goals, humor, Life Talk, TV, Watch, writing

Olympic Writer-in-Training

Me, in December: I’ll have this first draft finished by the end of the month, and then I can start on the book I’m supposed to be writing!

Me, in January: Uh … I’ll have this draft finished by the end this month. Or … maybe February. Yup. No problem. And if I don’t, then it’ll have to be set aside until I’ve finished the first draft of the book I’m supposed to be writing. Pinky swear.

Me, partway through February: After all, the Olympics only come once every two years. Writing can take a back seat for a couple of weeks. I really need to watch this sport … what’s it called again?

Me, one week before the end of February: So … maybe I can squeeze in 20,000 words in eight days? How badly do the kids need schooling? And what’s wrong with frozen dinners? Who needs clean clothing anyway? Can I squeeze my self-imposed deadline into March? Why do I need a deadline, anyway? I’m an indie author! It’s not like I have a contract to fill! Maybe I can write three books at once. Sure. That’s not so hard, right?

Sigh.

I’m tired.

But the Olympics have been awesome. I just need to figure out how to apply half of the drive those athletes have to my own life, and I won’t have to wrestle with these sorts of problems anymore.

*Snort*

fiction, humor, influences, philosophy, writing

Lowbrow

I remember reading Agatha Christie’s autobiography (which I looooooved and read in one day even though it’s non-fiction and it usually takes me MONTHS to read non-fiction) and being amused and a little taken aback at how casually she referred to herself, her writing, and her reading as “lowbrow.”

“Max is highbrow,” she says casually, of her second husband. “And I am decidedly lowbrow.” And then she goes on to detail all of their differences in taste, in a comfortable, matter-of-fact manner.

I read beautiful prose, writing that is definitely “highbrow” even when it is, say, MG fiction, and I think “Ooh, I wish I could write like that.”

But I’ve tried, and it’s ridiculous. Seriously, I can’t even read it myself without snickering.

I’m lowbrow. My writing’s never going to be considered great literature. No one’s going to talk about Tolstoy and Bates in the same category. I write for pleasure, for enjoyment, for fun, for a chance to put a smile on someone’s face. I hope, usually, to also sneak some Deep Themes underneath it all, but let’s face it, nobody’s reading Magic Most Deadly in hopes of finding out the Meaning of Life. And they aren’t going to find it even if they look.

In one of the Anne books by LM Montgomery, Anne and Gilbert are discussing their future goals. Gilbert has decided he wants to be a doctor, to fight disease and help people live better lives. Anne, though she knows wanting to help people and teach them is more noble, just wants to add some beauty to other people’s lives, to give them one or two moments of joy that they might not have had otherwise.

You know what? That honestly seems pretty noble to me. If that’s lowbrow, I’ll take it.

I don’t have to write Great Literature to bring joy to others. I just have to write joyously. And that I can do.

goals, humor, Life Talk

Madam Efficiency

I’ve always thought the coolest superpower to have would be flight. Invisibility was second on my list. These days, however, I want a different sort of power. I want to be known as …

Efficiency Girl!

Although I might be past the “girl” mark at this point in my life. Efficiency Woman? Definitely no. Wait, I know!

Madam Efficiency!

I would love to have the ability to get everything done in a day. Write, sew clothes for the kids, cook meals, clean the house, wash laundry AND put it away, teach school, and then have a little time left over for reading at the end of the day.

Ha. Ha, ha, ha.

You know that feeling when there’s so much on your plate you get paralyzed with pressure and end up doing none of it and just wasting time on Twitter and Pinterest instead? (Please tell me that’s not just me.) That’s almost every day around here. And we haven’t even started outside lessons yet. Gracie’s skating lessons start in just a couple of weeks, Joy’s ballet a few weeks after that, and we’re hoping to do piano lessons for Joy after the New Year, too.

Meanwhile, the dry laundry has been hanging on a rack in my living room for almost a week. My niece’s quilt stares at me constantly from across the room whenever I sit down, asking WHY it isn’t finished and in the mail to that sweet baby girl yet. And I haven’t been out of the apartment or talked to another human being besides my family (and the internet) since Sunday.

People sometimes ask me how I do it all, and I never know how to answer, because I am the farthest person in the world from doing it all. I don’t even do half. Maybe a quarter, on a good day.

Carl tells me that it is possible to be organized and keep to a schedule to get done what needs doing, and certainly that works for him, Mr I’m Going To Seminary Full Time And Working 20 Hours A Week  And Still Have Time For Occasionally Talking To Other People. But somehow, even when I make a schedule and try to follow it, life turns it upside down and I end up getting more frustrated and stressed because I can’t get it all done.

So yeah. any radioactive spiders out there or fancy gamma rays that want to turn me into Madam Efficiency, who manages to make the best use of all her time, every day?

Bring it on.

children, heroines, humor, stories, writing

Holly Grayson, Alleluia …

One of Joy’s favorite songs is “All Creatures of our God and King.” She will go around the house humming it for hours, breaking into words only at the “alleluia, alleluia” part.

Grace, being three, likes to imitate her sister in all things, so when Joy starts caroling “Alleluia, alleluia,” Grace immediately joins in.

Only her alleluias don’t always sound the way they’re supposed to. From Grace, it sounds more like she’s singing, “Holly Grayson, Holly Grayson …” (Or, technically, “howwy gwayson,” because she’s still working on her “l”s and “r”s.)

After I checked all their books and TV shows to see if she was singing about some character (she wasn’t), I decided it was just a trick of her hearing alleluia slightly differently, pronouncing it more differently yet, and my ear trying to arrange her nonsense syllables into something that makes sense.

Then I started thinking about what a good name Holly Grayson was for a book character, decided I’d use it sometime.

A couple days later, I decided Holly had long, dark brown hair, and either blue or hazel eyes.

Few days after that, I knew she was strong-willed and sharp-witted, often speaking without thinking, but with a warm heart underneath.

An investigator, I realized shortly thereafter. Not an ordinary investigator, either, but either a paranormal or supernatural one.

Nope, I decided a short time later. Time-traveling investigator, working for the InterGalactic Time Police (what, you didn’t know about them? Oh, they exist, my friends.), except they only let her stay on because of her ability to always get results. They don’t like the way she flouts their rules and doesn’t always respect authority. You can’t fire your top investigator for being a smart-mouth, though, so she stays on, even though they’re always looking for reasons to get rid of her.

Then I decided that her time-traveling machine broke down on her last trip, trapping her in the Victorian Era until she is able to fix it, and that she uses her skills and abilities to help those who can’t help themselves – in fact, that becomes her agency’s motto. Holly Grayson Investigations: We help those who can’t help themselves.

Saturday afternoon, I caved and started writing the story that landed her in the Victorian Era. It’s going to be novelette or novella length, I’m not sure yet. I’m having so much fun with it.

Hey Grace, got any more songs you want to mangle? Just imagine the stories you could inspire!

This is somewhat how I imagine Holly. No talking lions, though. At least not yet.

Books, humor

The Blue Vampire Castle

LM Montgomery’s The Blue Castle has always suffered from bad covers. But this latest one, while perhaps not as gag-worthy as the cover of my edition (which looks like a watered-down Harlequin novel, and is solely responsible for me refusing to read the book in public), really left me scratching my head. If you’ve read even five pages of the book, you know this makes no sense:

It did, however, prompt me to come up with a new story synopsis for Valancy’s adventures. I give you The Blue Castle, Vampire Edition:

When Valancy Stirling discovers she has a disease which will kill her within one year unless she takes drastic measures, she immediately leaves her stuffy, proper family behind in search of the one possible cure – immortality through a vampire’s bite.

Sweet, frail Cissy Gay has always been a source of fear and wonder to the community of Deerwood; she should have died years ago, yet somehow she still lives. Valancy confronts her, and Cissy gives up her secret: long-time friend of her father, Barney Snaith, is really a vampire, and it is through his bite that she still hangs on to life. She grows weaker, though, and soon refuses to let Barney keep biting her – death has become preferable to this shadow of an existence. Before long, Cissy passes away, leaving a void in Barney’s life.

Armed with her knowledge (and a stake, in case Barney is more interested in lunch than a new female companion), Valancy sets out to find Barney and offer herself as a replacement for Cissy. Secluded in his Blue Castle on a remote Muskoka island, Barney broods over an eternity of loneliness. When wild, fey Valancy appears, he is torn – accept her sacrifice, or send her back to live the rest of her short mortal life with her own kind? What happens if he lets her into his life, only to have her tire of immortality the same way Cissy did, leaving him alone again?

Barney is determined to keep her at arm’s length, but Valancy is equally determined to become a vampire herself – and she is on a deadline. Will she succeed in convincing Barney before death takes her, or is she doomed to a short life with no love?
The Blue Castle is a tale of tragic love and mythic creatures, available everywhere this fall!

In a shameless plug for myself, I created a Blue Castle blend on Adagio Teas recently – I’ve tried it and it’s actually become a favorite for me. If you’re a tea drinker, check it out and see if it’s something that appeals to you!
Books, fantasy, favorites, fiction, humor

The Journey is the Treasure

Five years ago today, Lloyd Alexander died.

I was visiting my parents at the time (I don’t remember why). I was checking my email on Mom’s computer when I saw the news.

I was devastated. Numb. I just sat there in Mom’s chair and stared at the computer screen. It didn’t seem possible. I spent much of that day in a daze, trying to come to grips with it. Thankfully, my parents understood completely – Mom even told me that she’d felt much the same when Agatha Christie died, that same sense of losing a close friend, even though it was a person she’d never met.

But that was the thing with Lloyd: he was a friend to every one of his readers. He didn’t just create some of my favorite heroes and heroines; he was a hero, himself, to me, simply for his honesty, his humor, and his love for adventure.

I’ve written before about the tremendous influence Lloyd has been, both on my writing and on the way I try to live my life. On my very approach to life, really. His writing is wonderful for children, who are still trying to figure out the world and where they fit in it. It’s just as wonderful for adults who need to remember the deep joy and magic that can be found simply in the grand adventure of life itself (that sentence sounds pompous. Don’t worry, Lloyd’s books are never pompous). His heroes smash every popular idea of what heroism is all about, and they do it while still remaining joyous and real. Just look at some of the quotes from the Prydain Chronicles:

“In some cases,” he said, “we learn more by looking for the answer to a question and not finding it than we do from learning the answer itself.” 

“There is much to be known,” said Adaon, “and above all much to be loved, be it the turn of the seasons or the shape of a river pebble. Indeed, the more we find to love, the more we add to the measure of our hearts.”

 “Is there not glory enough in living the days given to us? You should know there is adventure in simply being among those we love and the things we love, and beauty, too.”

“This much have I learned: A man’s life weighs more than glory, and a price paid in blood is a heavy reckoning.” 

And this, my favorite: 

“I have learned there is greater honor in a field well plowed than in a field steeped in blood.” (Oh, Adaon!)



If someday I can write books that bring half as much joy and inspiration to people as he did, I will consider my life well lived. When I heard that today was being informally dubbed Lloyd Alexander Day, I knew I had to participate. How could I not join in honoring the man who has had the greatest hand in shaping the type of writer I am, the type of stories I love, the type of hero I want to be?


I have written a few stories posted on ff.net in the Lloyd Alexander section. If you’ve read all of his own works and are looking for something more, I humbly offer my own attempts. Amaranth is based on The Arkadians; Night Phantoms is a surprisingly (at least, it was a surprise to me) melancholy glimpse into King Smoit’s character; Magic of the Heart looks at what life in Prydain might have been life for the generation after the events of The High King, as seen through the eyes of Taran’s youngest daughter.


If you’re interested in more Lloyd Alexander fanfic, do check out any of the writers in that section of ff.net; I especially recommend anything by Companion Wanderer and Adaon45.


Above all, read something Lloyd himself wrote! And then go plant some turnips in honor of Coll.


And I leave you with some others of my favorite quotes from Lloyd …

“All that writers can do is keep trying to say what is deepest in their hearts. ” 

“I intend to follow the path of virtue. It will not be overcrowded.” 

“You have a point,” said Fronto, “and even a poet must occasionally bow to logic.” 

 “You’re showing mercy.” Catch-a-Tick nodded. “That’s heroic, too. But not as good as smiting.” 

“If a storyteller worried about the facts – my dear Lucian, how could he ever get at the truth?” 

“The journey is the treasure.” 

humor, quotes, writing

Transition

I’m usually not good at transitions – you know, the “they walked through the woods for days. Then the adventure started again” type of phrases. I always feel like I have to fill in every detail, or I’m cheating.

But I’m getting better, and since I had to cover a four-year gap in the middle of a chapter of my Celtic MG/YA, I really needed to be concise.

This right here is quite possibly my favorite out of all the transition phrases I’ve ever written:

Life continued to be mildly not-fair for the next four years, at which point it took, in Cadi’s opinion anyway, a flying leap into monstrously unfair.

I’m not sure if I’ll actually keep it in the final draft or if I’ll end up editing it out due to it having a slightly different tone than the rest of the chapter – but for now, I’m just quite tickled over it.

How do you handle transitions?