the kids from school last week. Mike Judge, writer/director of the movie Extract, was the interviewee. And something he said struck a chord, so much so, that I had to write it in Evernote. Immediately.

I am paraphrasing what he said ...

It's ok to be unrealistic as long as it's believable.

Another “Duh!” moment.

I know, I know - this isn’t a new revelation. The book I use from time to time, Writing Fiction, says as much.

All good fiction, even some non-fiction, is built on this idea. Star Trek, Star Wars, Herland, Outlander, Lost, Alias, the daily news - hook their audiences with the unrealistic, at least with respect to our lives, and they are believable. But why did Mike Judge’s statement strike me as so important that I had to get the thought down in before I would forget it?

Maybe my own story, in the first pass revision stage, is suffering from not being believable. Currently, I’m mired in the main character’s first encounter with a person from the world in which she’ll have to live, a world that she’s never known. I’ve been stuck on this scene for over a week,  something is not right. And I haven't been able to work it out. Is her reaction believable? How ‘bout the other person’s counter-reaction? Or maybe there is something about the unrealistic aspect of the situation?

Something for me to think about.

05 September 2009

Letting Lightning Strike

This week’s assignment for my HtTS course is to help create lightning. Lightning = story ideas. I have seven days to get three strikes.

So like the diligent student that I am, I did what I was supposed to do - last week’s assignment then the bit of writing from this week. The rest of the assignment is to wait and see what happens - letting lightning strike as it will.

I’m not usually one to sit by and let things happen. If something needs to be done, I just do it. So imagine: two days after starting the assignment and I haven’t experienced lightning. I’m began to wonder, more like fret, what will, or won’t, happen. How do I complete the assignment if nothing is happening?

On Friday, I commented on a post over on GenReality, mentioning how antsy I am waiting for lightning. And nightsmusic, having taken the same course previously, reminded me that not all tools work for every person. But to go with it, not to worry and see what happens. (Which is what Holly said in the course material but I had promptly forgotten.)

One of those “duh” moments. Of course.

Being a parent requires trying things out, finding what works for the family, be it discipline, encouragement, managing it all. Parents receive lots of advice on what to do on all sorts of things - cry it out, family bed, time-out, spanking, not saying “No” to your child. Then there are the tons of books suggesting what one should or shouldn’t do - some seemingly contradicting each other. In the end, the parent has to pick and choose what to try before finding out what works. And, of course, not all things work for everyone. Each family, through lots of trial and error, develops and evolves as they need to, using what tools work and giving up those that stop working. Same goes for anything in life, like writing.

Since I’m so new to this writing gig, earnest efforts only since last November, and being an engineer by education and training, I’m keen to try new things, to see what works. It’s just that this assignment goes against my usual nature - let someone (my Muse) take control. (Don’t get me started on the Muse thing.)

So after reading nightsmusic’s comment, I relaxed and didn’t worry about it the rest of the day.

Saturday morning brings with it a small flash of something. Not a huge lightning bolt that streaks, crooked and bright, from the clouds down to the ground. But a nice flash of light in the clouds.

Looks like I just needed to get out of my own way and let nature take its course.

30 August 2009

Musings on Shadowlight - A Novel of the Kyndred

As promised, I’ve got a book review. I know, I know — this is supposed to be a place about my writing. Well, many authors will tell other writers to read, and read lots, to help in your writing. Part of writing is reading. So, from time to time I’ll also include musings about what I’m reading.

Lynn Viehl announced on her blog she was trying an experiment: giving away eARC’s for a new book release. In order to get my hands on this eARC, I had to promise not to share it (easy enough) and to give my thoughts about it after I finished reading it. So here goes ...

The book is Shadowlight - A Novel of the Kryndred, which is part of a series that she categorizes as Dark Fantasy. Most characters are either vampires (the Darkyn), those bent on destroying them (the Brethren), or the Kyndred (created by the Brethren). And of course, there are humans too.

Shadowlight is mostly about Jessa, someone that guards her special talent from everyone except for a select few Kyndred that only know each other through an internet group, keeping their daily lives and real identities secret even from each other in order to protect themselves. However GenHance, a genetic enhancement corporation, has learned of her unique skill and wants to exploit said talent. A secret group of Kyndred, led by Matthias, has been working to save those in the target sights of GenHance and has learned of their latest plan: to harvest Jessa’s talent at the expense of her life. This sets them in motion to save her, and ultimately themselves, from the very determined folks from GenHance.

I received the eARC last Sunday. I read it, then read it again, finishing last night. Why twice? I wasn’t paying enough attention the first time and got a little confused about the story lines. The second time around I caught little hints and connections, like Easter Eggs, that I hadn’t noticed the first time. Does it require two reads to enjoy it? No, but it’s so much more enjoyable the second time. Even knowing the ending, which I won’t spoil, I got caught up and had to slow myself down on the reread.

Suspense, intrigue, romance, sex and danger can be found throughout the book. I can't really think of anything that I didn't like, things that didn't work for me. She maintained a good level of tension and mystery to keep me turning the pages.

Not all of the questions regarding the world were answered in the book. I wanted to learn more about some of the supporting characters. So I looked on Amazon for other books in the series, where I learned most of the supporting characters will have or have had their own stories. Also, what the head of GenHance plans to do with all the harvested talents is only hinted at. What kind of evil is he going to unleash? Will have to follow the series to find out.

What I liked most — how the characters are real and relatable. Even though these beings have super-human talents and problems, they also have the same hang-ups and issues that regular people have. Because of Jessa's talent, she is able see which people to trust but at a cost. So, she keeps to herself, not allowing anyone in, leaving her lonely and unable to trust. Those that she does let in, her internet Kyndred, are only available via internet or phone calls. But she must maintain a healthy distance from these friends, if not for her safety, but theirs.

And Lynn has built a world that I wouldn’t mind living in - of course as one of the Kyndred or the Darkyn. Really, who wouldn’t want to have near-immortality and special skills, like summoning rain storms?

I’ve read only one other story from this series, the novella Master of Shadows - A Novel of the Darkyn. After reading Shadowlight last night, I looked for other novels in the series to put on the ol’ Kindle.

I’ll definitely be adding more of this series to my library.

Edited on 31 August - to correct title spelling, augment opinion

28 August 2009

A Writing Course and Smiles for my Loved Ones

Two weeks ago I signed up for an online novel-writing course, How to Think Sideways. My first course since I’ve been writing my novel. The last writing class I took, Technical Writing, was when I was an engineering undergraduate, way back when. A handy course for writing scientific papers and non-fiction, and mandatory since I had failed the undergraduate writing exam. (Yes, for those of you who know me well, I failed an exam.)

But back to this course ...

A few months ago I learned about the course when Holly Lisle, the creator, was still developing it. I was very tempted to enroll, but we were getting ready to put the old house market. I didn't want to have too much on my plate, so I put it off until two weeks ago when I read another writer's take on the course and what she was getting out of it.

I wish I had signed up back then. Sure, the course is interesting. So far the material has focused on getting to know yourself -- what stops you, mapping your likes/dislikes, finding your muse. And I’m looking forward to working on the future assignments.

But what got me was how things have shifted for me, almost like a lightness of being. Before the course, I've been irritable and quick to anger, not wanting to write.

Signing up for this course, besides helping me to develop my writing skills and career, was something I did for myself. As opposed to always doing things for the kids, the husband, the house. Other authors write/advise that you feed your muse and take care of your body. Sounds good. After all, it's just common sense to take care of yourself. But how many of us, writer or not, really do that? I know I’m guilty, it's too easy to let taking care of yourself become a luxury and not a must-do item on the to-do list.

These past two weeks, I'm recharged. Actually itching to do some writing -- hence this blog, thinking about new story ideas, looking forward to NaNoWriMo, revising my WIP. But there's more: I'm not so quick to anger, having fun. And I’m smiling more at my family.

Just for signing up for a course, who'd a thunk it?

22 August 2009

Another Blog?

Another blog out on the ether. Really, do we need another one? Good question. Need, definitely not. But here it is anyway. So why am I doing this?

Possible answers ...
* Maybe it's time to set up a platform (see Getting Known Before the Book Deal)
* I'm a narcissist (I'm sure my sister would agree)
* Need an outlet to air my writing ups and downs
* Work on my writing skills
* Develop a network - make writing friends
* Share my influences

All true, to some extent or another. And there are probably others, if I really thought about it.

Like can you expect my husband to have to listen to me all the time about this new and exciting realm of my life? Don't get me wrong, he's very supportive and is delighted I've found a creative outlet. (Maybe even one that may result in some income.) But sometimes he's on travel, on the telephone and isn't always be available at the moment when I'm ready to go on about a story kink, the new lesson in my writing course, or any other issues that influence by writing.

So, I've created this blog to act as my sounding board. Hopefully it's interesting to you, maybe even entertaining from time to time. Speaking of which ...

I've got a review of a new L. Viehl book coming up very soon. Just got the eARC today. So stay tuned.

21 August 2009

First Post - Sad news for Rosina Lippi Fans

Tonight I was adding the URL for one of my favorite authors, Rosina Lippi, to my Blog Roll when I encountered an error from Blogger saying there was no feed for her blog. Nah-uh! Determined to prove that Rosina did in fact have a feed, I clicked to her website and got a text page. Without reading it, I retyped the address a few more times, getting the same page, before finally reading the message. In which I learned Rosina, aka Sara Donati, has left the blog-0-sphere. Wow.

A few years ago a friend introduced me to the The Wilderness Series, written as Sara, and I fell in love with Nathaniel and so wanted to be Elizabeth. I bought all the books in the series, and am in the process of getting all the audiobooks. I have all her books she wrote as Rosina too. Loved the The Pajama Girls of Lambert Square. Yeah, you could say I'm a fan.

Truth be told, she was one of the authors that inspired me to start writing fiction.

I'm sorry to see her go, I'm sure I won't be the only one that will miss her presence out here on the tubes. Maybe one day she'll be back. Regardless, I send her best wishes from across the internets.